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Why Is New Mexico the Land of Enchantment?

Why Is New Mexico the Land of Enchantment?

Why Is New Mexico the Land of Enchantment?

New Mexico is known as the “Land of Enchantment.” But why do they call it that?

It’s not just something people say, either. Land of Enchantment is the official state nickname. 

So, let’s dig in a little and find out why and when New Mexico became the Land of Enchantment.

About New Mexico

New Mexico is the 47th state admitted to the US. It could have been a state much earlier. However, it took time to sort out citizenship issues with formerly Mexican individuals. 

As a state, New Mexico certainly wasn’t the Land of Enchantment as it got off to a rough start. While trying to assimilate the Mexican people, the government also had to consider indigenous people. Several tribes lived on reservations there.

It proved challenging to find harmony among so many populations, especially in the age of Jim Crow laws. 

New Mexico is also famous for its role in developing the atomic bomb, which the government manufactured and tested in Los Alamos. The military is still one of the top industries in the state. New Mexico is also the nation’s third-largest producer of oil.

Finally, tourism brings in a lot of money. People are drawn to the arts culture in cities like Santa Fe, the alien-related lore of Roswell, and the new age community of Taos, to name three. They also enjoy the Carlsbad Canyons and White Sands National Parks. 

New Mexico remains a culturally eclectic state. Its population is around 2,000,000. 

Pro Tip: Traveling through Roswell and feeling hungry? This Extraterrestrial McDonald’s is a Road Trip Must-See!

Welcome to New Mexico sign.
From Pike’s Peak to the Pacific, New Mexico is sure to enchant you.

Why Is New Mexico the Land of Enchantment?

The name comes from a 1906 travel guide. Lilian Whiting wrote “Land of Enchantment: From Pike’s Peak to the Pacific.” Her book encompassed other southwestern states. Yet, the nickname only stuck for New Mexico.

In 1935, the tourism bureau used the phrase “land of enchantment” in its promotional brochure. In 1941, the slogan had become widespread and was added to license plates. 

It took some time to become the motto, though. New Mexico had tried “The Sunshine State” but abandoned it after Florida chose it too.

The state tried out other nicknames such as The Land of Opportunity, the Land of the Heart’s Desire, the Cactus State, and the Spanish State.

View from inside tent looking out at New Mexico desert.
New Mexico is an enchanting place for hiking, camping and adventuring.

When Did New Mexico Officially Receive Its Nickname?

Despite heavy usage of “Land of Enchantment,” it didn’t become the state’s official nickname until 1999. That was ten years after choosing a new state ballad, “Land of Enchantment” by Michael Martin Murphey. 

(Did you know that a state ballad is not the same as a state song? New Mexico’s state song remains “O Fair New Mexico.”

On a similar note, “Land of Enchantment” is the state nickname. The motto, however, is Crescit Eundo, translated as “It Grows as it Goes.”

Pro Tip: Need a place to stay while exploring New Mexico? Check out these 7 Best Sites for Free Camping in New Mexico.

How Did New Mexico Get Its Name?

Here’s some wild trivia for you: New Mexico was named 223 years before Mexico got its name! Spaniards founded New Mexico in 1598. They named it Nuevo México after the Aztec Valley of the Rio Grande.

Discover the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico was known as the Land of Enchantment long before it was their state nickname. Over the years, the state’s marvels and history have grown.

The vast desert landscapes are indeed enchanting, as is the beautiful space that can only emerge when cultures co-exist. Have you visited New Mexico? What was your favorite experience?

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Road Trip Warning: The Continental Divide in New Mexico - Drivin' & Vibin'

Wednesday 9th of February 2022

[…] Tip: New Mexico is a must see for RVers, but Why Is New Mexico the Land of Enchantment? We uncovered the answer for […]

Mauro A. Walden-Montoya

Thursday 11th of November 2021

This was a very diplomatic way of saying racism kept NM from becoming a state from 1848 when it was taken over by the US after the US-Mexican war. And didn't become a state until 1912. Why then? The 1910 census was the first to find more white people than Latino and Native. But us residents here are used to multiculturalism so when new folks arrive, like the Vietnamese after the Vietnam war, they become part of the fabric of our enchanted state. Yes, we have our problems, but I wouldn't live anywhere else in this country (and I have lived in several places besides NM!) Oh, and a technical correction. The atomic bomb was developed at Los Alamos but tested at the Trinity site, which is on what is now White Sands Missile Range in southern NM. They open Trinity site twice a year. It's not far from White Sands National Park. It's also not far from Spaceport America, the country's first commercial spaceport. Lots to see and do in our amazing state. Come visit! :-)


Tuesday 9th of November 2021

It’s certainly “enchanting” to me. I’m a California native but I’ve travelled the West my entire life. The first time I ever crossed the New Mexico State line a feeling overwhelmed me that “this was home.” It took a number of years to make it so, but I finally retired here nearly nine years ago to my 40 acre sanctuary and left the crazy behind in destroyed California. I could have chosen any of the Western states but this was it. I’ve never looked back other than to miss things in California like the Pacific Coast at times. California does have some of the most spectacular scenery in the world but New Mexico gives it a run for the money. Enchanting indeed.


Monday 8th of November 2021

Too many outdoor experiences to mention, so I guess I will say becoming a New Mexico resident.

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