New Mexico facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
|State of New Mexico
Estado de Nuevo México (Spanish)
Yootó Hahoodzo (Navajo)
Land of Enchantment
Crescit eundo (English: It grows as it goes)
|Anthem: "O Fair New Mexico" and "Así Es Nuevo México"
Map of the United States with New Mexico highlighted
|Before statehood||Nuevo México (1598–1848)
New Mexico Territory (1850–1912)
|Admitted to the Union||January 6, 1912 (47th)|
|Largest metro||Greater Albuquerque|
|Legislature||New Mexico Legislature|
|• Upper house||Senate|
|• Lower house||House of Representatives|
|• Total||121,590 sq mi (314,917 km2)|
|• Land||121,298 sq mi (314,161 km2)|
|• Water||292 sq mi (757 km2) 0.24%|
|• Length||371 mi (596 km)|
|• Width||344 mi (552 km)|
|Elevation||5,701 ft (1,741 m)|
|Highest elevation||13,168 ft (4,013.4 m)|
(Red Bluff Reservoir on Texas border)
|2,845 ft (868 m)|
|• Density||17.2/sq mi (6.62/km2)|
|• Density rank||45th|
|• Median household income||$46,744|
|• Income rank||47th|
|Demonym(s)||New Mexican (Spanish: Neomexicano, Neomejicano)|
|• Spoken language|
|entire state (legally)||UTC−07:00 (Mountain)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−06:00 (MDT)|
|Nara Visa (informally)||UTC−06:00 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−05:00 (CDT)|
|ISO 3166 code||US-NM|
|Trad. abbreviation||N.M., N.Mex.|
|Latitude||31°20′ N to 37°N|
|Longitude||103° W to 109°3′ W|
|New Mexico state symbols|
|Fish||Rio Grande cutthroat trout|
|Insect||Tarantula Hawk Wasp|
|Mammal||American black bear|
|Reptile||New Mexico whiptail|
|Colors||Red and yellow|
|Food||Chile peppers, pinto beans, and biscochitos|
|State route marker|
Released in 2008
|Lists of United States state symbols|
It was admitted to the union as the 47th state on January 6, 1912. It is usually considered one of the Mountain States.
Inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before European exploration, New Mexico was colonized by the Spanish in 1598 Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain. Later, it was part of independent Mexico before becoming a U.S. territory and eventually a U.S. state as a result of the Mexican–American War.
Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, including descendants of the original Spanish colonists who have lived in the area for more than 400 years beginning in 1598. It has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans as a proportion of the population after Alaska, and the fourth-highest total number of Native Americans after California, Oklahoma, and Arizona. The major Native American nations in the state are Navajo, Pueblo, and Apache peoples.
New Mexico was a part of the independent Mexican Empire and Federal Republic of Mexico for 27 years, 1821 through 1848.
- Images for kids
The state's total area is 121,412 square miles (314,460 km2). The eastern border of New Mexico lies along 103° W longitude with the state of Oklahoma, and 2.2 miles (3.5 km) west of 103° W longitude with Texas.
On the southern border, Texas makes up the eastern two-thirds, while the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora make up the western third, with Chihuahua making up about 90% of that. The western border with Arizona runs along the 109° 03' W longitude. The southwestern corner of the state is known as the Bootheel. The 37° N latitude parallel forms the northern boundary with Colorado. The states New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah come together at the Four Corners in the northwestern corner of New Mexico. New Mexico, although a large state, has very little water. Its surface water area is about 250 square miles (650 km2).
The New Mexican landscape ranges from wide, rose-colored deserts to broken mesas to high, snow-capped peaks. Despite New Mexico's arid image, heavily forested mountain wildernesses cover a significant portion of the state, especially towards the north. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost part of the Rocky Mountains, run roughly north-south along the east side of the Rio Grande in the rugged, pastoral north. The most important of New Mexico's rivers are the Rio Grande, Pecos, Canadian, San Juan, and Gila. The Rio Grande is tied for the fourth-longest river in the United States.
Visitors frequent the surviving native pueblos of New Mexico. Tourists visiting these sites bring significant money to the state. Other areas of geographical and scenic interest include Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and the Gila Wilderness in the southwest of the state.
The climate of New Mexico is generally semiarid to arid, though areas of continental and alpine climates exist, and its territory is mostly covered by mountains, high plains, and desert.
The Great Plains (High Plains) are located in Eastern New Mexico, similar to the Colorado high plains in eastern Colorado. The two states share similar terrain, with both having plains, mountains, basins, mesas, and desert lands.
Astronomical observatories in New Mexico take advantage of unusually clear skies, including the Remote Astronomical Society Observatory of New Mexico, the Apache Point Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, the Very Large Array, the Dark Ridge Observatory, the Rainbow Park Observatory, the Calvin-Rehoboth Robotic Observatory, etc.
Flora and fauna
New Mexico contains extensive habitat for many plants and animals, especially in desert areas and piñon-juniper woodlands. Creosote bush, mesquite, cacti, yucca, and desert grasses, including black grama, purple three-awn, tobosa, and burrograss, cover the broad, semiarid plains of the southern portion of the state. The northern portion of the state is home to many tree species such as ponderosa pine, aspen, cottonwood, spruce, fir, and Russian olive, which is an invasive species. Native birds include the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus, the state bird of New Mexico) and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). Other fauna present in New Mexico include black bears, cougars, jaguars, coyotes, porcupines, skunks, Mexican gray wolves, deer, elk, Plains bison, collared peccary, bighorn sheep, squirrels, chipmunks, pronghorns, western diamondbacks, kangaroo rats, jackrabbits, and a multitude of other birds, reptiles, and rodents. The black bear native to New Mexico, Ursus americanus amblyceps, was formally adopted as the state's official animal in 1953.
The first known inhabitants of New Mexico were members of the Clovis culture of Paleo-Indians. Later inhabitants include American Indians of the Mogollon and Ancestral Pueblo peoples cultures. By the time of European contact in the 16th century, the region was settled by the villages of the Pueblo peoples and groups of Navajo, Apache, and Ute.
The name Nuevo México was first used by a seeker of gold mines named Francisco de Ibarra, who explored far to the north of New Spain in 1563 and reported his findings as being in "a New Mexico". Juan de Oñate officially established the name when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico in 1598. The same year, he founded the San Juan de los Caballeros colony, the first permanent European settlement in the future state of New Mexico, on the Rio Grande near Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. Oñate extended El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, Royal Road of the Interior, by 700 miles (1,100 km) from Santa Bárbara, Chihuahua, to his remote colony.
The settlement of Santa Fe was established at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains, around 1608. The city, along with most of the settled areas of the state, was abandoned by the Spanish for 12 years (1680–92) as a result of the successful Pueblo Revolt. After the death of the Pueblo leader Popé, Diego de Vargas restored the area to Spanish rule. While developing Santa Fe as a trade center, the returning settlers founded Albuquerque in 1706 from existing surrounding communities, naming it for the viceroy of New Spain, Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 10th Duke of Alburquerque.
As a part of New Spain, the claims for the province of New Mexico passed to independent Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. The Republic of Texas claimed the portion east of the Rio Grande when it seceded from Mexico in 1836, when it incorrectly assumed the older Hispanic settlements of the upper Rio Grande were the same as the newly established Mexican settlements of Texas. Texas' only attempt to establish a presence or control in the claimed territory was the failed Texan Santa Fe Expedition. Their entire army was captured and jailed by Hispanic New Mexico militia.
At the turn of the 19th century, the extreme northeastern part of New Mexico, north of the Canadian River and east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, was still ruled by France, which sold it in 1803 to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The United States assigned this portion of New Mexico as part of the Louisiana Territory until 1812; that year Louisiana was admitted as a state. The US then reclassified this area as part of the Missouri Territory.
The independent Republic of Texas also claimed this portion of New Mexico. By 1800, the Spanish population had reached 25,000, but Apache and Comanche raids on Hispanic settlers were common until well into the period of U.S. occupation.
1848 cession of land
Following the victory of the United States in the Mexican–American War (1846–48), under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico ceded its mostly unsettled northern holdings, today known as the American Southwest and California, to the United States of America. The United States vowed to accept the residents' claims to their lands and to accept them as full citizens with rights of suffrage. This acquisition of territory and residents resulted in Mexicans legally being classified as white, since at that time, in most of the Southern United States, only whites could vote. Nevertheless, Texas and other western states raised barriers to voting and political participation by ethnic Mexicans, including barring them from serving on juries.
After Texas was admitted as a state to the Union, it continued to claim the northeastern portion of present-day New Mexico. Finally, in the Compromise of 1850, Texas ceded these claims to the United States of the area in New Mexico lying east of the Rio Grande, in exchange for $10 million.
Congress established the separate New Mexico Territory in September 1850. It included most of the present-day states of Arizona and New Mexico, and part of Colorado. When the boundary was fixed, a surveyor's error awarded the Permian Basin, which included the city of El Paso, to the State of Texas. New Mexico dropped its claims to the Permian in a bid to gain statehood in 1911.
In 1853, the United States acquired the mostly desert southwestern boot heel of the state and southern Arizona below the Gila River in the Gadsden Purchase. It wanted to control lands needed for the right-of-way in order to encourage construction of a transcontinental railroad.
New Mexico played a role in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War. Both Confederate and Union governments claimed ownership and territorial rights over New Mexico Territory. In 1861, the Confederacy claimed the southern tract as its own Arizona Territory and waged the ambitious New Mexico Campaign in an attempt to control the American Southwest and open up access to Union California. Confederate power in the New Mexico Territory was effectively broken after the Battle of Glorieta Pass in 1862. However, the Confederate territorial government continued to operate out of Texas, and Confederate troops marched under the Arizona flag until the end of the war. Additionally, more than 8,000 troops from New Mexico Territory served the Union.
In the late 19th century, the majority of officially European-descended residents in New Mexico were ethnic Mexicans, many of whom had deep roots in the area from early Spanish colonial times.
20th century to present
Congress admitted New Mexico as the 47th state in the Union on January 6, 1912.
European-American settlers in the state had an uneasy relationship with the large Native American tribes, most of whose members lived on reservations at the beginning of the 20th century. Although Congress passed a law in 1924 that granted all Native Americans with US citizenship, as well as the right to vote in federal and state elections, New Mexico was among several states that restricted Indian voting by raising barriers to voter registration. Their constitution said that Indians who did not pay taxes could not vote, in their interpretation disqualifying those Native Americans who lived on reservations.
A major oil discovery in 1928 brought prosperity to the state, especially Lea County, New Mexico and the town of Hobbs. It was named for James Hobbs, a homesteader there in 1907. The Midwest State No. 1 well, begun in late 1927 with a standard cable-tool drilling rig, revealed the first signs of oil from the Hobbs field on June 13, 1928. Drilled to 4,330 feet and completed a few months later, the well produced 700 barrels of oil per day on state land. The Midwest Refining Company's Hobbs well produced oil until 2002. The New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources called it "the most important single discovery of oil in New Mexico's history".
During World War II, the first atomic bombs were designed and manufactured at Los Alamos, a site developed by the federal government specifically to support a high-intensity scientific effort to rapidly complete research and testing of this weapon. The first bomb was tested at Trinity site in the desert between Socorro and Alamogordo on what is now White Sands Missile Range.
Native Americans from New Mexico fought for the United States in both the First and Second World Wars.
New Mexico has benefited greatly from federal government spending on major military and research institutions in the state. It is home to three Air Force bases, White Sands Missile Range, and the federal research laboratories Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. The state's population grew rapidly after World War II, growing from 531,818 in 1940 to 1,819,046 in 2000. Both residents and businesses moved to the state; some northerners came at first for the mild winters; others for retirement.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of New Mexico was 2,096,829 on July 1, 2019, a 1.83% increase since the 2010 census. The 2000 census recorded the population of New Mexico to be 1,819,046; ten years later it was 2,059,179—an 11.7% increase.
Of the people residing in New Mexico, 51.4% were born in New Mexico, 37.9% were born in a different US state, 1.1% were born in Puerto Rico, U.S. Island areas, or born abroad to American parent(s), and 9.7% were foreign born.
Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic ancestry, at 47% (as of July 1, 2012).
Cities, towns, and counties
- See also: List of counties in New Mexico
New Mexico's largest cities
- Albuquerque - population 556,495
- Las Cruces - population 101,324
- Rio Rancho - population 91,956
- Santa Fe - population 69,976
- Roswell - population 48,611
- Farmington - population 45,854
- Clovis - population 39,508
- Hobbs - population 36,041
- Alamogordo - population 31,500
- Carlsbad - population 27,653
Race and ancestry
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 48% of the total 2015 population was Hispanic or Latino of any race, the highest of any state. The majority of Hispanics in New Mexico claim to be descendants of Spanish colonists who settled here during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. They speak New Mexican Spanish and/or English at home.
The state also has a large Native American population, second in percentage behind that of Alaska. The 2015 racial composition of the population was estimated to be:
- 82.5% White American
- 9.4% American Indian and Alaska Native
- 2.6% Black or African American
- 1.7% Asian
- 0.2% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander
- 2.5% Two or more races
According to the 2000 United States Census, the most commonly claimed ancestry groups in New Mexico were:
|Languages Spoken in New Mexico|
The original state constitution of 1912 provided for a bilingual government with laws being published in both English and Spanish; this requirement was renewed twice, in 1931 and 1943. Nonetheless, the constitution does not declare any language as "official."
In 1995, the state adopted an official bilingual song, "New Mexico – Mi Lindo Nuevo México". In 1989, New Mexico became the first state to officially adopt the English Plus resolution, and in 2008, the first to officially adopt a Navajo textbook for use in public schools.
Oil and gas production, tourism, and federal government spending are important drivers of the state economy.
Oil and gas production
New Mexico is the fourth leading crude oil and eighth leading natural gas producer in the United States. The Permian Basin (part of the Mid-Continent Oil Field) and San Juan Basin lie partly in New Mexico. In 2006 New Mexico accounted for 3.4% of the crude oil, 8.5% of the dry natural gas, and 10.2% of the natural gas liquids produced in the United States. In 2000 the value of oil and gas produced was $8.2 billion.
Federal government spending is a major driver of the New Mexico economy.
Many of the federal jobs relate to the military; the state hosts three air force bases (Kirtland Air Force Base, Holloman Air Force Base, and Cannon Air Force Base); a testing range (White Sands Missile Range); and an army proving ground and maneuver range (Fort Bliss – McGregor Range). Other federal installations include the technology labs of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
New Mexico has long been an important corridor for trade and migration. The builders of the ruins at Chaco Canyon also created a radiating network of roads from the mysterious settlement. Chaco Canyon's trade function shifted to Casas Grandes in the present-day Mexican state of Chihuahua, however, north-south trade continued. The pre-Columbian trade with Mesoamerican cultures included northbound exotic birds, seashells and copper. Turquoise, pottery, and salt were some of the goods transported south along the Rio Grande. Present-day New Mexico's pre-Columbian trade is especially remarkable for being undertaken on foot. The north-south trade route later became a path for colonists with horses arriving from New Spain as well as trade and communication. The route was called El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
The Santa Fe Trail was the 19th century US territory's vital commercial and military highway link to the Eastern United States. All with termini in Northern New Mexico, the Camino Real, the Santa Fe Trail and the Old Spanish Trail are all recognized as National Historic Trails.
New Mexico's latitude and low passes made it an attractive east-west transportation corridor.
The automobile changed the character of New Mexico, marking the start of large scale immigration to the state from elsewhere in the United States. Settlers moving West during the Great Depression and post-World War II American culture immortalized the National Old Trails Highway, later U.S. Route 66. Today, the automobile is heavily relied upon in New Mexico for transportation.
Urban mass transit
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a commuter rail system serving the metropolitan area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It began operation on July 14, 2006. The system runs from Belen to downtown Santa Fe. Larger cities in New Mexico typically have some form of public transportation by road; ABQ RIDE is the largest such system in the state.
There were 2,354 route miles of railroads in the year 2000, this number increased with the opening of the Rail Runner's extension to Santa Fe. In addition to local railroads and other tourist lines, the state jointly owns and operates a heritage narrow-gauge steam railroad, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway, with the state of Colorado. Narrow gauge railroads once connected many communities in the northern part of the state, from Farmington to Santa Fe. No fewer than 100 railroads of various names and lineage have operated in the jurisdiction at some point. New Mexico's rail transportation system reached its height in terms of length following admission as a state; in 1914 eleven railroads operated 3124 route miles.
Railroad surveyors arrived in New Mexico in the 1850s. The first railroads incorporated in 1869. The first operational railroad, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (ATSF), entered the territory by way of the lucrative and contested Raton Pass in 1878. It eventually reached El Paso, Texas in 1881 and with the Southern Pacific Railroad created the nation's second transcontinental railroad with a junction at Deming. The Southern Pacific Railroad entered the territory from the Territory of Arizona in 1880. The Denver & Rio Grande Railway, who would generally use narrow gauge equipment in New Mexico, entered the territory from Colorado and began service to Española on December 31, 1880. These first railroads were built as long-distance corridors, later railroad construction also targeted resource extraction.
A commuter rail operation, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, connects the state's capital, its largest city, and other communities. The privately operated state owned railroad began operations in July 2006. Rail Runner operates scheduled service seven days per week.
With the rise of rail transportation many settlements grew or were founded and the territory became a tourist destination. As early as 1878, the ATSF promoted tourism in the region with emphasis on Native American imagery. Named trains often reflected the territory they traveled: Super Chief, the streamlined successor to the Chief; Navajo, an early transcontinental tourist train; and Cavern, a through car operation connecting Clovis and Carlsbad (by the early 1950s as train 23–24), were some of the named passenger trains of the ATSF that connoted New Mexico.
The streamliner Super Chief, a favorite of early Hollywood stars, was one of the most famous named trains in the United States and one of the most esteemed for its luxury and exoticness—train cars were named for regional Native American tribes and outfitted with the artwork of many local artists—but also for its speed: as few as 39 hours 45 minutes westbound.
The Albuquerque International Sunport is the state's primary port of entry for air transportation.
Upham, near Truth or Consequences is the location of the world's first operational and purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America. Rocket launches began in April 2007. It is undeveloped and has one tenant, UP Aerospace, launching small payloads. Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company, plans to make this their primary operating base.
With a Native American population of 134,000 in 1990, New Mexico still ranks as an important center of Native American culture. Both the Navajo and Apache share Athabaskan origin. The Apache and some Ute live on federal reservations within the state. With 16 million acres (6,500,000 ha), mostly in neighboring Arizona, the reservation of the Navajo Nation ranks as the largest in the United States. The prehistorically agricultural Pueblo Indians live in pueblos scattered throughout the state.
Almost half of New Mexicans claim Hispanic origin; many are descendants of colonial settlers. They settled in the northern portion of the state. Most of the Mexican immigrants reside in the southern part of the state. Also 10-15% of the population, mainly in the north, may contain Hispanic Jewish ancestry.
There are many New Mexicans who also speak a unique dialect of Spanish. New Mexican Spanish has vocabulary often unknown to other Spanish speakers. Because of the historical isolation of New Mexico from other speakers of the Spanish language adopts numerous Native American words for local features, and contains much Anglicized vocabulary for American concepts and modern inventions.
Albuquerque has the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, as well as hosts the famed annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every fall.
Art and literature
The earliest New Mexico artists whose work survives today are the Mimbres Indians, whose black and white pottery could be mistaken for modern art, except for the fact that it was produced before 1130 CE. See Mimbres culture. Many examples of this work can be seen at the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum and at the Western New Mexico University Museum.
Art is also a frequent theme in Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city. The National Hispanic Cultural Center has held hundreds of performing arts events, art showcases, and other events related to Spanish culture in New Mexico and worldwide in the centerpiece Roy E Disney Center for the Performing Arts or in other venues at the 53 acre facility. New Mexico residents and visitors alike can enjoy performing art from around the world at Popejoy Hall on the campus of the University of New Mexico. Popejoy Hall hosts singers, dancers, Broadway shows, other types of acts, and Shakespeare. Albuquerque also has the unique and memorable KiMo Theater built in 1927 in the Pueblo Revival Style architecture. The KiMo presents live theater and concerts as well as movies and simulcast operas. In addition to other general interest theaters, Albuquerque also has the African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall which showcases achievements by people of African descent and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center which highlights the cultural heritage of the First Nations people of New Mexico.
New Mexico still holds strong to its Spanish heritage. Old Spanish traditions such zarzuelas and flamenco are very popular in New Mexico. World-renowned flamenco dancer and native New Mexican María Benítez founded the Maria Benítez Institute for Spanish Arts "to present programs of the highest quality of the rich artistic heritage of Spain as expressed through music, dance, visual arts and other art forms." There is also the Flamenco Internacional de Alburquerque held each year in which both native Spanish and New Mexican flamenco dancers perform at the University of New Mexico.
In the mid-20th century there was a thriving Hispano school of literature and scholarship being produced in both English and Spanish.
Silver City, in the southwestern mountains of the state, was originally a mining town, and at least one nearby mine still operates. It is perhaps better known now as the home of and/or exhibition center for large numbers of artists, visual and otherwise. Another former mining town turned art haven is Madrid, New Mexico. The City of Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico, has a museum system that is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program. Las Cruces also has a variety of cultural and artistic opportunities for residents and visitors alike.
Images for kids
New Mexico state quarter circulated in April 2008.
New Mexico Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.