World History

New Mexico State History – History, Population, Facts

The New Mexico area has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years. Ancient cultures such as the Mogollons and Anasazis were the ancestors of Native American tribes such as the Pueblo people.

Information about New Mexico State:

Capital Santa Fe
Population 2,113,344 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Roswell
Borders Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $124,479.6 million (2022 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Key Industries Oil and gas production, mining, cattle, and tourism

Flag of New Mexico State:

Native Americans

When Europeans arrived in the 16th century, most of the tribes inhabiting the area were Pueblos, including the Acoma, Laguna, San Juan, Santa Ana, and Zuni tribes. The Pueblos lived in high-rise buildings made of mud. Sometimes they built cities on the edge of cliffs for protection. Other Native Americans living in New Mexico at the time included Apaches, Navajos, and Utes.

Europeans Arrive

The first Europeans to arrive in New Mexico were the Spaniards. In 1540, Spanish conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado arrived with a large army of soldiers. He was looking for the legendary Seven Golden Cities. Although he found no gold, he claimed the land for Spain.

New Mexico State Symbols

  • New Mexico State Nickname: The Land of Enchantment
  • New Mexico State Slogan: Land of Enchantment; also on its license plate
  • New Mexico State Motto: Crescit eundo (It grows as it goes)
  • New Mexico State flower: Yucca flower
  • New Mexico State bird:Roadrunner aka Greater Roadrunner
  • New Mexico State fish: Cutthroat trout
  • New Mexico State tree: Pinon Pine
  • New Mexico State mammal:Black bear
  • New Mexico State foods: Bizcochito (cookie)


In 1598, New Mexico officially became a colony of Spain. The first capital was San Juan de los Caballeros. The Spaniards established Catholic missions throughout the region, where priests taught Native Americans about their religion. They tried to force the natives to become Christians.

In 1680, a Pueblo chief named Pope led the Pueblos in a rebellion against the Spanish. They succeeded in driving the Spaniards out of New Mexico for a short time. But the Spaniards soon returned.

Part of Mexico

Throughout the 18th century, conflict between the Spaniards and Native Americans escalated as more and more Spanish settlers migrated to occupy the land. In 1821 Mexico became independent from Spain. New Mexico was a state of Mexico.

Due to its proximity to the United States, New Mexico established trade with Missouri along the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail has become her one of the main routes for those traveling west from the United States.

The Geography of New Mexico State:

  • Total Size of New Mexico: 121,356 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point of New Mexico: Red Bluff Reservoir at 2,842 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Eddy (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point of New Mexico: Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Taos (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Central Point of New Mexico: Located in Torrance County approx. 12 miles south-southwest of Willard (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties of New Mexico: 33 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water of New Mexico: Rio Grande River, Pecos River, Canadian River, San Juan River, Elephant Butte Lake, Navajo Lake

Territory of the United States

In 1846, a border dispute between Texas and Mexico started the Mexican-American War. After winning the War of 1848, the United States gained control of New Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. New Mexico became a U.S. territory in her 1850.

During the civil war, the area was claimed by both sides. Kit Carson was a Union Army leader in New Mexico. Several battles were fought in New Mexico, including the Battle of Valverde. Carson also led Union forces against local tribes and forced the Navajo to surrender in 1863.

In the years that followed, thousands of Navajos were forced to march from Arizona to reservations in New Mexico. These marches are called the Navajo Long Walks.

Wild West

New Mexico in the late 1800s is sometimes referred to as the “Wild West.” There were few law enforcement officers in the area at the time, and some towns became known as home to outlaws, gamblers, and horse thieves. One of New Mexico’s most famous outlaws at the time was Billy the Kid.

Becoming a State

New Mexico was incorporated into the United States as her 47th state on January 6, 1912. Because of its remoteness and sparse population, it became a center of atomic bomb development during World War II. The first atomic bomb was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and exploded at the Trinity Site in New Mexico.

Famous People of New Mexico State:

Jeff Bezos Founder of
John Denver Singer and songwriter
Neil Patrick Harris Actor
Dolores Huerta Civil rights activist
Demi Lovato Singer and actress
Demi Moore Actress
Georgia O’Keeffe Artist famous for her paintings of New Mexico
Katherine D. Ortega First Hispanic treasurer of the United States
Al Unser NASCAR race car driver

Interesting Facts of New Mexico State:

The real Smokey Bear was rescued from a fire in New Mexico in 1950.

Roswell, New Mexico is the location of some of the most famous UFO sightings in the world.

The world’s first atomic bomb exploded in southern New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns has one of the world’s longest underground chambers he.

The nickname “Land of Enchantment” was first used in 1906 by Lillian Whiting as the title of a book about the area.

New Mexico is one of four states you’ll meet in Four Corners. You can stand in 4 states at the same time. The other three states are Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

Santa Fe is well over a mile at 7,000 feet above sea level. This makes it the highest capital city in the United States.

The city of Deming is home to the Great American Duck Race. They run both in water and on land. 75% of New Mexico’s roads are unpaved.

There are more cattle and sheep than people in the state.

Timeline Overview:

1540 – Spanish conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado arrives and claims Spanish lands.
1598 – New Mexico becomes an official colony of Spain.
1610 – The settlement of Santa Fe is founded.
1680 – Puebloans revolt against the Spaniards.
1706 – City of Albuquerque is founded.
1821 – New Mexico becomes a state of Mexico after Mexico declares independence from Spain.
1821 – Santa Fe Trail opened by William Becknell.
1846 – Start of the Mexican-American War.
1848 – The United States gains control of New Mexico after winning the Mexican-American War.
1850 – New Mexico Territory is established by the United States.
1863 – The Navajo are forced to relocate and the Long Walk begins.
1881 – Billy the Kid is shot.
1912 – New Mexico is admitted as her 47th state.
1945 – The first atomic bomb is detonated in New Mexico.
1947 – UFO reportedly lands near Roswell.