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State Guide

The State of New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the United States of America. It has been inhabited by Native American populations and has been part of the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory. Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic Americans, comprising both recent immigrants and descendants of Spanish colonists. It also has the third-highest percentage of Native Americans after Alaska and Oklahoma, and the fifth-highest total number of Native Americans after California, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Texas. The tribes represented in the state consist of mostly Navajo and Pueblo peoples. As a result, the demographics and culture of the state are unique for their strong Spanish, Mexican, and American Indian cultural influences. The climate of the state is highly arid and its territory is mostly covered by mountains and desert. At a population density of 15 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth most sparsely inhabited U.S. State.


The state's total area is 121,665 square miles (315,110 km²). The eastern border of New Mexico lies along 103° W longitude with the state of Oklahoma, and three miles (5 km) west of 103.5° 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 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 little water. Its surface water area is only about 250 square miles (650 km²). New Mexico's average precipitation rate is only 15 inches (380 mm) a year.

The 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 (Big River) 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 the eighth longest river in the U.S.

Cacti, yuccas, creosote bush, sagebrush, and desert grasses cover the broad, semiarid plains that cover the southern portion of the state.

The Federal government protects millions of acres of New Mexico as national forests including:

  • Carson National Forest
  • Cibola National Forest (headquartered in Albuquerque)
  • Lincoln National Forest
  • Santa Fe National Forest (headquartered in Santa Fe)
  • Gila National Forest
  • Gila Wilderness

Other protected lands include the following national monuments and parks:

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument at Aztec
  • Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument near Capulin
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park near Carlsbad
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park at Nageezi
  • El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
  • El Malpais National Monument in Grants
  • El Morro National Monument in Ramah
  • Fort Union National Monument at Watrous
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument near Silver City
  • Old Spanish National Historic Trail
  • Pecos National Historical Park in Pecos
  • Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque
  • Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument at Mountainair
  • Santa Fe National Historic Trail
  • White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo

Visitors also frequent the surviving native pueblos of New Mexico. Tourists visiting these sites bring significant monies to the state. Other areas of geographical and scenic interest include Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The Gila Wilderness lies in the southwest of the state.


The first known inhabitants of New Mexico were members of the Clovis culture of Paleo-Indians. Indeed the culture is named for the New Mexico city where the first artifacts of this culture were discovered. Later inhabitants include Native Americans of the Anasazi and the Mogollon cultures. By the time of European contact in the 1500s, the region was settled by the villages of the Pueblo peoples and groups of Navajo, Apache and Ute.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado assembled an enormous expedition at Compostela in 1540–1542 to explore and find the mystical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola as described by Cabeza de Vaca who had just arrived from his eight-year ordeal traveling from Florida to Mexico. Coronado's men found several mud baked pueblos in 1541, but found no rich cities of gold. Further widespread expeditions found no fabulous cities anywhere in the Southwest or Great Plains. A dispirited and now poor Coronado and his men began their journey back to Mexico leaving New Mexico behind.

Over 50 years after Coronado, Juan de Oñate founded the San Juan colony on the Rio Grande in 1598, the first permanent European settlement in the future state of New Mexico. Oñate pioneered the grandly named El Camino Real, "Royal Road," as a 700 mile (1,100 km) trail from the rest of New Spain to his remote colony. Oñate was made the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico. The Native Americans at Acoma revolted against this Spanish encroachment but faced severe suppression.

In 1609, Pedro de Peralta, a later governor of the Province of New Mexico, established the settlement of Santa Fe at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The city, along with most of the settled areas of the state, was abandoned by the Spanish for 12 years (1680-1692) 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 the old town of Alburquerque in 1706, naming it for the viceroy of New Spain, the Duke of Alburquerque. The name later evolved into its present form of Albuquerque.

Mexican province

As a part of New Spain, the claims for the province of New Mexico passed to independent Mexico following the 1810-1821 Mexican War of Independence. During the brief 26 year period of nominal Mexican control, Mexican authority and investment in New Mexico were weak, as their often conflicted government had little time or interest in a New Mexico that had been poor since the Spanish settlements started. Some Mexican officials, saying they were wary of encroachments by the growing United States, and wanting to reward themselves and their friends, began issuing enormous land grants (usually free) to groups of Mexican families as an incentive to populate the province.

Small trapping parties from the United States had previously reached and stayed in Santa Fe, but the Spanish authorities officially forbade them to trade. Trader William Becknell returned to the United States in November 1821 with news that independent Mexico now welcomed trade through Santa Fe.

William Becknell left Independence, Missouri, for Santa Fe early in 1822 with the first party of traders. The Santa Fe Trail trading company, headed by the brothers Charles Bent and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, was one of the most successful in the West. They had their first trading post in the area in 1826, and, by 1833, they had built their adobe fort and trading post called Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River. This fort and trading post, located about 200 miles (322 km) east of Taos, New Mexico, was the only place settled by whites along the Santa Fe trail before it hit Taos. The Santa Fe National Historic Trail follows the route of the old trail, with many sites marked or restored.

The Spanish Trail from Los Angeles, California to Santa Fe, New Mexico was primarily used by Hispanics, white traders and ex-trappers living part of the year in or near Santa Fe. Started in about 1829, the trail was an arduous 2,400 (3862 km) mile round trip pack train sojourn that extended into Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California and back, allowing only one hard round trip per year. The trade consisted primarily of blankets and some trade goods from Santa Fe being traded for horses in California.

The Republic of Texas claimed the mostly vacant territory north and east of the Rio Grande when it successfully seceded from Mexico in 1836. New Mexico authorities captured a group of Texans who embarked an expedition to assert their claim to the province in 1841.

American territory

Following the Mexican-American War, from 1846-1848 and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico forcibly ceded its mostly unsettled northern holdings, today known as the American Southwest and California to the United States of America in exchange for an end to hostilities, the evacuation of Mexico City and many other areas under American control. Mexico also received $15 million cash, plus the assumption of slightly more than $3 million in outstanding Mexican debts.

The Congressional Compromise of 1850 halted a bid for statehood under a proposed antislavery constitution. Texas transferred eastern New Mexico to the federal government, settling a lengthy boundary dispute. Under the compromise, the American government established the Territory of New Mexico on September 9, 1850. The territory, which included most of the future states of Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, officially established its capital at Santa Fe in 1851.

The United States acquired the southwestern boot heel of the state and southern Arizona below the Gila river in the mostly desert Gadsden Purchase of 1853. This purchase was desired when it was found that a much easier route for a proposed transcontinental railroad was located slightly south of the Gila river. The Southern Pacific built the second transcontinental railroad though this purchased land in 1881.

During the American Civil War, Confederate troops from Texas briefly occupied the Rio Grande valley as far north as Santa Fe. Union troops from the Territory of Colorado re-captured the territory in March 1862 at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The Territory of Arizona was split off as a separate territory on February 24, 1863.

There were centuries of conflict between the Apache, the Navajo and Spanish-Mexican settlements in the territory. It took the federal government another 25 years after the Civil War to exert control over both the civilian and Native American populations of the territory. This started in 1864 when the Navajo were sent on "The Long Walk" to Bosque Redondo Reservation and then returned to most of their lands in 1868. The Apache were moved to various reservations and Apache wars continued until Geronimo finally surrendered in 1886.

The railway encouraged the great cattle boom of the 1880s and the development of accompanying cow towns. The cattle barons could not keep out sheepherders, and eventually homesteaders and squatters overwhelmed the cattlemen by fencing in and plowing under the "sea of grass" on which the cattle fed. Conflicting land claims led to bitter quarrels among the original Spanish inhabitants, cattle ranchers, and newer homesteaders. Despite destructive overgrazing, ranching survived and remains a mainstay of the New Mexican economy.

Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, on the middle Rio Grande, was incorporated in 1889.


Congress admitted New Mexico as the 47th state in the Union on January 6, 1912. The admission of the neighboring State of Arizona on February 14, 1912 completed the contiguous 48 states.

The struggle to gain the voting rights for women came to be known as the "suffrage movement." In spite of efforts by suffrage organizers after 1915, New Mexico's legislature was one of the last to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

For the first 25 years of statehood, the NM Supreme Court lived in cramped quarters in the Capitol. Not until 1937 as a result of a Public Works Administrtion Project, did the Supreme Court get its own building. That year, there was a diphtheria epidemic in Santa Fe resulting in 20 deaths before serum was flown in to end it.

The United States government built the Los Alamos Research Center in 1943 amid the Second World War. Top-secret personnel there assembled the atomic bomb, first detonated at Trinity site in the desert on the White Sands Proving Grounds between Socorro and Alamogordo on July 16, 1945.

Albuquerque expanded rapidly after the war. High-altitude experiments near Roswell in 1947 reputedly led to persistent but unproven suspicions that the government captured and concealed extraterrestrial corpses and equipment. The state quickly emerged as a leader in nuclear, solar, and geothermal energy research and development. Sandia National Laboratories, founded in 1949, carried out nuclear research and special weapons development at Kirtland Air Force Base south of Albuquerque and at Livermore, California.

Located in the remote Chihuahuan Desert the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Carlsbad. Here nuclear wastes are buried deep in carved out salt formation disposal rooms mined 2,150 feet (655 m) underground in a 2,000-foot (610 m) thick salt formation that has been stable for more than 200 million years. WIPP began operations on March 26, 1999.

Important Cities & Counties

The 10 Most Populous New Mexico Cities

Rank City County Population
1 City of Albuquerque Bernalillo County 534,089
2 City of Las Cruces Dona Ana County 102,845
3 City of Rio Rancho Sandoval County 83,282
4 City of Santa Fe Santa Fe County 72,056
5 City of Roswell Chaves County 45,582
6 City of Farmington San Juan County 43,573
7 City of Clovis Curry County 42,314
8 City of Alamogordo Otero County 36,069
9 City of Hobbs Lea County 29,292
10 City of Carlsbad Eddy County 25,410

The 5 Most Populous New Mexico Counties
2007 Census Bureau estimates
Rank County Population
county limits
Land Area
sq. miles
per sq mi
Largest city
1 Bernalillo County 629,292 1,166 540 Albuquerque
2 Doña Ana County 198,791 3,807 52 Las Cruces
3 Santa Fe County 142,955 1,909 75 Santa Fe
4 San Juan County 122,427 5,514 22 Farmington
5 Sandoval County 117,866 3,710 32 Rio Rancho


Census 2000 data; estimates through 2006

As of 2005, New Mexico has an estimated population of 1,928,384, which is an increase of 25,378, or 1.3%, from the prior year and an increase of 109,338, or 6.0%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 74,397 people (that is 143,617 births minus 69,220 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 37,501 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 27,974 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 9,527 people.

The center of population of New Mexico is located in Torrance County, in the town of Manzano.

As of 2006, 8.2% of the residents of the state were foreign-born.

According to the Census Bureau, 1.5% of the population is Multiracial/Mixed-Race, a population larger than both the Asian and NHPI population groups. New Mexico has the highest percentage of people of Hispanic ancestry of any state, some recent immigrants and others descendants of Spanish colonists. The state also has a large Native American population, second behind Alaska. Hispanics of colonial ancestry, along with recent Mexican immigrants, are present in most of the state, especially northern, central, and northeastern New Mexico. Mexican immigrants, legal or illegal, are prominent in southern parts of the state. Descendants of white American settlers, mostly of Irish English, and Spanish descent, from other parts of United States live in west, southwest, and southeast areas and main cities of the state. The northwestern corner of the state is primarily occupied by Native Americans, of which Navajos and Pueblos are the largest tribes. As a result, the demographics and culture of the state are unique for their strong American, Colonial Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cultural influences.

2007 population estimates

New Mexico's July 1, 2007 population was estimated at 1,969,915 by the United States Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program.

Ancestry groups

According to the U.S. Census, the largest ancestry groups in New Mexico are:

Ancestry   Percentage  
Mexican (18.1%) of Total
Native American (10.3%)
German (9.8%)
Hispanic (9.4%)
Spanish (9.3%)
English (7.6%)
Irish (7.3%)

Some are mixtures of all of these groups and others.

7.2% of New Mexico's population was reported as under 5 years of age, 28% under 18, and 11.7% were 65 or older. Females make up approximately 50.8% of the population.


According the 2000 U.S. Census, 28.76% of the population aged 5 and over speak Spanish at home, while 4.07% speak Navajo.

New Mexico is commonly thought to have Spanish as an official language alongside English, due to the widespread usage of Spanish in the state. Although the original state constitution of 1912 provided for a temporarily bilingual government, New Mexico has no official language. Nevertheless, the state government publishes a driver's manual as well as ballots in both languages, although they are required to publish ballots in Spanish by federal law.

The constitution provided that, for the following twenty years, all laws passed by the legislature be published in both Spanish and English, and thereafter as the legislature should provide.

Prior to 1967, notices of statewide and county elections were required to be printed in English and "may be printed in Spanish." Additionally, many legal notices today are required to be published in both English and Spanish.

In 1995, New Mexico adopted a "State Bilingual Song," titled "New Mexico - Mi Lindo Nuevo México."


Religious affiliations

According to a 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center, the most common self-reported religious affiliation of New Mexico residents are:100

  • Roman Catholic – 26%
  • Evangelical Christian – 25%
  • Unaffiliated – 21%
  • Mainline Protestant – 15%
  • Other affiliations – 12%
  • No answer – 1%

Catholic Church hierarchy

Within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, New Mexico belongs to the Ecclesiastical Province of Santa Fe. New Mexico has three dioceses, one of which is an archdiocese:

  • Archdiocese of Santa Fe
  • Diocese of Gallup
  • Diocese of Las Cruces


State income

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that New Mexico's total state product in 2003 was $57 billion. Per capita personal income in 2003 was $24,995, 48th in the nation.

Major industries/products

Agricultural and mining

Cattle and dairy products top the list of major animal products of New Mexico. Cattle, sheep, and other livestock graze most of the arable land of the state throughout the year.

Limited, scientifically controlled dryland farming prospers alongside cattle ranching. Major crops include hay, nursery stock, pecans, and chile peppers. Hay and sorghum top the list of major dryland crops. Farmers also produce onions, potatoes, and dairy products. New Mexico specialty crops include piñon nuts, pinto beans, and chiles.

The Carlsbad and Fort Sumner reclamation projects on the Pecos River and the nearby Tucumcari project provide adequate water for limited irrigation in those areas of the desert and semiarid portions of the state where scant rainfall evaporates rapidly, generally leaving insufficient water supplies for large-scale irrigation. Located upstream of Las Cruces, the Elephant Butte Reservoir provides a major irrigation source for the extensive farming along the Rio Grande. Other irrigation projects use the Colorado River basin and the San Juan River.

Lumber mills in Albuquerque process pinewood, the chief commercial wood of the rich timber economy of northern New Mexico.

Mineral extraction: New Mexicans derive much of their income from mineral extraction. Even before European exploration, Native Americans mined turquoise for making jewelry. After the Spanish introduced refined silver alloys they were incorporated into the Indian jewelry designs. New Mexico produces uranium ore (see Uranium mining in New Mexico), manganese ore, potash, salt, perlite, copper ore, beryllium, and tin concentrates.


New Mexico is rich in fossil fuel and renewable energy resources. Major petroleum and natural gas deposits are located in the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico and in the San Juan Basin in the northwest. The San Juan Basin Gas Area is the largest field of proved natural gas reserves in the United States. According to the Energy Information Administration, State crude oil output is typically just over 3 percent of the annual U.S. total, and natural gas output is nearly 10 percent of the U.S. total. New Mexico also contains major coal deposits in the northwest corner of the State. Nine tenths of electricity production in the State is from coal-fired plants. Much of New Mexico’s geologically active Rocky Mountain region holds geothermal power potential, and pockets of the State are suitable for wind power development. New Mexico’s southern deserts offer the State's most concentrated solar power potential.


Industrial output, centered around Albuquerque, includes electric equipment; petroleum and coal products; food processing; printing and publishing; and stone, glass, and clay products. Defense-related industries include ordnance. Important high-technology industries include lasers, data processing, and solar energy

Government and military

Federal government spending is a major driver of the New Mexico economy. The federal government spends $2 on New Mexico for every dollar of tax revenue collected from the state. This rate of return is higher than any other state in the Union. The federal government is also a major employer in New Mexico providing more than a quarter of the state's jobs. 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); an army proving ground and maneuver range (Fort Bliss Military Reservation - McGregor Range);national observatories; and the technology labs of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). SNL conducts electronic and industrial research on Kirtland AFB, on the southeast side of Albuquerque. These installations also include the missile and spacecraft proving grounds at White Sands. In addition to the military employers, other federal agencies such as the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the United States Bureau of Land Management are a big part of the states rural employment base.

Tourism and retirement

Virgin Galactic, the first space tourism company to develop commercial flights into space, has decided to put its world headquarters and mission control at Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico (25 miles (40 km) south of Truth or Consequences); Virgin Galactic will have its inaugural launch of the VSS Enterprise spaceship in 2008, and will begin launching ordinary citizens in early 2009.

Tourism provides many service jobs. For top attractions see: Tourism.

The private service economy in urban New Mexico, especially in Albuquerque, has boomed in recent decades. Since the end of World War II, the city has gained an ever-growing number of retirees, especially among armed forces veterans and government workers. It is also increasingly gaining notice as a health conscious community, and contains many hospitals and a high per capita number of massage and alternative therapists. The warm, semiarid climate has contributed to the exploding population of Albuquerque, attracting new industries to New Mexico. By contrast, many heavily Native American and Hispanic rural communities remain economically underdeveloped.

Movie and TV

Feature films have used New Mexico as a location since The Indian School in 1898. Financial incentives and construction of facilities (such as The Albuquerque Studios) have created opportunities for locally based crew members with production reaching an all time high in 2007. As of the end of August 2007, 30 major projects have been filmed in the state, more than in any other calendar year in history.

Garson Studios The most established Movie production facility is on the campus of the College of Santa Fe. Garson Studios has helped turned out many feature length films with its soundstage and high tech equipment. url = • 14,000 Square Foot Soundstage • Dimensions: 127' l x 110' w x 33' h • Hard Cyclorama 77' l x 55' w x 24' h • 1600 amp./ 3-phase

• Production offices • Wardrobe facilities • Ample phone/fax lines • High-speed Internet • Storage lockups • Ample fenced parking • Trailer hook-ups • Student interns • Short and long-term rentals

New Mexico Filmmaker’s Intensive url = Funded in part by a $1 million grant from the state of New Mexico, the New Mexico Filmmakers Intensive builds on the national reputation of the Moving Image Arts Department at the College of Santa Fe. With state-of-the-art equipment, world-class facilities and an extraordinary faculty of film industry professionals, the goal of the New Mexico Filmmakers Intensive is to support and cultivate emerging voices in American cinema right here in New Mexico.

Film and television post-production is also growing with companies such as Sony Imageworks establishing a permanent home in the state.


Personal income tax rates for New Mexico range from 1.7% to 5.3%, within four income brackets.

New Mexico does not have a sales tax. Instead, it has a 5% gross receipts tax. In almost every case, the business passes along the tax to the consumer, so that the gross receipts tax resembles a sales tax. The combined gross receipts tax rate varies throughout the state from 5.125% to 7.8125%. The total rate is a combination of all rates imposed by the state, counties and municipalities. Beginning January 1, 2005, New Mexicans no longer pay taxes on most food purchases; however, there are exceptions to this program. Also beginning January 1, 2005, the state eliminated the tax on certain medical services.

In general, taxes are not assessed on personal property. Personal household effects, licensed vehicles, registered aircraft, certain personal property warehoused in the state and business personal property that is not depreciated for federal income tax purposes are exempt from the property tax.

Property tax rates vary substantially and depend on the type of property and its location. The state does not assess tax on intangible personal property. There is no inheritance tax, but an inheritance may be reflected in a taxpayer's modified gross income and taxed that way.

Economic incentives

New Mexico provides a number of economic incentives to businesses operating in the state, including various types of tax credits and tax exemptions. Most of the incentives are based on job creation.

New Mexico law allows governments to provide land, buildings, and infrastructure to businesses to promote job creation. Several municipalities have imposed an Economic Development Gross Receipts Tax (a form of Municipal Infrastructure GRT) that is used to pay for these infrastructure improvements and for marketing their areas.

The state provides financial incentives for film production. The New Mexico Film Office estimated at the end of 2007 that the incentive program had brought more than 85 film projects to the state since 2003 and had added $1.2 billion to the economy.

Largest employers

(Not ranked by size)

  • Northern
    • College of Santa Fe
    • Boy Scouts of America
    • U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
    • Mesa Air Group
    • Navajo Nation
    • Los Alamos National Laboratory
    • Wal-Mart
    • New Mexico State Government
    • New Mexico Department of Transportation
    • Northern New Mexico College
  • Central
    • PNM Resources and PNM Electric & Gas Services
    • Presbyterian Health Plan
    • Sandia National Laboratories
    • Intel
    • University of New Mexico
    • New Mexico State Government
    • Kirtland Air Force Base
  • Eastern
    • Albertson's Supermarket
    • Kmart Corporation
    • U.S. Postal Service
    • Wal-Mart
    • Navajo Refining Company
    • U.S. National Park Service (NPS)
    • Allsup's Convenience Stores
  • Southwestern
    • Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
    • Lockheed Engineering and Sciences
    • New Mexico State University
    • Lovelace Healthcare
    • Pepsi Bottling
    • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
    • U.S. Army (Fort Bliss)


Passenger trains

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 is in Phase I of planned development, operating on an existing old ATSF, now BNSF right of way from Belen to Bernalillo. However, the entire line from Belen to Raton was recently sold to the state of New Mexico for the construction of phase II, which is currently underway and scheduled to open by late 2010. It will extend the line northward to Santa Fe.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief passes through daily at stations in Gallup, Albuquerque, Lamy, Las Vegas, and Raton, offering connections to Los Angeles, Flagstaff, Kansas City, and Chicago. The Sunset Limited makes stops three times a week in Lordsburg, and Deming.


Interstate Freeways

  • Interstate 10
  • Interstate 25
  • Interstate 40

U.S. Routes: East–West Routes

  • U.S. Route 550
  • U.S. Route 54
  • U.S. Route 56
  • U.S. Route 60
  • U.S. Route 62
  • U.S. Route 64
  • Old Highway 66 (Historic Route 66)
  • U.S. Route 70
  • U.S. Route 80
  • U.S. Route 180
  • U.S. Route 380
  • U.S. Route 82
  • U.S. Route 84

U.S. Routes: North–South Routes

  • U.S. Route 285
  • U.S. Route 491

Law and government

The Constitution of 1912, as amended, dictates the form of government in the state.

Governor Bill Richardson and Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, both Democrats, won re-election in 2006. Their terms expire in January 2011. Governors serve a term of four years and may seek reelection. For a list of past governors, see List of New Mexico Governors.

Other constitutional officers, all of whose terms also expire in January 2011, include Secretary of State Mary Herrera, Attorney General Gary King, State Auditor Hector Balderos, State Land Commissioner, Pat Lyons, and State Treasurer James B. Lewis. Herrera, King, Balderas and Lewis are Democrats. Lyons is a Republican.

The New Mexico State Legislature is comprising a 70-seat House of Representatives and a 42-seat Senate. The Democratic Party generally dominates state politics, and as of 2008 50% of voters were registered Democrats, 33% were registered Republicans, and 15% did not affiliate with either of the two major parties.

New Mexico sent Democrat Jeff Bingaman to the United States Senate until January 2013 and Republican Pete V. Domenici until January 2009. Republicans Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson and Democrat Tom Udall represent the state in the United States House of Representatives. See New Mexico congressional map.


In the past, New Mexico has given its electoral votes to all but two Presidential election winners since statehood. In these exceptions, New Mexicans supported Republican President Gerald Ford over Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Democratic Vice President Al Gore over Texas Governor George W. Bush in 2000.

Recently, New Mexico supported Democrats in 1992, 1996, and 2000. In 2004, George W. Bush narrowly won the state's electoral votes by a margin of 0.8 percentage points with 49.8% of the vote. Democrats hold majorities in 21 of the 33 counties of New Mexico, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces, two northwestern counties, and, by large margins, in six counties of Northern New Mexico (Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Taos, Mora, San Miguel, and Guadalupe).

Overall, the trend is toward the Democratic Party and away from the Republican Party. The registration numbers are: 50% Democrat, 33% Republican, and 15% other.


In addition to the National Guard, New Mexico has a State Defense Force. It is also home to Cannon Air Force Base west of Clovis, Holloman Air Force Base west of Alamogordo, Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, and White Sands Missile Range in Doña Ana and Otero counties. Other minor locations include the New Mexico Army National Guard Headquarters in Santa Fe county and the National Guard Amoury in far northern Rio Rancho in Sandoval county.


Colleges and universities

  • Central New Mexico Community College
  • College of Santa Fe
  • College of the Southwest
  • Diné College
  • Eastern New Mexico University
  • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
  • New Mexico Highlands University
  • New Mexico Military Institute
  • New Mexico State University
  • San Juan College
  • St. John's College, Santa Fe
  • The Art Center Design College, Albuquerque
  • University of New Mexico
  • Western New Mexico University
  • Apollo College
  • ITT Technical Institute

Miscellaneous topics

State symbols

State motto Latin: Crescit eundo
(It Grows as It Goes)
State nicknames Land of Enchantment
(Spanish: Tierra del Encanto or Tierra Encantada)
The Colorful State 19_?
The Spanish State 19_?
State songs O Fair New Mexico 1917
Spanish: Asi Es Nuevo México 1971
New Mexico-Mi Lindo Nuevo México 1995
State flower Yucca flower 1927
State tree Two-Needle Piñon pine 1949
State bird Greater roadrunner 1949
State fish Cutthroat trout 1955
State animal black bear 1963
State vegetables frijoles con chile (frē∙hōl∙əs cōn chēlə) beans and chile pepper 1965
State gem turquoise 1967
State grass blue grama 1973
State fossil coelophysis 1981
State cookie bizcochito 1989
State insect tarantula wasp 1989
State ballad Land of Enchantment 1989
State poem Spanish: A Nuevo México 1991
State question * "Red or Green?" 1999
State Tie Bolo Tie 2007
State ship USS New Mexico (BB-40) 1918–1946
USS New Mexico (SSN-779) **2006

(*)The official state question refers to a question commonly heard at restaurants, where waiters will ask customers "red or green?" in reference to which kind of chili pepper or "chile sauce" the customers wants served with their meal. This type of "chile" is usually distinct from salsa, as the chile sauce is much finer and thicker and more commonly served with meals. Natives are more likely to refer to the chili sauce put on their meal as just plain "chile", and not as any form of "salsa" (which is usually reserved by natives in English for the salsa served with chips; everything else is just "chile").

(**)The second USS New Mexico, SSN-779, is scheduled to be constructed.


With a Native American population of 134,000 in 1990, New Mexico still ranks as an important center of American Indian 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, many older than any European settlement.

More than one-third of New Mexicans claim Hispanic origin, the vast majority of whom descend from the original Spanish colonists in the northern portion of the state. Most of the considerably fewer recent Mexican immigrants reside in the southern part of the state.

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, the local dialect preserves some late medieval Castillian vocabulary considered archaic elsewhere, adopts numerous Native American words for local features, and contains much Anglicized vocabulary for American concepts and modern inventions.

The presence of various indigenous Native American communities, the long-established Spanish and Mexican influence, and the diversity of Anglo-American settlement in the region, ranging from pioneer farmers and ranchers in the territorial period to military families in later decades, make New Mexico a particularly heterogeneous state.

There are natural history and atomic museums in Albuquerque, which also hosts the famed Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

A large artistic community thrives in Santa Fe. The capital city has museums of Spanish colonial, international folk, Navajo ceremonial, modern Native American, and other modern art. Another museum honors resident Georgia O'Keeffe. Colonies for artists and writers thrive, and the small city teems with art galleries. In August, the city hosts the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, which is the oldest and largest juried Native American art showcase in the world.

Performing arts include the renowned Santa Fe Opera which presents five operas in repertory each July to August, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival held each summer, and the restored Lensic Theater a principal venue for many kinds of performances. The weekend after Labor Day boasts the burning of Zozobra, a 50 ft (15 m) marionette, during Fiestas de Santa Fe.

Writer D. H. Lawrence lived near Taos in the 1920s at the D. H. Lawrence Ranch where there is a shrine said to contain his ashes.


New Mexico tourist attractions:

  • Santa Fe
    • Santa Fe Plaza
    • Loretto Chapel
    • San Miguel Mission
    • Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
    • Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
    • Museum of International Folk Art
    • El Rancho de las Golondrinas (Spanish Colonial living history museum)
    • Santa Fe Indian Market
  • Los Alamos
  • Taos County
    • Taos Pueblo
    • Taos art colony
    • Taos Ski Valley
  • Acoma Sky Pueblo
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • White Sands National Monument, the Trinity Site, and Missile Range, Alamogordo
  • Albuquerque
    • Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
    • Old Town Albuquerque
    • Petroglyph National Monument
    • New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
    • Rio Grande Zoo
    • Albuquerque Biological Park
    • Sandia Peak Tramway
    • National Atomic Museum
    • Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
    • Expo New Mexico, formerly the New Mexico State Fairgrounds
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park, San Juan Basin
  • Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Chama
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Silver City
  • Roswell
    • Roswell UFO Landing Site
    • International UFO Museum
    • The Roswell UFO Festival, The First Weekend In July
  • Upham
    • Virgin Galactic
    • Spaceport America
  • Black Jack Ketchum in Clayton
  • Billy the Kid Museum, Fort Sumner
  • Historic Lincoln, Ruidoso, and Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation
  • Sierra County Recreation and Tourism website link
  • Silver City was a gold mining town in the Wild West.
    • The Piños Altos is a ghost town located near Silver City.
  • Acoma Pueblo & Mission
    • Laguna Pueblo & Mission
    • El Malpais National Monument
    • Zuni Salt Lake
  • Socorro
    • Magdalena Ridge Observatory
    • Very Large Array
    • Bosque del Apache
    • El Camino Real Heritage Center
    • Mineralogical Museum
  • Catron County
    • Site of the "Alma Massacre"
    • Catwalk National Recreation Trail
    • Elfego Baca Memorial
    • Mogollon Ghost Town
    • The Lightning Field
    • Whitewater Baldy

The state also has a number of casinos located on Native American Indian Reservations that attract thousands of visitors each year.

Notable New Mexicans

Many New Mexicans-those who were born, raised, or lived a significant period in New Mexico-have gained local, national, and international prominence. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was one of the candidates for the 2008 United States presidential election. Notable businessmen include Jeff Bezos, founder of, and Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotels Corporation. New Mexicans have also studied outer space, notably NASA astronauts Sidney M. Gutierrez and Harrison Schmitt. Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, a former New Mexico State University professor, discovered Pluto. Several New Mexicans have served roles in popular culture, including artist Georgia O'Keeffe, animator William Hanna, actor Neil Patrick Harris and actress Demi Moore, Pulitzer Prize winners Bill Mauldin and Ernie Pyle. Notorious criminals include outlaws Billy the Kid and Clay Allison. Indie Rock band The Shins are from Albuquerque.

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