New Mexico has a lot of charm and a mysterious history. Perhaps you’ve heard of the city of Roswell? Some people claimed that a UFO crashed there in 1947.
Since then, everything and anything happening in the city seems to be related to aliens. The city built a UFO museum and research center, hosts a UFO festival, and showcases alien-themed streetlights. The local McDonald’s is the only one in the world that’s shaped like a flying saucer. Even a family of aliens, or extraterrestrials, are stranded on the road in a broken UFO. After flying millions of miles to Earth, maybe they had engine trouble. . .
Do you think that we’ve been visited by aliens from another planet, galaxy or universe? Read more about it under the section below called “Crazy, funny or just plain weird”.
New Mexico’s nickname is the “Land of Enchantment”. It’s in the southwestern US and borders three states: Arizona to the west, Colorado to the north, and Texas to the east. Do you know what can be found south of New Mexico? Here’s a clue: it’s neither a state nor an ocean.
New Mexico is also one of four states that’s part of the Four Corners Monument. It’s the only place in the country where you can be in four states at once. The monument is actually a spot consisting of the southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern corner of Utah, northeastern corner of Arizona, and northwestern corner of New Mexico.
Can you find New Mexico on a US map?
What really happened
As the country’s 47th state, not many people know about the history of New Mexico:
- The capital city, Santa Fe, was founded 10 years before the Pilgrims ever landed at Plymouth Rock. It’s also the oldest capital city in North America, dating back to 1610, and the highest capital city in the US. It’s 7,199 feet above sea level, which is more than one mile high in the sky!
- Taos Pueblo is a Native American community that has been occupied by humans for approximately 5,000 years. For at least 1,000 years, they lived in adobe dwellings or pueblos that look like apartments that are several stories high. Roughly 150 people now live here, making it one of the oldest, continuously inhabited communities in the country.
- In 1950, a dangerous fire caused by humans broke out and destroyed 17,000 acres in the Capitan Mountains, a mountain range located within Lincoln National Forest. The wind shifted and the 24-man firefighting crew buried themselves in the earth of a recent landslide and survived the fire.
- During that fire, the crew spotted a black bear cub that was trying to survive by climbing a tree. They rescued him, naming him Hotfoot. He later became the most popular bear in probably all of US history. You may know him as Smokey the Bear, but his real name is Smokey Bear. He lived at the National Zoo in Washington, DC until his death in 1976.
Stuff you should know
- Capulin Volcano National Monument is in the northeastern corner of the state. You can drive to the very top, which is 8,000 feet high or more than one mile in the sky, and see five different states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and, of course, New Mexico.
- Guess which huge, global company was launched in 1975 in a garage in Albuquerque, which is New Mexico’s largest city? Microsoft.
- New Mexico’s State Constitution officially declares that it’s a bilingual state. At least one-third of people in the state speak Spanish at home.
- The Navajo Nation is the largest federally recognized tribe and has a reservation that covers 14 million acres.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird
- Like most states, New Mexico has some funny laws. For example, if you dance while wearing a sombrero (a wide-brimmed Mexican hat), you could wind up in jail.
- In 1947, the US Army Air Forces announced that they had discovered a “flying disc” from a ranch near a city called Roswell. But the Army quickly changed its mind, stating that the crashed object was actually a weather balloon. More than 70 years later, many still believe that the weather balloon story was simply a cover-up, that aliens in a flying saucer really did crash. Every year, New Mexico records around 1,000 official reports of UFOs.
- More sheep and cattle live in New Mexico than people. With roughly 20 people per every square mile and over 13,000 ranches covering more than half the state, livestock rule.
- Tens of thousands of bats live in the Carlsbad Caverns. The largest chamber of Carlsbad Caverns is more than 10 football fields long and about 22 stories high.
- The city of Hot Springs, New Mexico changed its name to the city of Truth or Consequences, which was a popular radio quiz program.
Tell me more
- As the country’s fifth largest state (by area), approximately 2.1 million people live here. Because many research facilities and government organizations are located in the state, New Mexico ranks among US states with the highest concentration of people who have a Ph.D. A Ph.D is a Doctor of Philosophy, which is the most common degree at the highest academic level awarded following a course of study. Examples of these facilities and organizations include Los Alamos National Laboratory and the US Forest Service.
- Albuquerque is the country’s hot air balloon capital. Every October, thousands of people attend the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. Over 500 hot air balloons are on display. The city is a favorite destination among the pilot community because of what’s called the “Box”, or predictable wind patterns that allow balloons to fly north at low elevations and south at higher elevations. (In chapter 39, Mo– who’s afraid of heights– rides in a hot air balloon!)
- New Mexico has one of the greatest temperature rangesin the country. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -50 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest? 122 degrees Fahrenheit!
- New Mexico has also been called the Tyrannosaur State since several T-Rexes (dinosaurs) have been found there.
- The leaves of the Yucca, New Mexico’s state flower, can be used to make rope, baskets and sandals.
Do you live in New Mexico? Please share what you like about your home state or something interesting, surprising, or that other kids would want to know. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your first name, age, and the state you call home. We’ll publish it on Mo’s social media pages and credit you for the information!