New Mexico History

This part of the world was once under an ocean. Later, dinosaurs roamed the land. The Clovis-Paleo Indians discovered and settled the eastern part of New Mexico about 10,000 BC. After the time of Christ, Native Americans diversified and built pit houses, dwelt in caves, and constructed pueblos. 

In 1540-1542, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored what is now New Mexico looking for gold. He found Native Americans well-established in the region.  The first Spanish settlement was established on the Rio Grande by Juan de Onate.  By 1610, Santa Fe was founded.  A trade route ran along the Rio Grande and settlements began springing up to house and accommodate the influx of immigrants, miners, and tradesmen.

Most of New Mexico was acquired in 1848 as part of the settlement of the Mexican-American War. The rest was added as part of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.  It has a long history of Native American and Spanish heritage. The frontier days brought increases in settlers looking to get rich mining, farming, or ranching, as well as outlaws and political tycoons. During the Civil War, Union troops took the area from the Confederates.

New Mexico's richest natural resource is minerals, still one of the nation's leaders in uranium and potassium salt. It is also rich in oil, natural gas, copper, gold, silver, zinc, and lead. Principal revenues are agriculture, food products, chemicals, and tourism. Farming produces cotton, pecans, chile, corn, peanuts, onions, and lettuce.

About the NM Flag

The yellow field and red symbol colors are the colors of Spain, first brought to New Mexico by Spanish explorers in 1540. The flag has a red sun with rays stretching out from it. There are four groups of rays with four rays in each group. This is an ancient sun symbol of a Native American people called the Zia, which represented the idea that the giver of all good gave them gifts in groups of four. These gifts are:

  • The four directions - north, east, south and west.

  • The four seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter.

  • The day - sunrise, noon, evening and night.

  • Life itself - childhood, youth, middle years and old age.

All of these are bound by a circle of life and love, without a beginning or end.

New Mexico Fast Facts


47th state to join the US (1-6-1912)

Has 121,593 square miles (5th largest state) 

Population is 2,059,179 (2010 US Census)

Land of Enchantment
State flower: Yucca
State Insect: Tarantula Hawk Wasp
State Motto: Crescit Eundo It grows as it goes.
State Bird:  Roadrunner
State Vegetables: Chile  and Pinto Beans

"O Fair New Mexico" (written by Pat Garrett's daughter in Lordsburg, NM)





Places, Things, and People

The Governor's Palace in the capital, Santa Fe, is the oldest seat of government in the US.

In 1950, a small black bear cub was found after a fire in the Lincoln National Forest. He became the US symbol of fire safety, Smokey Bear.

Forests cover one-fourth of New Mexico, which has seven National Forests including the Nation's largest, the 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest. The Gila Wilderness was the first area in the nation to be designated as wilderness area.

In some isolated villages, such as Truchas, Chimayo', and Coyote in north-central New Mexico, some descendants of Spanish conquistadors still speak a unique form of 16th century Spanish spoken nowhere else.

The first atomic bomb was detonated at what is now White Sands Missile Range

"O Fair New Mexico"

Under a sky of azure, where balmy breezes blow;  
    Kissed by the golden sunshine, is Nuevo Mejico.  
    Home of the Montezuma, with fiery heart aglow,  
    State of the deeds historic, is Nuevo Mejico.  

    O, fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so  
    Our hearts with pride o'erflow, no matter where we go,  
    O, fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so,  
    The grandest state to know, New Mexico.  

   Second Verse  
    Rugged and high sierras, with deep canyons below;  
    Dotted with fertile valleys, is Nuevo Mejico.  
    Fields full of sweet alfalfa, richest perfumes bestow,
    State of apple blossoms, is Nuevo Mejico.


   Third Verse  
    Days that are full of heart-dreams, nights when the moon hangs low;  
    Beaming its benediction, o'er Nuevo Mejico.  
    Land with its bright manana, coming through weal and woe;  
    State of our esperanza, is Nuevo Mejico.

Elizabeth Garrett, adopted as state song in 1915.