New Mexico

New Mexico
State of New Mexico
Estado de Nuevo México
Yootó Hahoodzo
Flag of New Mexico State seal of New Mexico
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): Land of Enchantment
Motto(s): Crescit eundo (It grows as it goes)
Map of the United States with New Mexico highlighted
Official language(s) (see text)
Spoken language(s) English 82%
Spanish 29%,
Navajo 4%[1][2]
Demonym New Mexican
Capital Santa Fe
Largest city Albuquerque
Largest metro area Albuquerque Metropolitan Area
Area  Ranked 5th in the U.S.
 - Total 121,589 sq mi
(315,194 km2)
 - Width 342 miles (550 km)
 - Length 370 miles (595 km)
 - % water 0.2
 - Latitude 31° 20′ N to 37° N
 - Longitude 103° W to 109° 3′ W
Population  Ranked 36th in the U.S.
 - Total 2,059,179 (2010)
Density 16.2/sq mi  (6.27/km2)
Ranked 45th in the U.S.
 - Highest point Wheeler Peak[3][4][5]
13,167 ft (4013.3 m)
 - Mean 5,700 ft  (1,740 m)
 - Lowest point Red Bluff Reservoir on Texas border[4][5]
2,844 ft (867 m)
Before statehood New Mexico Territory
Admission to Union  January 6, 1912 (47th)
Governor Susana Martinez (R)
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez (R)
Legislature New Mexico Legislature
 - Upper house Senate
 - Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D)
Tom Udall (D)
U.S. House delegation 1: Martin Heinrich (D)
2: Steve Pearce (R)
3: Ben R. Luján (D) (list)
Time zone Mountain: UTC-7/-6
Abbreviations NM US-NM
New Mexico State symbols
Flag of New Mexico.svg
The Flag of New Mexico.

Animate insignia
Bird(s) Greater Roadrunner
Fish Rio Grande cutthroat trout
Flower(s) Yucca
Grass Blue grama
Mammal(s) American Black Bear
Reptile New Mexico whiptail
Tree Colorado Pinyon

Inanimate insignia
Colors Red & Yellow
Fossil Coelophysis
Gemstone Turquoise
Song(s) "O' Fair New Mexico"

Route marker(s)
New Mexico Route Marker

State Quarter
Quarter of New Mexico
Released in 2008

Lists of United States state insignia

New MexicoListeni/n ˈmɛksɨk/ is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S. state.

Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, it has also 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 Hispanics, including descendants of Spanish colonists and recent immigrants from Latin America. It also has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans, after Alaska, and the fifth-highest total number of Native Americans after California, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Texas.[6] The tribes 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 Hispanic and Native American influences. The flag of New Mexico is represented by the red and gold colors, which represent Spain as well as the Zia symbol, an ancient Native American symbol for the sun.[7]



The state's total area is 121,412 square miles (314,460 km2).[8] The eastern border of New Mexico lies along 103° W longitude with the state of Oklahoma, and three miles (5 km) west of 103° W longitude with Texas.[8][not in citation given] 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.[8] 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 little water. Its surface water area is about 250 square miles (650 km2).

Carlsbad Caverns

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 U.S.[9]

The U.S. government protects millions of acres of New Mexico as national forests including:[10]

Areas managed by the National Park Service include:[11]

Visitors also 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 Valles Caldera National Preserve. The Gila Wilderness lies in the southwest of the state.


The climate of New Mexico is generally semi-arid to arid, though there are areas of continental and alpine climates, and its territory is mostly covered by mountains, high plains, and desert. The Great Plains (High Plains) are located in the eastern portion of the state, similar to the Colorado high plains in eastern Colorado. The two states share plenty of similarities in terrain, with both having plains, mountains, basins, mesas, and desert lands. New Mexico's average precipitation rate is 13.9 inches (350 mm) a year. The average annual temperatures can range from 64 °F (18 °C) in the southeast to less than 40 °F (4 °C) in the northern mountains.[8] During the summer months, daytime temperatures can often exceed 100 °F (38 °C) at elevations below 5,000 feet (1,500 m), the average high temperature in July ranges from 97 °F (36 °C) at the lower elevations to the upper 70s (°F, up to 26 °C) at the higher elevations. Many cities in New Mexico can have temperature lows in the 20's and into the teens as well. The highest temperature recorded in New Mexico was 122 °F (50 °C) at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Loving on June 27, 1994 and the lowest recorded temperature is −50 °F (−46 °C) at Gavilan on February 1, 1951.[12] New Mexico also receives a decent amount of snow as well, and a lot of snow in its higher elevations in the mountains.

Flora and fauna

New Mexico offers habitat for occurrence of many plant and animal species, with emphasis upon many desert areas and large amounts of pinon-juniper woodland. Creosote bush, mesquite, cacti, yucca, and desert grasses, including black grama, purple three-awn, tobosa, and burrograss, cover the broad, semiarid plains that cover 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)[13] and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).[14] Other fauna present in New Mexico include black bears, cougars, coyotes, porcupines, skunks, Mexican gray wolves, deer, elk, plains bison, collared peccary, bighorn sheep, squirrels, chipmunks, pronghorn, western diamondback, kangaroo rat, jackrabbit 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.[15]


Desert scene near Chaco Canyon

The first known inhabitants of New Mexico were members of the Clovis culture of Paleo-Indians.[16]:19 Later inhabitants include Native Americans of the Mogollon and the Anasazi cultures.[17]:52 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.[16]:6,48

Francisco Vázquez 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 Fray Marcos de Niza.[17]:19–24 The name Nuevo México was first used by a seeker of gold mines named Francisco de Ibarra who explored far to the north of Mexico in 1563 and reported his findings as being in "a New Mexico".[18] Juan de Oñate officially established the name when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico in 1598.[17]:36–37 In 1598 he founded the San Juan de los Caballeros colony, the first permanent European settlement in the future state of New Mexico,[19] on the Rio Grande near Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.[17]:37 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.[20]:49

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.[20]:182 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.[21] After the death of the Pueblo leader Popé, Diego de Vargas restored the area to Spanish rule.[17]:68–75 While developing Santa Fe as a trade center, the returning settlers founded Albuquerque in 1706 from existing surrounding communities,[17]:84 naming it for the viceroy of New Spain, Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 10th Duke of Alburquerque.[22]

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.[17]:109 The Republic of Texas claimed the portion east of the Rio Grande when it seceded from Mexico in 1836.[23] Texas was separated from New Mexico by the Comancheria and its only attempt to establish a presence or control in the claimed territory was the failed Texas Santa Fe Expedition. The extreme northeastern part of New Mexico was originally ruled by France, and sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.[24] 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.[25]

Following the Mexican-American War, from 1846–1848 and 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.[17]:132 In the Compromise of 1850 Texas ceded its claims to the area lying east of the Rio Grande in exchange for ten million dollars.[17]:135 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, which was related to the construction by the US of a transcontinental railroad.[17]:136

Congress admitted New Mexico as the 47th state in the Union on January 6, 1912.[17]:166

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1850 61,547
1860 93,516 51.9%
1870 91,874 −1.8%
1880 119,565 30.1%
1890 160,282 34.1%
1900 195,310 21.9%
1910 327,301 67.6%
1920 360,350 10.1%
1930 423,317 17.5%
1940 531,818 25.6%
1950 681,187 28.1%
1960 951,023 39.6%
1970 1,017,055 6.9%
1980 1,303,302 28.1%
1990 1,515,069 16.2%
2000 1,819,046 20.1%
2010 2,059,179 13.2%
Sources: 1850–1990,[26]
2000,[27] 2010[28]

During World War II, the first atomic bombs were designed and manufactured at Los Alamos and the first was tested at Trinity site in the desert on the White Sands Proving Grounds between Socorro and Alamogordo.[17]:179–180

New Mexico has benefited from federal government spending. 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, going from 531,818 in 1940 to 1,819,046 in 2000.[26][27] Employment growth areas in New Mexico include microelectronics, call centers, and Indian casinos.[29]


New Mexico Population Density Map.


As of July 1, 2008, the United States Census Bureau estimated New Mexico's population at 1,984,356,[27] which represents an increase of 165,315, or 9.1%, since the last census in 2000.[30] This includes a natural increase since the last census of 114,583 people (that is 235,551 births minus 120,968 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 59,499 people into the state.[30] Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 34,375 people, and migration within the country produced a net gain of 25,124 people.[30]

The center of population of New Mexico is located in Torrance County, in the town of Manzano.[31]

7.5% of New Mexico's population was reported as under 5 years of age, 25.3% under 18, and 13.1% were 65 or older.[32] Females make up approximately 50.7% of the population.[32]

As of 2000, 8.2% of the residents of the state were foreign-born.[32]

Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, at 46 percent (2010 estimate), including descendants of Spanish colonists and recent immigrants from Latin America.

Largest cities and counties

The 10 Most Populous New Mexico Cities and Towns
2010 Census Bureau estimates[33]
Rank City County Population
1 Albuquerque Bernalillo 545,852
2 Las Cruces Doña Ana 97,618
3 Rio Rancho Sandoval 87,521
4 Santa Fe Santa Fe 75,764
5 Roswell Chaves 48,366
6 Farmington San Juan 45,877
7 Clovis Curry 37,775
8 Hobbs Lea 34,112
9 Alamogordo Otero 30,403
10 Carlsbad Eddy 26,138
10 Most Populous New Mexico Counties
2009 Census Bureau estimates[34]
Rank County Population
county limits
Land Area
sq. miles
Largest city
1 Bernalillo 662,564 1,166 Albuquerque
2 Doña Ana 209,233 3,807 Las Cruces
3 Santa Fe 147,532 1,909 Santa Fe
4 Sandoval 131,561 3,710 Rio Rancho
5 San Juan 130,004 5,514 Farmington
6 Valencia 76,569 1,068 Los Lunas
7 McKinley 71,492 5,449 Gallup
8 Chaves 63,060 6,071 Roswell
9 Otero 62,776 6,627 Alamogordo
10 Lea 59,155 4,393 Hobbs

Race and ancestry

Race/Ethnicity in New Mexico (2010)[35]
White (alone) 68.4%
Black/African American 2.1%
Asian 1.4%
American Indian 9.4%
Pacific Islander 0.1%
Other 15.0%
Two or more races 3.7%
Hispanic/Latino (of any race) 46.3%

According to the United States Census Bureau, 1.5% of the population is Multiracial/Mixed-Race, a population larger than both the Asian and NHPI population groups.[32] In 2008 New Mexico had the highest percentage (45%) of Hispanics (of any race) of any state,[36] with 83% of these native-born and 17% foreign-born.[37] The majority of Hispanics in New Mexico claim a Spanish ancestry, especially in the northern part of the state. These people are the descendants of Spanish colonists who arrived during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The state also has a large Native American population, second in percentage behind that of Alaska.[32][38]

According to estimates from the United States Census Bureau's 2006–2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimate,[39] New Mexico's population was 1,962,226. The number of New Mexicans of different single races were: White, 1,375,334 (70.1%); Black, 43,931 (2.2%); American Indian or Alaskan Native, 182,136 (9.3%); Asian, 26,767 (1.4%), Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 854 (0.1%), and 273,778 (14.0%) of some other race. There were 59,415 (3.0%) of two or more races. There were 873,171 (44.5%) Hispanics or Latino (of any race).

According to the 2000 United States Census,[40]:6 the most commonly claimed ancestry groups in New Mexico were: Spanish (18.7%), Mexican (16.3%), American Indian (10.3%), and German (9.8%)


Languages Spoken in New Mexico
English 82%
Spanish 28%
Navajo 4%

According the 2000 U.S. Census, 28.76% of the population aged 5 and older speak Spanish at home, while 4.07% speak Navajo.[41] Speakers of New Mexican Spanish dialect are mainly descendants of Spanish colonists who arrived in New Mexico in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.[42]

Official language

The original state constitution of 1912 provided for a bilingual government with laws being published in both English and Spanish;[43] this requirement was renewed twice, in 1931 and 1943.[44] Nonetheless, the constitution does not declare any language as "official."[45] While Spanish was permitted in the legislature until 1935, all state officials are required to have a good knowledge of English. Cobarrubias and Fishman therefore argue that New Mexico cannot be considered a bilingual state as not all laws are published in both languages.[44] Others, such as Juan Perea, claim that the state was officially bilingual until 1953.[46] In either case, Hawaii is the only state that remains officially bilingual in the 21st century.[47]

With regards to the judiciary, witnesses have the right to testify in either of the two languages, and monolingual speakers of Spanish have the same right to be considered for jury-duty as do speakers of English.[48][45] In public education, the state has the constitutional obligation to provide for bilingual education and Spanish-speaking instructors in school districts where the majority of students are hispanophone.[45]

In 1995, the state adopted a State Bilingual Song, New Mexico - Mi Lindo Nuevo México.[49]:75,81 In 1989, New Mexico became the first state to officially adopt the English Plus resolution,[47] and in 2008, the first to officially adopt a Navajo textbook for use in public schools.[50]


San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe. Oldest church structure in the U.S., built in 1610.
Religions in New Mexico
Roman Catholic 26%
Protestant 42%
Mainline 15%
Evangelical 25%
Other Protestant 2%
LDS (Mormon) 3%
Jewish 2%
Buddhist 2%
Other Religion 3%
Unaffiliated 22%

According to a report compiled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the largest denominations in 2000 were the Catholic Church with 670,511; the Southern Baptist Convention with 132,675; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 42,261 (66,178 year-end 2009);[51] and the United Methodist Church with 41,597 adherents.[52] According to a 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center, the most common self-reported religious affiliation of New Mexico residents are:[53]:100

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:[54]

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


New Mexico State Quarter circulated in late 2008.

Oil and gas production, tourism, and federal government spending are important drivers of the state economy. State government has an elaborate system of tax credits and technical assistance to promote job growth and business investment, especially in new technologies.

Economic indicators

In 2010 New Mexico's Gross Domestic Product was $79.7 billion.[55] In 2007 the per capita personal income was $31,474 (rank 43rd in the nation).[56] In 2005 the percentage of persons below the poverty level was 18.4%.[57] The New Mexico Tourism Department estimates that in Fiscal Year 2006 the travel industry in New Mexico generated expenditures of $6.5 billion.[58] As of August 2011, the state's unemployment rate was 6.6%.[59]

Oil and gas production

The F-22 Raptor is flown by the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB.
Albuquerque Studios, built in 2007 for rising demand of film production in the state.
In recent years suburban sprawl has become common in Santa Fe.

New Mexico is the third leading crude oil and 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.[60] In 2000 the value of oil and gas produced was $8.2 billion.[61]

Federal government

Federal government spending is a major driver of the New Mexico economy. In 2005 the federal government spent $2.03 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.[62]

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). A May 2005 estimate by New Mexico State University is that 11.65% of the state's total employment arises directly or indirectly from military spending.[63] Other federal installations include the technology labs of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

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.[64]

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.[65]

The state provides financial incentives for film production.[66][67] 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.[68]

State taxes

Beginning in 2008, personal income tax rates for New Mexico range from 1.7% to 4.9%, within four income brackets.[69] Beginning in 2007, active-duty military salaries are exempt from the state income tax.[70]

New Mexico imposes a Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) on many transactions, which many even include some governmental receipts. This resembles a sales tax but unlike the sales taxes in many states it applies to services as well as tangible goods. Normally, the provider or seller passes the tax on to the purchaser, however legal incidence and burden apply to the business, as an excise tax. GRT is imposed by the state and there may an additional locality component to produce a total tax rate.[71] As of July 1, 2008 the combined tax rate ranged from 5.125% to 8.4375%.[72]

Property tax is imposed on real property by the state, by counties, and by school districts. In general, personal-use personal property is not subject to property taxation. On the other hand, property tax is levied on most business-use personalty. The taxable value of property is 1/3 of the assessed value. A tax rate of about 30 mills is applied to the taxable value, resulting in an effective tax rate of about 1%. In the 2005 tax year the average millage was about 26.47 for residential property and 29.80 for non-residential property. Assessed values of residences cannot be increased by more than 3% per year unless the residence is remodeled or sold.[73]


Santa Fe Trail in Cimarron, New Mexico.

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.[74] 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.[75]

The Santa Fe Trail was the 19th century US territory's vital commercial and military highway link to the Eastern United States.[76] 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.[77] As a territory, the Gadsden Purchase increased New Mexico's land area for the purpose of the construction of a southern transcontinental railroad, that of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Another transcontinental railroad was completed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The railroads essentially replaced the earlier trails but brought on a population boom. Early transcontinental auto trails later crossed the state bringing more migrants. Railroads were later supplemented or replaced by a system of highways and airports. Today, New Mexico's Interstate Highways approximate the earlier land routes of the Camino Real, the Santa Fe Trail and the transcontinental railroads.


New Mexico highways.
Gallup, New Mexico along old U.S. Route 66.

New Mexico has had a problem with drunk driving, but that has lessened. According to the Los Angeles Times, for years the state was the country's worst in alcohol-related crash rates, but ranked 25th in alcohol-related fatal crash rates, as of July 2009.[78]

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.

New Mexico had 59,927 route miles of highway as of 2000, of which 7,037 receive federal-aid.[79] In that same year there were 1,003 miles (1,614 km) of freeways, of which 1000 were the route miles of Interstate Highways 10, 25 and 40.[80] The former number has increased with the upgrading of roads near Pojoaque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces to freeways. The highway traffic fatality rate was 1.9 fatalities per million miles traveled in 2000, the 13th highest rate among U.S. states.[81] Notable bridges include the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos. As of 2001, 703 highway bridges, or one percent, were declared "structurally deficient" or "structurally obsolete".[82]

Rural and intercity public transportation by road is provided by Americanos USA, LLC, Greyhound Lines and several government operators.

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.[83] 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.[84]


Downtown Santa Fe train station.

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.[85] 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.[86]:110 No fewer than 100 railroads of various names and lineage have operated in the jurisdiction at some point.[86]:8 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.[86]:10

Railroad surveyors arrived in New Mexico in the 1850s.[87] The first railroads incorporated in 1869.[86]:9 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.[86]:9, 18, 58–59[87] The Denver & Rio Grande Railway, who would generally use narrow gauge equipment in New Mexico, entered the territory from Colorado and began service to Espanola on December 31, 1880.[86]:95–96[87] These first railroads were built as long-distance corridors, later railroad construction also targeted resource extraction.[86]:8–11


New Mexico is served by two class I railroads, the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad. Combined, they operate 2,200 route miles of railway in the state.[85]


The railway station in Tucumcari
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a commuter rail operation train that runs along the Central Rio Grande Valley.

A commuter rail operation, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, connects the state's capital, its largest city and other communities.[88] The privately-operated state owned railroad began operations in July 2006.[83] The BNSF Railway's entire line from Belen to Raton, New Mexico was sold to the state, partially for the construction of phase II of this operation, which opened in December 2008.[89] Phase II of Rail Runner extended the line northward to Santa Fe from the Sandoval County station, the northernmost station under Phase I service. The service now connects Santa Fe, Sandoval, Bernalillo, and Valencia Counties. The trains connect Albuquerque's population base and central business district to downtown Santa Fe with up to eight roundtrips in a day. The section of the line running south to Belen is served less frequently.[90] Rail Runner operates scheduled service seven days per week.[91]

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.[92]:64 Named trains often reflected the territory they traveled: Super Chief, the streamlined successor to the Chief;[92] Navajo, an early transcontinental tourist train; and Cavern, a through car operation connecting Clovis and Carlsbad (by the early 1950s as train 23–24)[86]:49–50[93]:51, were some of the named passenger trains of the ATSF that connoted New Mexico.

Passenger train service once connected nine of New Mexico's present ten most populous cities (the exception is Rio Rancho), while today passenger train service connects two: Albuquerque and Santa Fe.[88] With the decline of most intercity rail service in the United States in the late 1960s, New Mexico was left with minimal services. No less than six daily long-distance roundtrip trains supplemented by many branch line and local trains served New Mexico in the early 1960s. Declines in passenger revenue, but not necessarily ridership, prompted many railroads to turn over their passenger services in truncated form to Amtrak, a state owned enterprise. Amtrak, also known as the National Passenger Railroad Corporation, began operating the two extant long-distance routes in May 1971.[86][92][93] Resurrection of passenger rail service from Denver to El Paso, a route once plied in part by the ATSF's El Pasoan[93]:37, has been proposed over the years. As early as the 1980s former Governor Toney Anaya proposed building a high-speed rail line connecting the two cities with New Mexico's major cities.[94] Front Range Commuter Rail is a project to connect Wyoming and New Mexico with high-speed rail.[95]

Amtrak's Southwest Chief passes through daily at stations in Gallup, Albuquerque, Lamy, Las Vegas, and Raton, offering connections to Los Angeles, Chicago and intermediate points.[96] The Southwest Chief is the fastest Amtrak long distance train, being permitted a maximum speed of 90 mph (140 km/h) in various places on the tracks of the BNSF Railway.[97] It also operates on New Mexico Rail Runner Express trackage. The Southwest Chief is the successor to the Super Chief and El Capitan.[93]:115 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.[92]

A sign in Southern New Mexico indicating "The Future site of the New Mexico Spaceport".

The Sunset Limited makes stops three times a week in both directions at Lordsburg, and Deming, serving Los Angeles, New Orleans and intermediate points.[98] The Sunset Limited is the successor to the Southern Pacific Railroad's train of the same name and operates exclusively on Union Pacific trackage in New Mexico.


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.[99][100][101] Rocket launches began in April 2007.[101] It is undeveloped and has one tenant, UP Aerospace, launching small payloads.[102] Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company, plans to make this their primary operating base.[100][103]

Law and government

State of New Mexico Elected Officials
Governor Susana Martinez (R)
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez (R)
Secretary of State Dianna Duran (R)
Attorney General Gary King (D)
State Auditor Hector Balderas (D)
State Treasurer James B. Lewis (D)
State Land Commissioner Ray Powell (D)
Public Regulation Commission
  • Jason Marks (D)
  • Patrick H. Lyons (R)
  • Jerome Block Jr. (D)
  • Theresa Becenti-Aguilar (D)
  • Ben Hall (R)
Governor Susana Martinez is a Republican currently in office in New Mexico

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

On March 18, 2009, the Governor signed the law abolishing the death penalty (although the repeal is not retroactive to capital crimes committed before it took effect) in New Mexico after the assembly and senate vote the week before, thus becoming the 15th U.S. state to abolish the penalty.[104]

Governor Susana Martinez and Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez, both Republicans, were elected in 2010. Their terms expire in January 2015. Governors serve a term of four years and may seek re-election for one additional term (limit of two terms). New Mexico has had more governors than any other state in the United States. Juan de Oñate was appointed by the Spanish crown as the first governor of New Mexico in 1598. Since then, New Mexico has had Spanish, Mexican, and American governors. For a list of past governors, see List of New Mexico Governors.

Other constitutional officers, all of whose terms also expire in January 2015, include Secretary of State Dianna Duran,[105] Attorney General Gary King,[106] State Auditor Hector Balderas,[107] State Land Commissioner Ray Powell,[108] and State Treasurer James B. Lewis.[109] King, Balderas, Lewis, and Powell are Democrats. Duran is a Republican.

The New Mexico State Legislature consists of a 70-seat House of Representatives and a 42-seat Senate.

New Mexico's members of the United States Senate are Democrats Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall. Democrats Martin Heinrich, and Ben R. Luján represent the first and third congressional districts, respectively, and Republican Steve Pearce represents the second congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. See New Mexico congressional map.

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of January 31, 2011 (2011 -01-31)[110]
Party Number of Voters Percentage
  Democratic 571,363 49%
  Republican 369,730 32%
  Other 217,630 19%
Total 1,158,723 100%


New Mexico is considered a swing state, whose population has favored both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in the past. The current governor is Susana Martinez (R), who succeeded Bill Richardson (D) on January 1, 2011 after he served two terms as governor from 2003 to 2011. Prior to Richardson, Gary Johnson (R) served as governor from 1995 to 2003. In previous presidential elections, Al Gore carried the state in 2000; George W. Bush won New Mexico's five electoral votes in 2004, and the state's electoral votes were won by Barack Obama in 2008.

Democratic strongholds in the state include the Santa Fe Area, the west and south sides of the Albuquerque Metro Area, Northern and West Central New Mexico, and most of the Native American reservations, particularly the Navajo Nation. Republicans have traditionally had their strongholds in the eastern and southern parts of the state (Little Texas), Rio Rancho, and Albuquerque's Northeast Heights.


The Zimmerman Library of University of New Mexico.

Due to the state's various research facilities, New Mexico had the highest concentration of PhD holders of any state in 2000.[111]

Primary and secondary education

The New Mexico Public Education Department oversees the operation of primary and secondary schools.

Colleges and universities


Symbols of the Southwest—a string of chili peppers and a bleached white cow's skull hang in a market near Santa Fe

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.

More than one-third 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.

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 Castilian vocabulary considered archaic elsewhere, 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

A large artistic community thrives in Santa Fe, and has included such people as Bruce Nauman, Richard Tuttle, John Connell and Steina Vasulka. The capital city has museums of Spanish colonial, international folk, Navajo ceremonial, modern Native American, and other modern art. Another museum honors late 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.

The interior of the Crosby Theater at the Santa Fe Opera; viewed from the mezzanine.

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.

In the mid-20th century there was a thriving Hispano school of literature and scholarship being produced in both English and Spanish. Among the more notable authors were: Angélico Chávez, Nina Otero-Warren, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Aurelio Espinosa, Cleofas Jaramillo, Juan Bautista Rael, and Aurora Lucero-White Lea.

As well, 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.

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.


Notable professional sports teams based in New Mexico include the professional teams Albuquerque Isotopes, Triple A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers (baseball), New Mexico Thunderbirds, NBA D-League (basketball), New Mexico Mustangs, North American Hockey League (ice hockey), and the New Mexico Renegades, Western States Hockey League (ice hockey). The state universities field teams in many sports; teams include the University of New Mexico Lobos and the New Mexico State Aggies.

Olympic gold medalist Tom Jager, who is an advocate of controversial high-altitude training for swimming, has conducted training camps in Albuquerque (elevation 5,312 ft (1,619.1 m)) and Los Alamos (7,320 ft (2,231 m)).[112]

See also


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Further reading

  • Beck, Warren. Historical Atlas of New Mexico 1969.
  • Chavez, Thomas E. An Illustrated History of New Mexico, 267 pages, University of New Mexico Press 2002, ISBN 0-8263-3051-7
  • Bullis, Don. New Mexico: A Biographical Dictionary, 1540–1980, 2 vol, (Los Ranchos de Albuquerque: Rio Grande, 2008) 393 pp. isbn 978-1-890689-17-9
  • Gonzales-Berry, Erlinda, David R. Maciel, eds. The Contested Homeland: A Chicano History of New Mexico, 314 pages – University of New Mexico Press 2000, ISBN 0-8263-2199-2
  • Gutiérrez; Ramón A. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846 (1991)
  • Hain; Paul L., F. Chris Garcia, Gilbert K. St. Clair; New Mexico Government 3rd ed. (1994)
  • Horgan, Paul, Great River, The Rio Grande in North American History, 1038 pages, Wesleyan University Press 1991, 4th Reprint, ISBN 0585380147, Pulitzer Prize 1955
  • Larson, Robert W. New Mexico's Quest for Statehood, 1846–1912 (1968)
  • Nieto-Phillips, John M. The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s–1930s, University of New Mexico Press 2004, ISBN 08236324231
  • Simmons, Marc. New Mexico: An Interpretive History, 221 pages, University of New Mexico Press 1988, ISBN 0-8263-1110-5, good introduction
  • Szasz; Ferenc M., and Richard W. Etulain, eds. Religion in Modern New Mexico (1997)
  • Trujillo, Michael L. Land of Disenchantment: Latina/o Identities and Transformations in Northern New Mexico (2010) 265 pages; An experimental ethnography that contrasts life in the Espanola Valley with the state's commercial image as the "land of enchantment."
  • Weber; David J. Foreigners in Their Native Land: Historical Roots of the Mexican Americans (1973), primary sources to 1912

Primary sources

  • Ellis, Richard, ed. New Mexico Past and Present: A Historical Reader. 1971. primary sources
  • Tony Hillerman, The Great Taos Bank Robbery and other Indian Country Affairs, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1973, trade paperback, 147 pages, (ISBN 0-8263-0530-X), fiction

External links

State Government
U.S. Government
Preceded by
List of U.S. states by date of statehood
Admitted on January 6, 1912 (47th)
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 34°N 106°W / 34°N 106°W / 34; -106

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