New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment

New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment

by Sandra Merville Hart

New Mexico’s nickname is The Land of Enchantment. Author Lilian Whiting wrote The Land of Enchantment in 1906. This was New Mexico’s unofficial nickname until it became official in 1999.

Spanish missionaries came to this are in 1582 and are believed to be the first to describe it as la Nueva Mejico, or New Mexico.

The early history of New Mexico

Native Americans have lived in New Mexico for thousands of years. The Puebloans built their homes on cliffs and canyons. The Gila Cliff Dwellings have 700-year-old homes made by the Puebloan people that are still open to the public.

Spanish explorers came to New Mexico in the 1500s. The isolated land made their efforts at colonization difficult.

The area became part of Mexico in 1821. Mexico lost the land to the United States due to the Mexican-American War in 1848.

Santa Fe, our oldest state capitol

santa-fe-55665_960_720The Spanish built the city of Santa Fe. In 1610, they established it as the capital of the Spanish province of New Mexico.

Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level—the highest elevation of all state capitals.

Conflicts in New Mexico

When the Civil War began in 1861, Confederate (Southern) troops controlled most of the territory including New Mexico. In 1862, Federal (Northern) troops took it back.

In the late 1860s, settlers and local Navajo tried to get along. Apache Chief Geronimo defended his people and led them into battle. He surrendered in 1886.

During the 1870s – 1880s, arguments between homesteaders and ranchers sometimes turned into fights.

New Mexico becomes a state

New Mexico became our 47th state on January 6, 1912.

Carlsbad Caverns National Parkcarlsbad-226251_960_720

Sixteen-year-old Jim White discovered Carlsbad Caverns in 1898—the deepest limestone caves in the world.

Thousands of bats fly from the cave at dusk every night. Watch this amazing sight during the Bat Flight program at the park’s amphitheater from May to September.

Other fun facts about New Mexico

balloon-fiesta-1746495_960_720Head to Albuquerque in October for The International Balloon Fiesta—the world’s largest balloon event!

The oldest church still being used is the San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe.

Many buildings in the state are built of adobe bricks (clay and straw bricks.) Adobe pueblos (villages) in Taos are over 700 years old.

In 1950, a bear cub was saved from a Lincoln National Forest fire. They named him Smokey Bear. His name was used in commercials and ads, “Remember. Only you can Prevent Forest Fires.”

The state capital is Santa Fe.

The state bird is the greater roadrunner.

The state flower is soaptree yucca.



50 States Our America: Time for Kids, Time Inc. Books, 2017.

Balkan, Gabrielle. The 50 States, Wide Eyed Editions, 2015.

Cheney, Lynne. Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006.

Davis, Kenneth C. Don’t Know Much About The 50 States, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.

Fast Facts About the 50 States. Children’s Press, 2010.

“Gila Cliff Dwellings: Frequently Asked Questions,” National Park Service, 2019/01/10

Keenan, Sheila. Greetings from the 50 States, Scholastic Inc., 2008.


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