The State Flag of New Mexico: Welcome to the Land of Enchantment

welcome to new mexico state sign

The state of New Mexico is filled with the most breathtaking scenery, vibrant indigenous cultures, and a globally recognized art scene. It is no wonder its nickname is the Land of Enchantment, with so much to see. Unlike many other states with simple flags featuring only the state seal, New Mexico has a bright, bold flag that embraces its unique heritage and culture. The unique flag is considered one of the best-designed state flags and flies proudly over the state of New Mexico.

History

New Mexico became the 47th state in 1912, so much of its history is pre-dates its statehood. It was first colonized by Spanish explorers in 1598, and it still has the highest percentage of Hispanics of Spanish origin in the country. It also has one of the largest populations of Native Americans, with Navajo, Pueblo, and Apache tribes. New Mexico became an American territory after the Mexican-American War in 1848.

When it achieved statehood, New Mexico had no official flag. At the World’s Fair in San Diego in 1915, there was a presentation of all the state flags of the United States, so an unofficial flag was created to represent New Mexico. It was a blue flag with a small U.S. flag in the top left corner and the state seal in the bottom right corner. It also had the words “New Mexico” emblazoned in silver across the center of the flag with a silver “47” in the top right corner, showing its status as the 47th state.

The Daughters of the American Revolution was the force behind the movement for an official state flag and hosted a contest for a new design. The winning design, by archaeologist Harry Mera, is the design we still see flying over New Mexico today. Mera was inspired by the Zia Sun symbol, which is the icon in the center of the New Mexico flag.

It was a sacred symbol to the Zia Pueblo tribe of New Mexico. The colors he chose, red and yellow, were derived from the Cross of Burgundy flag used during the era of Spanish colonization. The flag design won the contest in 1920, but official adoption of the design did not happen until a few years later in 1925. There are very specific guidelines on the measurements of the flag and the symbol, which were standardized by the New Mexico Assembly.

new mexico flag waving wind

Symbolism

Every bit of the New Mexico flag is rich with symbolism. The Cross of Burgundy flag always features a red cross, but the background color can differ, depending on the flag’s meaning. The yellow background was typically used for flags that were battle standards for the Spanish. It is also very like the colors of the current flag of Spain.

The flag designer, Mera, first came across the Zia Sun symbol at an archeological excavation. It was inscribed on a piece of Pueblo pottery. The Zia Sun is a sacred symbol of balance and unity. The number four was very important to the Pueblo people because it represented the Circle of Life, so the Zia Sun has four rays and a circle binding them all together.

Each ray of the Zia Sun represents a part of life and is made of four smaller rays to represent each of those parts. The four rays pointing up represent the four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The four rays to the right represent the four stages of life: infancy, youth, adulthood, and old age. The four rays down represent the four directions: north, east, south, and west. The four rays to the left represent the four times of day: dawn, day, dusk, and night.

hot air balloon new mexico state flag

Tradition

The New Mexico flag was ranked as the best-designed flag of all of North America in a survey by the North American Vexillogical Association in 2001, and the design appears on just about everything from t-shirts to hot air balloons. The New Mexican people are very proud of their heritage and of the flag that represents it.

It is also one of the few states that have a pledge to the state flag in addition to the United States flag. After the Pledge of Allegiance, school children often recite this pledge to the state flag: “I salute the flag of the state of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”

Final Thoughts

Though the flag of New Mexico is one of the more recent flags in United States history, it is also one of the most thoughtfully designed flags. It embraces a rich history of diverse cultures and pays homage to the Spanish conquistadors who named their colony New Mexico. Flying the flag of New Mexico is a perfect way to honor Native American or Spanish heritage.

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