50 States in 50 Days: New Mexico – Land of Enchantment

Posted by: Eric Salzman, Economic Officer

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The state bearing the motto “Land of Enchantment” presents a fascinating mixture of the ancient and the futuristic within its borders.

Taos Pueblo residential complex, probably built between 1000 and 1450 A.D. (Photo by Luca Galuzzi)

Out of the Past

Native cultures flourished in New Mexico beginning around 1,200 BC, giving rise to the Anasazi civilization, which built fortified cities and cliff dwellings for defense and roads for commerce. “Anasazi” is a Navajo term to refer to the “Ancient Ones” who once lived in what later became the Navajo territory (encompassing large parts of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado). The Anasazi were forced to abandon their stone cities, perhaps due to a 300-year drought, but the ruins have become National Monuments and Cultural Parks at Bandelier and Chaco Canyon, and their descendants may still live on in the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni and other tribes that call New Mexico home. Every August, New Mexico hosts the Gathering of Nations Powwow, which features exhibitions and competitions in dance, music, and traditional crafts of native peoples from throughout North and South America.

White Sands National Monument

Into the Future

In 1942, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was founded in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project, with the goal of developing the atomic bomb. Today, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the Laboratory continues to conduct cutting edge research in all branches of science. Visitors can learn about the Manhattan Project and the Laboratory at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos. Further south, in the White Sands desert near Alamogordo, Trinity Site (where the first atomic bomb was tested) is open to visitors twice a year, on the first Saturdays of April and October. Alamogordo hosts the world class New Mexico Museum of Space History. The White Sands region is also home to Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, which Virgin Galactic plans to use as its headquarters for commercial launches and space tourism. For those wanting an even more “out of this world” experience, the town of Roswell (nickname: Alien City) enthusiastically welcomes UFO enthusiasts drawn by stories that a spaceship crashed there in 1947.

Spaceport America was officially declared open on October 18, 2011

And Fiesta! Fiesta! Fiesta!

The best time to visit New Mexico is in autumn, when the calendar is filled with festivals. The Fiesta de Santa Fe has been celebrated each September since 1712, making it the oldest event of its kind in North America. The festival commences with the Burning of Zozobra – a 15-meter tall marionette representing Old Man Gloom, whose immolation symbolizes the purging of worry, doubt and fear. The rest of the week-long celebration features dancing, music, and parades celebrating the culture and history of the Spanish colonial era. In October, visitors can attend special events at New Mexico’s living history museum, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, which re-creates life as it was under the Spanish Empire. October also brings the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, featuring 750 hot air balloons in a week of races, contests, and mass ascensions.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Higher Education

New Mexico’s higher education programs reflect the state’s character, excelling in science and engineering as well as Latino and Native American cultural and anthropological programs:

University of New Mexico: New Mexico’s flagship public university offers 215 degree and certificate programs, including highly rated engineering, law, and medical departments. It has the highest percentage of Hispanic and Native American students in the United States.

New Mexico State University: NMSU is the second largest public university in New Mexico. Originally an agricultural college, today it boasts advanced programs in agriculture, environmental sciences, and water resource management in addition to its full range of degree programs.

The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology: This school, also known as New Mexico Tech, is considered one of the best small science and engineering campuses in North America. The National Science Foundation rated the school as #15, making it the Foundation’s top rated public institution.

Fiesta de Santa Fe

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