"Landa" is derived from a Chichimeca expression "lan-há", which means muddy place. "de Matamoros" was added to the name in 1919, by a state decree to honor insurgent Mariano Matamoros who was here during the Mexican War of Independence. The coat of arms contains a number of symbols related to its history. The indigenous phrase (lan-há) and an image of the mission relate to its indigenous past and Spanish conquest. The name of Matamoros appears for historical reasons as well. Concentric circles signify the encounter of indigenous and Spanish cultures. The lifestyle of the area is represented by a maguey plant, an ear of corn, the sun, the mountains, a drum and a book. Leaves and fruits found in the upper and lower parts indicate the indigenous respect for nature as well symbols of greatness. To the left of the mission church, there is a representation of the native dance of San Francisco de Asis church in Tilaco. Landa's identity as Mexican is represented by the national seal, the Mexican flag, and the flag of the Landa mission.
Landa de Matamoros is part of the heart of the Sierra Gorda. This region has been occupied for about 6000 years. In the Pre Classic and Classic periods, the Sierra Gorda had a number of small cities as the climate at that time was wetter than it is now. Most of the larger cities were south of the current municipalities due to mining activities and major trade routes, but there were cities and trade routes through here as well, connecting the area mostly with Huasteca areas to the east and other areas to the north. While most of the pre-Hispanic history of the area is dominated by peoples culturally related to the
Huastecas, the site of the town of Landa de Matamoros is thought to have been first occupied by a group of Purépecha who migrated north from what is now Michoacán. As the climate of the Sierra Gorda dried out in the early Post Classic period, cities were abandoned for simpler hunter gatherer communities and there were migrations of Chichimecas, mostly Pames and Chichimeca Jonaz from the north. Landa would become Pame territory. The Pame would continue to dominate this area for the rest of the pre-Hispanic period, but small communities of Otomis and Huastecas would also be established as well. The Aztecs also made incursions here, which led to the formation of the Oxitilpa dominion, a commercially based political organization allied with the Aztecs. Aztec records indicate that the Sierra Gorda was a tributary area, but it is likely that the Aztecs only controls parts on the periphery up to the Pánuco River. This route leads to the modern settlement of Landa de Matamoros. However, archeological evidence so far is related to the Pame.
The Spanish made incursions into the area early in the colonial period, but the Chichimeca, especially the Jonaz, put up fierce resistance to their intrusions. This would keep the Spanish from fully dominating the area for two hundred years. The Pames were considered less resistant and as early as the 16th century, Augustinians from Xilitla and Franciscans from Michoacán founded missions in the Landa area. However, these would not remain permanently. The Spanish would break Chichimeca resistance in the Sierra Gorda in the 1740s, with the expeditions of José de Escandón, culminating in the
Battle of Media Luna. To solidify these military gains, Franciscans founded new missions in this and other areas of northern Querétaro, the heart of the Sierra Gorda. These missions were taken over by Junípero Serra starting in 1750, who decided to have elaborate mission complexes built in five locations, two of which are in the municipality, in Landa de Matamoros and in Tilaco. In addition to evangelization, the missions worked to group the semi nomadic Pames into permanent communities centered on churches.
A smallpox epidemic in 1762 caused the deaths of 5,300 and depopulated some of the mission communities. After the missions were handed over to regular clergy in 1771, the indigenous population of five communities abandoned their homes for the mountains because of abuses and inability to understand the new priests.
During the Mexican War of Independence, various insurgents such as Ignacio and Rafael López Rayón,
José María Liceaga, Julián and
Francisco Villagrán and
Luis Herrera found refuge here. The most important person to do so was Mariano Matamoros, who was here from 1807 to 1808. During this time, he offered his services as priest at the Landa mission church. In 1825, Landa was part of the municipality of Jalpan according to the first state constitution. Until 1917, Landa was a subdelegation of the district/municipality of Jalpan de Serra. In this year, it was made a full delegation, and the community of Landa was recognized as a town. In 1941, the delegation was converted into a free municipality.
There was unrest here during the Cristero War, with some taking up arms.
Like the rest of the Sierra Gorda, economic development has lagged behind other parts of Querétaro and Mexico, in part to the end of mining in neighboring municipalities and in part to the ruggedness of the region's terrain. From the last decades of the 20th century to the present, the economic marginalization of the area has given the municipality one of the highest rates of emigration. Most migrants go to the United States, and the money they send back has now become the major income for Landa and the rest of the Sierra Gorda. However, the migration is dangerous. In March and April 2010, seventeen residents of the municipality disappeared while en route to the United States. Most are believed to have been kidnapped by armed men while their bus was in the state of Tamaulipas, taken to work in fields growing drugs. As of March 2011, the men have yet to be found, although four men were arrested in connection with the incident, for threatening the families of the victims. The incident has provoked the municipal government to advise residents not to go the United States, especially not through routes controlled by drug traffickers.
Drug trafficking has been an issue within the municipality as well. In 2010, the Mexican Army identified a synthetic drug laboratories in the municipality. The lab was making crystal meth among other drugs and was the largest ever found in the state of Querétaro. This military has also been involved in the break up of a kidnapping ring as well. Two military bases have been proposed for the municipality along with another in neighboring Arroyo Seco, to guard the Querétaro/San Luis Potosí against drug trafficking. One reason for the base is that there is a lack of police in the area because of its poverty.