New Mexico

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New Mexico

New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S).

Facts and Figures

Area, 121,666 sq mi (315,115 sq km). Pop. (2010) 2,117,522, a 1.8% increase since the 2100 census. As of the 2020 census, its population was broken down as: White alone, 81.9% (Hispanic or Latino, 49.3; White alone, not Hispanic or Latino, 36.8%); Black alone, 2/6%; American Indian and Alaska Native, alone, 11%; Asian alone, 1.8%; Two or more races, 2.6%. Capital, Santa Fe. Largest city, Albuquerque. Statehood, Jan. 6, 1912 (47th state). Highest pt., Wheeler Peak, 13,161 ft (4,014 m); lowest pt., Red Bluff Reservoir, 2,817 ft (859 m). Nickname, Land of Enchantment. Motto, Crescit Eundo [It Grows as It Goes], State bird, chaparral (“roadrunner”). State flower, yucca. State tree, piñon. Abbr., N.Mex.; NM


New Mexico is roughly bisected by the Rio Grande and has an approximate mean altitude of 5,700 ft (1,737 m). The topography of the state is marked by broken mesas, wide deserts, heavily forested mountain wildernesses, and high, bare peaks. The mountain ranges, part of the Rocky Mts., rising to their greatest height (more than 13,000 ft/3,962 m) in the Sangre de Cristo Mts., are in broken groups, running north to south through central New Mexico and flanking the Rio Grande. In the southwest is the Gila Wilderness.

Broad, semiarid plains, particularly prominent in S New Mexico, are covered with cactus, yucca, creosote bush, sagebrush, and desert grasses. Water is rare in these regions, and the scanty rainfall is subject to rapid evaporation. The two notable rivers besides the Rio Grande—the Pecos and the San Juan—are used for some irrigation; the Carlsbad and Fort Sumner reclamation projects are on the Pecos, and the Tucumcari project is nearby. Other projects utilize the Colorado River basin; however, the Rio Grande, harnessed by the Elephant Butte Dam, remains the major irrigation source for the area of most extensive farming. The capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, and the largest city is Albuquerque.


Because irrigation opportunities are few, most of the arable land is given over to grazing. There are many large ranches, with cattle and sheep on the open range year round. In the dry farming regions, the major crops are hay and sorghum grains. Onions, potatoes, and dairy products are also important. In addition, piñon nuts, pinto beans, and chilis are crops particularly characteristic of New Mexico. Pinewood is the chief commercial wood.

Much of the state's income is derived from its considerable mineral wealth. New Mexico is a leading producer of uranium ore, manganese ore, potash, salt, perlite, copper ore, natural gas, beryllium, and tin concentrates. Petroleum and coal are also found in smaller quantities. Silver and turquoise have been used in making jewelry since long before European exploration.

The federal government is the largest employer in the state, accounting for over one quarter of New Mexico's jobs. A large percentage of government jobs in the state are related to the military; there are several air force bases, along with national observatories and the Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories. Climate and increasing population have aided New Mexico's effort to attract new industries; manufacturing, centered especially around Albuquerque, includes food and mineral processing and the production of chemicals, electrical equipment, and ordnance. High-technology manufacturing is increasingly important, much of it in the defense industry.

Millions of acres of the wild and beautiful country of New Mexico are under federal control as national forests and monuments and help to make tourism a chief source of income. Best known of the state's attractions are the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Thousands of tourists annually visit the White Sands, Bandelier, Capulin Volcano, El Morro, Fort Union, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Río Grande del Norte, and Salinas Pueblo Missions national monuments and Chaco Culture National Historical Park (see National Parks and Monuments, table). Several of New Mexico's surviving native pueblos are also much visited.

Government and Higher Education

New Mexico is governed under the constitution of 1912. The legislature has a senate of 42 members and a house of representatives with 70 members. The governor is elected for four years and may be reelected. The state elects two U.S. senators and three representatives and has five electoral votes. New Mexico has been generally Democratic in politics. Currently Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governship.

The most prominent educational institutions in the state are the Univ. of New Mexico, at Albuquerque; New Mexico State Univ., at Las Cruces; New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, at Socorro, and St. John's College, at Santa Fe.


Native Americans and the Spanish

Use of the land and minerals of New Mexico goes back to the prehistoric time of the early cultures in the Southwest that long preceded the flourishing sedentary civilization of the Pueblos that the Spanish found along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. Many of the Native American pueblos exist today much as they were in the 13th cent. Word of the pueblos reached the Spanish through Cabeza de Vaca, who may have wandered across S New Mexico between 1528 and 1536; they were enthusiastically identified by Fray Marcos de Niza as the fabulously rich Seven Cities of Cibola.

A full-scale expedition (1540–42) to find the cities was dispatched from New Spain, under the leadership of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. The treatment of the Pueblo people by Coronado and his men led to the long-standing hostility between the Native Americans and the Spanish and slowed Spanish conquest. The first regular colony at San Juan was founded by Juan de Oñate in 1598. The Native Americans of Acoma revolted against the Spanish encroachment and were severely suppressed.

In 1609 Pedro de Peralta was made governor of the “Kingdom and Provinces of New Mexico,” and a year later he founded his capital at Santa Fe. The little colony did not prosper greatly, although some of the missions flourished and haciendas were founded. The subjection of Native Americans to forced labor and attempts by missionaries to convert them resulted in violent revolt by the Apache in 1676 and the Pueblo in 1680. These uprisings drove the Spanish entirely out of New Mexico.

The Spanish did not return until the campaign of Diego de Vargas Zapata reestablished their control in 1692. In the 18th cent. the development of ranching and of some farming and mining was more thorough, laying the foundations for the Spanish culture in New Mexico that still persists. Over one third of the population today is of Hispanic origin (and few are recent immigrants from Mexico) and roughly the same percentage speak Spanish fluently.

When Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, New Mexico became a province of Mexico, and trade was opened with the United States. By the following year the Santa Fe Trail was being traveled by the wagon trains of American traders. In 1841 a group of Texans embarked on an expedition to assert Texan claims to part of New Mexico and were captured.

The Anglo Influence

The Mexican War marked the coming of the Anglo-American culture to New Mexico. Stephen W. Kearny entered (1846) Santa Fe without opposition, and two years later the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded New Mexico to the United States. The territory, which included Arizona and other territories, was enlarged by the Gadsden Purchase (1853).

A bid for statehood with an antislavery constitution was halted by the Compromise of 1850, which settled the Texas boundary question in New Mexico's favor and organized New Mexico as a territory without restriction on slavery. In the Civil War, New Mexico was at first occupied by Confederate troops from Texas, but was taken over by Union forces early in 1862. After the war and the withdrawal of the troops, the territory was plagued by conflict with the Apache and Navajo. The surrender of Apache chief Geronimo in 1886 ended conflict in New Mexico and Arizona (which had been made a separate territory in 1863). However, there were local troubles even after that time.

Already the ranchers had taken over much of the grasslands. The coming of the Santa Fe RR in 1879 encouraged the great cattle boom of the 80s. There were typical cow towns, feuds among cattlemen as well as between cattlemen and the authorities (notably the Lincoln County War), and the activities of such outlaws as Billy the Kid. The cattlemen were unable to keep out the sheepherders and were overwhelmed by the homesteaders and squatters, who fenced in and plowed under the “sea of grass.” Land claims gave rise to bitter quarrels among the homesteaders, the ranchers, and the old Spanish families, who made claims under the original grants. Despite overgrazing and reduction of lands, ranching survived and continues to be important together with the limited but scientifically controlled irrigated and dry farming. Statehood was granted in 1912.

Modern New Mexico

In 1943 the U.S. government built Los Alamos as a center for atomic research. The first atom bomb was exploded at the White Sands Proving Grounds in July, 1945. The growth and use of military and nuclear facilities continued after World War II. High-altitude experiments were apparently responsible for a 1947 incident near Roswell that led to persistent claims that the government was concealing captured extraterrestrial corpses and equipment. In the 1990s the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, deep in salt formations near Carlsbad, was readied for storage of nuclear wastes, amid controversy. The Las Cochas Fire (2011)--the largest wildfire in the state to that date--burned from June 26-August 7th, came close to the Los Alamos facilities, which were temporarily evacuated in late July; the fire was followed by devestating floods. A year later, it was surpassed by the Whitewater-Baldy fire, which burned from May 9-July 31and devestated nearly 300,000 acres.

Democrat Bill Richardson, who had served as a member of the Hosue of Representatives (1983-1997), the U.N. Ambassador (1997-98) and Secretary of Energy (1998-2001) under President Bill Clinton , won two terms as the state's governor (2003-11). Republican Susana Martinez (2011-19) was the first woman in the state and the first Hispanic and first person of color in the country to serve in the office. In 2018, another Hispanic American, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected governor. She had previously served in the House of Representatives (2013-19),

New Mexico's climate, tranquillity, and startling panoramas have made the state a place of winter or year-round residence for those seeking health or a place of retirement. Many writers and artists have made their homes in communities such as Taos and Santa Fe, including D. H. Lawrence and Georgia OKeeffe . The Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo, and some Ute , live on federal reservations within the state—the Navajo Nation, with over 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares), is the largest in the country—and the Pueblo, a settled agricultural people, live in pueblos scattered throughout the state. Hispanics account for nearly half of the state's total population, with Native Americans making up 9.5% of the total. The state's population grew by nearly 12% between 2000-10, but that growth slowed in the next decade to 2.8%.


See W. A. Beck, New Mexico: A History of Four Centuries (1962, repr. 1982); A. K. Gregg, New Mexico in the Nineteenth Century (1968); R. W. Larson, New Mexico's Quest for Statehood (1968); W. W. Davis, El Gringo: New Mexico and Her People (1982); R. V. Jackson, New Mexico Historical and Biographical Index (1984); J. L. Williams, ed., New Mexico in Maps (2d ed. 1986); N. H. Warren, Villages of Hispanic New Mexico (1987).

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New Mexico State Information

Phone: (505) 476-2200

Area (sq mi):: 121589.48 (land 121355.53; water 233.96) Population per square mile: 15.90
Population 2005: 1,928,384 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 6.00%; 1990-2000 20.10% Population 2000: 1,819,046 (White 44.70%; Black or African American 1.90%; Hispanic or Latino 42.10%; Asian 1.10%; Other 30.20%). Foreign born: 8.20%. Median age: 34.60
Income 2000: per capita $17,261; median household $34,133; Population below poverty level: 18.40% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $22,135-$24,995
Unemployment (2004): 5.70% Unemployment change (from 2000): 0.70% Median travel time to work: 21.90 minutes Working outside county of residence: 15.40%

List of New Mexico counties:

  • Bernalillo County
  • Catron County
  • Chaves County
  • Cibola County
  • Colfax County
  • Curry County
  • De Baca County
  • Do±a Ana County
  • Eddy County
  • Grant County
  • Guadalupe County
  • Harding County
  • Hidalgo County
  • Lea County
  • Lincoln County
  • Los Alamos County
  • Luna County
  • McKinley County
  • Mora County
  • Otero County
  • Quay County
  • Rio Arriba County
  • Roosevelt County
  • San Juan County
  • San Miguel County
  • Sandoval County
  • Santa Fe County
  • Sierra County
  • Socorro County
  • Taos County
  • Torrance County
  • Union County
  • Valencia County
  • Counties USA: A Directory of United States Counties, 3rd Edition. © 2006 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

    New Mexico Parks

    Parks Directory of the United States, 5th Edition. © 2007 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
    The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

    New Mexico


    a state in the southwestern USA, in the Rio Grande basin and bordering on Mexico. Area, 315,000 sq km. In 1970 the state had a population of 1 million, 69.8 percent of which was concentrated in urban centers.

    A considerable part of the population comprises Indians (73,000 in 1970) and Mexicans. The state capital is Santa Fe; the chief economic center is Albuquerque. Most of the state is occupied by the Rocky Mountains (with elevations of up to 4,000 m) and plateaus, including the Llano Estacado and the Colorado. The climate is subtropical and arid. The plateaus have savanna and steppe vegetation. The mountains are covered primarily with pine forests.

    There are 17,000 employees in the mining industry. Approximately two-thirds of the known resources of uranium in the USA are located in New Mexico. Uranium ore is mined (5,000 tons of U3O8 in 1971, with the center at Ambrosia Lake), as well as potassium salts (2.2 million tons of K2O, more than 80 percent of that extracted in the USA, with the principal center at Carlsbad), petroleum (18 million tons), natural gas (34 billion cu m), copper (150,000 tons), zinc (16,000 tons), and complex metals. The processing industry employs some 21,000 persons. Its chief branches are nonferrous metallurgy and the food-processing and atomic industries (the principal centers of the last are located at Los Alamos and Sandia). The capacity of the state’s electric power plants amounts to 3.6 GW. In agriculture there is a predominance of pasture livestock raising (more than three-quarters of all commercial farm output). There are 1.3 million cattle (35,000 dairy cows) and 800,000 head of sheep. Irrigated lands are used for the cultivation of grasses, cotton, sorghum, wheat, and green vegetables. The state has a good deal of tourism. V. M. GOKHMAN

    During the 16th century, the territory of New Mexico, which had been settled by Indian tribes, was conquered by the Spaniards. In 1771 it became part of the Spanish colony of New Spain. During the War of Independence of the Spanish-American Colonies of 1810–26, it became part of Mexico (in 1821). During the Mexican War (1846–48) it was seized by the USA. In 1850 the territory of New Mexico was formed from these seized lands (during that period it also included the present-day states of Utah and Arizona, as well as parts of Texas and Colorado). In 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state of the USA.

    The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

    New Mexico

    Forty-seventh state; admitted on January 6, 1912

    New Mexico does not regularly observe the anniversary of its statehood, but in 1972, the 60th anniversary of its admission to the U.S., a commemoration was held in Santa Fe. There was a reception at the Palace of Governors, where members of the Sociedad Folklórica dressed in costumes of the 1910s.

    State capital: Santa Fe Nickname: Land of Enchantment State motto: Crescit Eundo (Latin “It Grows as It Goes”) State aircraft: Hot air balloon State amphibian: Mexico spadefoot (Spea multiplicata) State ballad: “Land of Enchantment—New Mexico” State balloon museum: Anderson-Abruzzo International

    Balloon Museum State bilingual song: “New Mexico—Mi Lindo Nuevo Mexico” State bird: Chaparral bird or roadrunner (Geococcyx califor­

    nianus) State butterfly: Sandia hairstreak (Callophrys mcfarlandi) State cookie: Bizcochito State fish: Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Salmo clerki) State flower: Yucca flower (Yucca glauca) State fossil: Coelophysis dinosaur State gem: Turquoise State grass: Blue grama (Bouteloua gracillis) State insect: Tarantula hawk wasp (Pepsis formosa) State mammal: Black bear (Ursus americanus) State poem: “A Nuevo Mexico” (“To New Mexico”) State question: “Red or Green?” (refers to which chile one

    prefers) State reptile: New Mexico whiptail (Cnemidophorus neomex­

    ianus) State slogan: Everybody is somebody in New Mexico.State songs: “O, Fair New Mexico” and “Asi es Nuevo

    Mejico” State tie: Bolo tie State train: Cumbres & Toltec Railroad State tree: Piñon or nut pine (Pinus edulis) State vegetables: Chile (Capsicum annum) and frijol or pinto

    bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)

    More about state symbols at:

    More about the state at:


    AmerBkDays-2000, p. 29 AnnivHol-2000, p. 5


    State web site:

    Office of the Governor State Capitol Bldg 490 Santa Fe Trail Rm 400 Santa Fe, NM 87501 505-827-3000 fax: 505-476-2226

    Secretary of State 325 Don Gaspar Ave Suite 300 Santa Fe, NM 87503 505-827-3600 fax: 505-827-8081

    New Mexico State Library 1209 Camino Carlos Rey Santa Fe, NM 87507 505-476-9700

    Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

    New Mexico

    a state of the southwestern US: has high semiarid plateaus and mountains, crossed by the Rio Grande and the Pecos River; large Spanish-American and Indian populations; contains over two-thirds of US uranium reserves. Capital: Santa F?. Pop.: 1 874 614 (2003 est.). Area: 314 451 sq. km (121 412 sq. miles)
    Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005