Spanish interest in the territory known as New Mexico increased during the 1580s and 1590s. Although reports of mining and missionary possibilities were significant, King Phillip II of Spain was also concerned about new world explorations of rival England. As a result, Don Juan De Ornate was commissioned in 1595 to lead an expedition to claim and colonize the New Mexico region in the name of the King.
After many delays, Ornate and his party of 400 men and members of their families left Santa Barbara, Mexico in January 1598. Instead of following the earlier routes, they crossed the Chihuahua desert to reach the El Paso area. In a ceremony at this site on April 30, 1598, Ornate issued a proclamation known as La Toma, taking possession of the region for Spain. Included were all land drained by the Rio Del Norte, The Rio Grande.
Proceeding north, Ornate established headquarters near present Santa Fe and founded the province of New Mexico. As Governor, he directed exploration of the area until he resigned in 1607. Ornate's expedition and La Toma brought Spanish rule to the American Southwest and preceded colonization efforts of other European nations on the North American Continent.