It became the 47th US state on January 6th, 1912. Home of the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in America, built in 1610. Birthplace of Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain. Its official state vegetables are the chilli and the frijole, despite the fact that frijole is a fruit. The most common names are Noah and Mia, for men and women respectively. Home of the largest gypsum dune field in the world. At 7,200 feet, the city of Santa Fe is America’s highest capital city, and it’s also the oldest, founded in 1610. The only state with an official state question, ‘Red or Green?’ The answer is ‘Christmas’. Sounds like a riddle from Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t it? Home of a town named Truth or Consequences, renamed in honour of a radio quiz show of the same name, after a promise to broadcast from the first town to rename itself after the show. As you do. And it’s the home of the World Shovel Race Championships and the annual Great American Duck Race. Where else can you see both those things in the same afternoon? Today, we’re visiting Tierra del Encanto, New Mexico.
New Mexico is a colourful, diverse and unique landlocked American state, bordered by Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, plus Mexico. It is the fifth largest state at 121,590 square miles, with the 36th largest population with just over two million people. The motto of the state is ‘Crescit eundo’, which is Latin for ‘It Grows as it Goes’, which, yes, on the face of it, makes no sense, but actually comes from a poem in which the phrase refers to a thunderbolt increasing in strength as it moves across the sky. A symbol of dynamic progress. It’s a long, long journey to get to the centre of that particular motto…
The state flag contains the Zia Sun symbol, invoking the flags of Habsburg Spain and the Crown of Aragon, brought by the conquistadors. It brings together the state’s Spanish and indigenous Pueblo origins. Interestingly, it is one of only four American state flags that do not contain the colour blue. Where the name ‘Mexico’ comes from is a mystery, but there are some theories. It could reference the God of war and patron of the Aztecs, or where He lives. It could even mean ‘place at the centre of the Moon’. Sounds lovely.
This is a wild and rugged land, from vast rose coloured and wild west deserts, to broken tablelands, with red rocks, stunning cliffs, meadows and grasslands thrown in for good measure. Large, dense and mighty forests are sprinkled across this state, with snowcapped mountain wildernesses breaking through this untamed and beautiful land, home of truly fantastic scenery. It’s an important heartland for indigenous culture, one heavily influenced by Spanish culture, with many Spanish traditions still hugely popular, such as zarzuela and flamenco. It is a place with a rich artistic history, too, one flowing throughout this state, from indigenous crafts to modern classics. Ceremony and a distinctive cuisine are important to the proud, laid back and harmonious New Mexican people, who love a festival and a chilli or two, a friendly and welcoming folk.
This glorious and vibrant state has it all. There are sights to see such as the canny Loretto Chapel, a delightful jewel opening in 1872. Tiny yet comely, flooded with a gracious and soothing architectural style. And there’s Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, famed for its gorgeous durous cliffs, streaked with dramatic lines of varying colours, dotted with cone shaped rock formations. A chalcenterous and luscious place indeed.
Then there’s Carlsbad Caverns, a truly stunning cave that oozes an alien charm and exudes a sumptuous empyrean aura, a boscaresque gem plucked from beneath the land of a foreign world. An amazing and pulchritudinous wonder.
But my favourite sight of New Mexico is Tsé Bit’a’í or Shiprock, a truly breathtaking and unwelewable piece of art and majesty, a grand and triumphant isolated rock mountain, breaking through the harsh and dusty landscape with brutal gentility. One gaze upon such splendour is a gaze upon the surface of another world, a beginningless and ethereal marvel, to which so surely is one unrivalled. A 1,600 foot tall beautiful treasure, one that ameliorates the land it dominates.
New Mexico. The state of history, shovels and ducks.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of New Mexico
2) Tsé Bit’a’í / Shiprock
3) Carlsbad Caverns
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