New Mexico: State Facts, Interesting Trivia, Must See Places and Souvenirs
New Mexico State Facts - Just Some Basics
• State Abbreviation: NM
• State Birthday: New Mexico became the 47th state on January 6, 1912.
• State Size: New Mexico is the 5th largest state with 121,593 square miles.
• Origin of the State Name: the state name New Mexico comes from Mexico and means "Place of Mexitli", Mexitli being an Aztec god or leader.
• Name for Residents: New Mexicans
• State Flag: The state flag is a red Zia sun symbol on a yellow background. The Zia is an ancient Native American sun symbol depicting four groups of rays with four rays in each, reflecting the belief that the giver of all good gave in groups of four:
- the four directions – north, east, south and west.
- the four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter.
- the day – morning, noon, evening and night.
- life – childhood, youth, middle age, and old age.
All these groups are bound by a circle representing life, without beginning or end. The red and yellow colors were chosen as those were the colors used by the Spanish conquistadors for their flags when they arrived in the 1500s.
• State Capital: Santa Fe
• State Motto: Crescit eundo (It grows as it goes)
• State Nickname: Land of Enchantment
• Border States: New Mexico is bordered by the state of Colorado to the north, Oklahoma and Texas to the east, Texas to the south, Arizona to the west and Utah to the northwest.
• Border Country: Mexico
• The Rio Grande is New Mexico’s longest river, running the entire length of the state.
• New Mexico is one of the Four Corners states, meeting Arizona, Colorado and Utah in a quadripoint, the only such point in the nation.
New Mexico History in Photos
“The reconstruction of the St. Francis Cathedral” (1885)
Santa Fe’s first Archibishop, John Baptiste Lamy of France, deemed the previous church at this location unfit for the seat of the Archdiocese and set about replacing it with the current cathedral whose construction is seen in the photo. He hired French architects to design it in the Romanesque Revival style and Italian stonemasons to build it. The still much used Santa Fe Plaza is visible on the left, and the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains can be seen behind the cathedral.
“Navajo Weaver with Sheep” (c.1904-1932)
The Navajo are the largest federally recognized tribe of Native Americans in the United States and reside in the northwestern part of New Mexico and northeastern part of Arizona. The Navajo were known for their wool blankets - the photo shows a woman weaving on an upright loom. In the background is a stone and earth hogan, the traditional home of their tribe, and the family sheep, one of their most prized possessions.
New Mexico State Symbols
• State Bird: Roadrunner
• State Tree: Piñon
• State Grass: Blue Grama
• State Wildflower: Yucca
• State Mammal: Black Bear
• State Reptile: New Mexico Whiptail Lizard
• State Fish: Cutthroat Trout
• State Amphibian: Spadefoot Toad
• State Butterfly: Sandia Hairstreak
• State Insect: Tarantula Hawk Wasp
• State Gemstone: Turquoise
• State Fossil: Coelophysis
• State Vegetables: Chiles and frijoles (beans)
• State Song: “O Fair New Mexico”
"I Didn't Know That!" - Some of New Mexico's Little Known Facts
Famous New Mexicans
Demi Moore (actress - Roswell)
Maria Martinez (Pueblo potter - San Ildefonso Pueblo)
Victorio (Apache war chief - Black Range)
John Denver (singer - Roswell)
Geronimo (Apache war chief - near Turkey Creek )
William Hanna (animator - Melrose)
Jeff Bezos (founder/CEO Amazon.com - Albuquerque)
Conrad Hilton (hotelier - San Antonio)
Former Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, set a new world record in 2002 when he shook the hands of 13,392 people within an eight hour period!
● Early settlers in New Mexico referred to the yucca plant as “our Lord’s candles”. The roots of both the yucca glauta (or soapweed yucca) and yucca elata (or soaptree yucca) are excellent substitutes for soap and shampoo.
● New Mexico has a town named Truth or Consequences (many times shortened to "T or C"). The town was originally named Hot Springs, but in 1950 when Ralph Edwards, the host of a radio quiz show named Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program from the first town to rename itself after the show, Hot Springs jumped at the chance and won the honor – no more confusion with the many other “Hot Springs” around the country.
● The Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in the United States. People still live in some of its 1000 year old buildings.
● It is quite common to find the doors and windows of many old adobe buildings painted in various shades of blue, believed to ward off evil spirits and brujas (witches).
● A 50 foot high effigy named Zozobra (“Old Man Gloom” although zozobra in Spanish means 'anxiety') is burned in the fall each year in Santa Fe at the beginning of the Fiestas de Santa Fe. Burning the effigy is a ritual performed to eliminate the worries of the past year.
● Santa Fe, founded in 1610, is not only the oldest capital city in the United States but also the highest, situated at 7,000 feet above sea level.
● The San Miguel Mission, also known as the San Miguel Chapel, was built in Santa Fe between 1610 and 1626 and is said to be the oldest standing church in the United States. Sunday mass is still held at the mission.
● A Christmas decoration can be made from a paper bag, some sand and a candle. In New Mexico they are called “farolitos” (although some disagree with this name and call them “luminarias”). Either way, they add a beautiful and unique touch to the season’s décor in this state.
Interesting Places to Visit When in New Mexico
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s first event attracted 13 hot air balloons. The most hot air balloons to participate in the event: 1,019!
► At least two separate ancient Native American civilizations lived in homes built into huge caves and cliffs and the remains of their architecture make for very interesting tours. One such National Park is Bandelier near White Rock and the other is the Gila Cliff Dwellings near Silver City.
► For those with an extra $200,000 who would like to travel into outer space, Spaceport America (formerly known as the Southwest Regional Spaceport) officially opened in October 2011. It is described as "the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport” with plans to launch multiple suborbital space tourism flights per day.
► The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world. Today, the nine day event allows a maximum of 600 balloons to enter and is attended by tens of thousands of spectators. The festival hosts various special events and competitions such as the Special Shape Rodeo and Balloon Glows, in which balloons do not take off but are lit up at night.
► There actually was a real Smokey the Bear! During a forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest in 1950, firefighters came across a baby bear clinging to a charred tree. He was rescued, named after the Forest Service's fire prevention mascot and sent to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Upon his death in 1976, he was returned to and buried in the forest where he was found. Smokey’s Museum in Capitan and the Smokey Bear Historical Park commemorate his life.
► The White Sands National Monument protects a major portion of what is one of the world’s great natural wonders. The white sands cover 275 miles in total making them the largest gypsum dune field anywhere. The brilliant white dunes are a masterpiece in progress, constantly moving and changing with the wind and weather.
► The Santuario, located in Chimayo, is considered by many Catholics to be the Lourdes of America. Built around 1810, it is reknown for its “holy dirt” (tierra bendita) that is believed by many to have healing powers. Approximately 30,000 people walk for miles each year on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to reach the church.
► Of course, one of the most famous but most controversial places in New Mexico is Roswell, site of the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident involving what was believed to be the crash of an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Controversy over exactly what happened in the area at that time continues today. History of the incident can be seen at the UFO Museum.
Where to Find Those Interesting Places in New Mexico
And You Know You're From New Mexico When . . .
• You know that The Jesus Tortilla is not a band.
• When you go out of state, people ask you if you have a green card.
• Your favorite restaurant has a chili list instead of a wine list.
• You expect to pay more if your house is made of mud and straw.
• You can order your Big Mac with green chili.
• You have been told by at least one out-of state vendor that they are going to charge you extra for 'international' shipping.
• You don't consider it unusual, when standing in line at the grocery store, to be surrounded by people speaking Spanglish (every other word of each sentence alternates between Spanish and English).
Check out these New Mexico Hubs by other Hubbers
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