New Mexico Nicknames Through History
You probably know that New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. But did you know that the state has collected a number of other nicknames over the years? It’s been called The Land of the Heart’s Desire, the Land Without Law, The Science State, The Space State, The Atomic State, and many more. Marta Weigle explored the history of the state and its many nicknames in ‘Telling New Mexico: A New History’ in 2009 and ‘Alluring New Mexico: Engineered Enchantment, 1821-2001‘ in 2010.
The Land of Enchantment is the official nickname of New Mexico, coined to describe the majestic and inspiring scenery and the incredible culture and history of the state. It originated in 1941 as the legend on New Mexican license plates, and it was adopted as the official nickname of New Mexico in April of 1999. It is certainly the best and most apt nickname, but it is far from the only one. Today, we’ll tell you about some of the other nicknames that have been used to describe the beautiful state of New Mexico throughout the history of the state.
1 New Mexico Nicknames: The Sunshine State
You may know Florida as The Sunshine State, but before 1941, Sunshine State was the legend on New Mexican license plates. It wasn’t officially adopted as the nickname of Florida until 1970, so New Mexico was the original Sunshine State. Naturally, New Mexico claimed this nickname for the same reason Florida adopted it three decades later: the beautiful sun that shines down on us.
2 New Mexico Nicknames: The Colorful State
In 1940, the Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of New Mexico published ‘New Mexico: A Guide to the Colorful State’ as part of the American Guide Series, sponsored by the University of New Mexico. It was republished in 1945 and 1947, then revised and republished in 1955 and 1962. So, it was the definitive guide to New Mexico for more than two decades. The historical guidebook described the colorful beauty, history, and culture of New Mexico, while also giving rise to the nickname of The Colorful State. The guide did refer to New Mexico as ‘a land of enchantment,’ perhaps inspiring the nickname that would be printed on license plates in 1941 and adopted as the official nickname in 1999.
3 New Mexico Nicknames: The Land of Opportunity
Twenty-five years before ‘New Mexico: A Guide to the Colorful State’ was published, came the publication of ‘New Mexico, the land of opportunity’ in 1915. The book was composed by the New Mexico Board of Exposition Managers and published by the Press of the Albuquerque Morning Journal. It came with the lengthy, but descriptive, subtitle ‘Official Data on the Resources and Industries of New Mexico-the Sunshine State, New Mexico.’ So, it is among the earliest documentations of two different nicknames that New Mexico claimed in the early 1900’s. In 1950, The Land of Opportunity became the state nickname of Arkansas prior to their current nickname, The Natural State.
4 New Mexico Nicknames: The Land of the Delight Makers
Going back even further in history, New Mexico was once known as the Land of the Delight Makers, thanks to an 1890 novel, ‘The Delight Makers,’ by archaeologist and Pueblo tribe expert, Adolph Bandelier. Bandelier spent eight years among New Mexico’s Pueblo tribes. He wrote the novel to reconstruct prehistoric Native American culture in New Mexico. Then, in 1920, George Wharton James wrote ‘New Mexico, the Land of the Delight Makers: The History of Its Ancient Cliff Dwellings and Pueblos, Conquest By the Spaniards, Franciscan Missions; Personal Accounts of the Ceremonies, Games, Social Life and Industries of Its Indians; A Description of Its Climate, Geology, Flora and Birds, Its Rivers and Forests; A Review of Its Rapid Development, Land-Reclamation Projects and Educational System; With Full and Accurate Account of Its Progressive Counties, Cities and Towns.’
So, tell us: What’s your favorite nickname for New Mexico?