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Was Nevada once Mexican territory?

By Austin Tannenbaum on 03/23/2023


The land of present-day Nevada was briefly under Mexican control in the early 19th century.

Spain had laid claim to the territory 300 years prior. Native American tribes such as the Paiute, Washoe and Shoshone lived on the land for thousands of years before European contact.

Spain’s weakening geopolitical position inspired an outbreak of revolts throughout Spanish America. The conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821 transferred the territory to the newly established Mexican Empire.

But Mexican control was short-lived. After Mexico refused to sell lands to the U.S., the expansionist-minded president James K. Polk ordered construction of a military camp in Mexican territory in 1846, provoking an attack.

The Mexican-American war was fought over the next two years, ending in a U.S. victory. The resulting treaty required Mexico to sell more than half of its land — including Nevada — to the U.S., at about half of the original asking price.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Amazon Web Services The Treaty of Córdoba

Encyclopædia Britannica Viceroyalty of New Spain

State of Nevada History of Nevada

History Spain accepts Mexican independence

National Archives Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)

American Battlefield Trust A Brief Overview of the Mexican-American War 1846-1848

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