New Mexico State Study

New MexicoLet’s take a look at the state of New Mexico. The motto of New Mexico is Crescit eundo, which means, It grows as it goes.  New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment.  It has beautiful desert landscapes and forested mountains.  Most of the state is very dry and hot, but some areas, especially in the mountains, get snow every year.

Mini History of New Mexico

The Spaniard, Coronado, traveled through New Mexico in about 1540 searching for the fabled city of gold, Cibola.  He didn’t find gold, but he did find many pueblo villages.  Many of them were ancient abandoned cities and many were still inhabited by the Pueblo and Navajo tribes, sedentary agricultural tribes with highly developed cultures.  Coronado claimed the land for Spain and it became a territory of the Spanish crown, but was only nominally governed.  Spanish priests did come through and attempt to convert the native populations.  Many missions and schools for children were set up.  New Mexico’s cities are older than other European founded cities in the United States, Santa Fe having been established in 1608, and some smaller cities even earlier.

This is a photo of Aztec ruins from the Aztec Ruins National Park in New Mexico. Photo by Staplegunther at en.wikipedia.

In 1821 Mexico revolted from Spanish rule and gained her independence.  New Mexico became the territory of Mexico at this point.  The Mexicans spread into and populated this area widely, but were constantly under threat of attack form Apache and Comanche tribes.  In 1848, with the U.S. army standing in Mexico City following a successful war, the New Mexico territory (along with other northern Mexico territories) was given to the United States by treaty.  In 1912 New Mexico became the 47th state.

This is a view of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. It was the sight of nuclear weapons development for the United States. Photo by US Dept of Energy, public domain.

Fun Facts About New Mexico

  • Atomic bombs were first tested at Los Alamos during WWII.
  • Most people are Christian, with the largest percentage of Roman Catholics.
  • In a few isolated villages in New Mexico there are descendants of the Spanish conquistadors who still speak archaic 16th century Spanish, spoken nowhere else in the world today.
  • White sands is a desert of gypsum crystals, and also the proving grounds for new technology in military aircraft.
  • 1/4 of the land is covered with forest, though its’ best landscape feature is the sky, which seems to go on forever.
  • 1/3 of New Mexico families speak Spanish at home.
  • Robert Goddard came to New Mexico to test his harebrained scheme of sending rockets into space . . . the rest is history (not to mention future).
  • There aren’t many old buildings in the United States, except in the southwest, where some of the pueblo dwellings are more than 900 years old.
  • The Santa Fe trail ended in Santa Fe.
  • The Carlsbad Caverns are in NM.

This is a photo of one of the caverns under the New Mexico desert. Photo by NPS, public domain.

  • The forest service started the worst fire in the state’s history when attempting a controlled burn in 2000. The entire city of Los Alamos had to be evacuated.  Oops.
  • Smoky Bear, the little cub rescued after a forest fire, lived in New Mexico.
  • More than 25% of the state’s economy is based on federal government money.
  • The flag of New Mexico shows the Zia sun symbol of the native peoples.  It has four rays each in four groups.  The number four symbolizes good gifts given by the giver of all good.  The good gifts are bound by a circle of love without beginning or end.  It is a very old flag, first used by the Spanish for NM in the 1540’s.

Free Printable Map of New Mexico

Print this New Mexico Map.  Label and color it using a student atlas.

Additional Layers

  • Learn about some of the wild west stories of New Mexico.
  • New Mexico is the sight of the supposed alien crash landing at Roswell that has become so much a part of American culture.  There are UFO sightings all over the world, but FAR more in America than any other nation.  Weird.
  • NM is the sight of rich deposits of both silver and uranium.  Learn more.
  • Learn about desert ecosystems.
  • Read up on Coronado and the early Spanish explorers and settlers.
  • Learn about the Pueblo Indians.

Hope you enjoyed this New Mexico state study and will check out our other state studies too!

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