5 Interesting Facts About New Mexico

New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment for its natural beauty. It is one of the youngest states. New Mexico is famous for their green chile. It is home to one of the largest populations of Native Americans, second only to Alaska. New Mexico also has the largest Hispanic population in the country. It was also where most uranium came from during the wars of the 20th century.

Smokey the Bear

Smokey the Bear is one of the most famous bears. He is a fictional character created to help spread information about forest fires. In fact, there is another famous Smokey the Bear who was very real. Lots of people think the “Only you can prevent forest fires” one was named after the real one but it was the other way around. In 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico there was a forest fire. The firefighters and forest rangers battling the wildfire discovered a black bear cub up a tree that had been completely charred. The cub had some bad burns on his paws and hind legs. A ranger got the poor cub on a plane to Santa Fe so he could be treated. Soon news was out about the resilient little bear. He soon became a living symbol of Smokey the Bear and was sent to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. He was so popular and received so many gifts and letters, that he needed his own zip code. He was at the zoo until he died in 1976, then he was returned home to the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, New Mexico. 

Oldest State Capital

Santa Fe is one of the oldest towns in the country and the oldest state capital. Don Juan de Oñate led the first European effort to colonize the region in 1598, establishing Santa Fe de Nuevo México as a province of New Spain. He established San Juan de los Caballeros north of Santa Fe near modern Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo as the capital of the province. He was banished by the Spanish after his rule was deemed cruel to the Native population. Don Pedro de Peralta became the second governor of New Mexico. He founded a new city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1607, which he called La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís, the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi. In 1610, he made Santa Fe the new capital of the province. The city was made the capital of the Mexican territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México after Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico. By 1848 the U.S. officially gained New Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1912, New Mexico was admitted as the United States of America’s 47th state, with Santa Fe as its capital. 

Albuquerque International Balloon Festival

Each October the skies of Albuquerque are filled with hundreds of hot air balloons. The Balloon Fiesta is the world’s largest balloon festival. It got its start in 1972, as part of the 50th birthday celebration 770 KOB Radio. The radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter to help with it. Sid Cutter owned Cutter Flying Services and was the first person in New Mexico to own a hot air balloon. McKee wanted to at least match the current record for the largest gathering of hot air balloons, which was 19 in England. However, due to bad weather only 13 were able to make it. The next year Albuquerque hosted the first World Hot Air Balloon Championships. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta grew over the decades with the largest registered number of balloons in 2000 with 1,019. This prompted them to make a limit in order to keep the quality of flying and today the limit is 600.  


New Mexico is known for its alien and UFO sightings. Around 1,000 official reports of UFOs are made each year in New Mexico. The most famous one is the Roswell UFO crash. In July 1947, there was a crash of what the US Military claimed to be a weather balloon. Local press was interested in the debris being collected from the crash site. Rumors started that it was from a “flying disc”. Interest in the incident waned until the 1970s when ufologists began promoting various conspiracy theories. They claimed that at least one UFO had crashed and the government was covering it up and that they had alien specimens. In the 1990s, the government published two reports on the incident. They stated that the object was nuclear surveillance test balloon from Project Mogul. This hasn’t stopped those who believe that it was aliens. There have been many different movies and TV shows about the conspiracy.  

Miraculous Staircase

There are a few mysteries surrounding the Loretto Chapel’s Staircase in Santa Fe. The Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878 and there was no way to reach the loft 22 ft above. Different carpenters came to see what they could do but they all concluded that it would have to be reached via ladder because of the small space. The sisters of the Chapel prayed to St. Joseph, the patron Saint of carpenters, for nine days. On the ninth day, a man appeared with a donkey and toolbox looking for work. After months of hard work, a beautiful spiral staircase was completed. The man disappeared without pay and a search for him found nothing. This led some to believe that he was St. Joseph himself. It was an innovative design that still complexes some today. It was built without nails, only wooden pegs. It has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support. There are also questions about the type of wood and other materials used. Many come to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase