You know that state you have to fly over when going to Phoenix or Los Angeles? The one about an hour BEFORE the Grand Canyon? Hey, that’s us, and we’re Americans!
I’m not sure if I should be promoting my state, or keeping the uninformed at bay, thereby keeping us as one of America’s best kept secrets. But think about it: no one has a problem with NEW YORK (British), NEW JERSEY (British), or NEW HAMPSHIRE (British). NEW MEXICO just happens to be (Spanish). America must have wanted us, or we’d still be part of…MEXICO! Most of New Mexico became a part of the United States after the Mexican-American War in 1848, with the rest in the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. But we didn’t become a state until 1912, the 47th admitted into the Union.
What newcomers find most interesting about the state is the diversity of the landscape. Most have a vision of a vast desert — and we have those. (But they’re HIGH deserts, which equates to much cooler temperatures for the most part than those in Arizona, to which we are frequently compared.)
The purpose of this article is not to be a geography lesson (although the majority of Americans under the age of 50 need one!) Rather, it’s a desperate attempt to get more of my friends and family to visit by shocking them into what we have here, and it is a cornucopia of diversity, culturally and otherwise.
For instance, most folks don’t realize how big New Mexico is. It is the fifth largest state in the country (after Alaska, Texas, Montana, and California). We are larger than the combination of all of the British Isles! At the same time it’s the sixth least densely populated state, so outside of the Albuquerque metropolitan area, which makes up about half the state’s population, you’re more likely to see roadrunners and jackrabbits than you are people. As such, we have a number of claims to fame. To name a few:
- Largest producer of pecans
- Third largest producer of pistachios
- Largest producer of chile peppers including the famous Hatch Chile
- Deepest cave (Carlsbad Caverns)
- Three National Parks including America’s newest (White Sands)
- Twelve National Monuments (second after Arizona)
- Number one in commercial space travel
- Number one in hot air ballooning
- Highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino Americans
- Second highest percentage of Native Americans (Indigenous Peoples) after Alaska
- The Rio Grande, the fourth longest river in the country, traverses the state
- The Gila National Forest is the largest in the country
- Third largest producer of crude oil
- First atomic bomb was developed at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories
- First atomic bomb was detonated at the Trinity Site
- Temperatures have ranged from -50F to +122F
- Smokey the Bear was “born” here
- As was the Breakfast Burrito
The story of Albuquerque is an entirely different subject. “Breaking Bad” created an economic boon for the city, which now hosts Netflix and NBC Universal production studios. However, it did nothing for our reputation as a badass city.
New Mexico also thrives on tourism as a major economic driver, so if I did not whet your appetite to come for a visit, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. We’re used to playing second fiddle to our neighbors to the West. The Grand Canyon, for instance, is suffering from “over-tourism”.
Legions of travelers will continue to drive right through New Mexico without stopping for anything except for gas, food, and lodging. Millions will continue to fly over, anticipating their vacations at their resorts in Arizona and the California coast. Maybe it’s best we keep it that way. But we will still have representation with our two Senators and three in Congress. We are not a void. We are a state!