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New Mexico (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-10-30 by rick wyatt
Keywords: new mexico | united states |
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[Flag of New Mexico] image by Clay Moss, 16 March 2009

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In 1912, two stars were added, representing Arizona and New Mexico, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 48. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

Description of the flag

New Mexico Statutes Annotated
12-3-2. [Adoption of flag for state of New Mexico.] That a flag be and the same is hereby adopted to be used on all occasions when the state is officially and publicly represented, with the privilege of use by all citizens upon such occasions as they may deem fitting and appropriate. Said flag shall be the ancient Zia sun symbol of red in the center of a field of yellow. The colors shall be the red and yellow of old Spain. The proportion of the flag shall be a width of two-thirds its length. The sun symbol shall be one-third of the length of the flag. Said symbol shall have four groups of rays set at right angles; each group shall consist of four rays, the two inner rays of the group shall be one-fifth longer than the outer rays of the group. The diameter of the circle in the center of the symbol shall be one-third of the width of the symbol. Said flag shall conform in color and design described herein.
Joe McMillan, 17 February 2000

History of the flag

I quote from [smi75a]:

"... The first flag of New Mexico is one of the very few State flags ever adopted which incorporates the Stars and Stripes in its design. The United States flag included here is the one with forty-eight stars, the correct number at the time New Mexico adopted the pattern on 19 March 1915. Three years earlier New Mexico and Arizona became the 47th and 48th States, as the figures in the upper right-had corner of the New Mexican flag indicate. In the lower right-hand corner of this flag, which was designed by Colonel Ralph E. Twitchell, appeared the seal of the State. On 15 March 1925 a new State flag, sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution was adopted. The designer was Dr. Harry Mera, a physician and archeologist. The central figure of this flags is the ancient Sun symbol of the Zia Indian Pueblo."

Nick Artimovich, 1 May 1996

The New Mexico state flag was officially adopted in 1925, 13 years after statehood. Winner of a design contest was an anthropologist, Dr. Harry P. Mera. He used a sun-symbol design from a clay pot made by an unknown woman from Zia [pronounce it "tSEE-ah"] Pueblo (Indian village) in NM.

Mera stylized the design and used the old Spanish royal colors. Official dimensions of the flag itself are 2:3, specified in the law. The flag design is available on the state website, or at: (where Greg Cogoli has the current flag and also the makeshift design created in 1915 for a world's fair in California) Officially correct dimensions for the Zia Sun Symbol in the center (red on yellow background) are that the circle is 1/3 the diameter of the complete design ... i.e., the longer rays are 1 unit long, the circle is 1 unit in diameter. There is no official spec for the length of the shorter rays, but artistic logic makes them 1/2 the length of the long ones. There are a total of 16 solar rays, two each short and long on each of four sides. The official dimensions do not specify the ratio of the sun-symbol to the total flag, but artistic logic indicates about 1/3 or 2/5 of the hoist.

The Secretary of State's office pointed out to me that the design is NOT copyrighted or trade marked, so anyone can use the sun-symbol (commonly called "the Zia") or the flag itself. However, a year or so ago, someone from Zia Pueblo itself was briefly steamed about the white man stealing what had suddenly become a sacred symbol. As yet, the ACLU has not been heard from on this ... although they fussed about a county seal design that incorporated a cross. Details about ray spacing, line width and treatment of the ends of the lines are left to the artist's good judgment. We have a lot of artists in New Mexico, and we respect them. Most usage gives you a line-width of about .5" to .75" on a standard 4x6' flag, so that's about 1/100 to maybe 1/75 of the hoist of the flag. The ends are usually rounded; that seems to fit the easy-going style of our state better than square tips.

I have, BTW, seen a flag with a solid red circle or dot in the center and the rays protruding the diameter of that circle beyond it: i.e., the standard design filled in. Not correct at all. The circle is a hollow circle, very definitely.

William E. Dunning, 11 February 1998

Today's Forward newspaper shows a boy in 1912 New Mexico (the year it became a state) waving a large 48-star flag with a large star (possibly blue) superimposed, covering part of the canton and field. Perhaps specially created to mark statehood?
Nathan Lamm, 18 May 2006

Concerning New Mexico's history of state flags:
The current design, introduced in 1925, is really the first and only actual state flag for New Mexico. This Territory became a state in 1912, but never officially adopted a state flag. In 1913, for the Pan-American Exposition in San Diego, California, they needed a state flag for a display. So someone slapped together the blue banner with a tiny 48-star S&S in canton position, the state seal embroidered, and "NEW MEXICO" across the lower half. This was never an actual flag, and never flew from a pole. There was only one made (except for later replicas possibly). It was a banner that hung on the wall, with a stick or rod across the top. That's why, in 1924, a contest was held for a design "for a state flag" -- we didn't have one. Dr. Harry Mera, an MD and anthropologist, drew up the red-sun on yellow design that is now so familiar and popular. This one flew on a pole, and still does.

However, as to the different U.S. national flags over New Mexico: there was a unique, hand-made 47-star flag raised over the new state's capitol building in Santa Fe on Jan. 6, 1912, when word of the statehood bill's signing was telegraphed to the Territorial capital city from Washington. Thereafter, the 48-star design July 4, 1912, then the 49- and 50-star versions as they became official -- total four S&S versions that have flown over New Mexico.
Bill Dunning, 3 December 2007

Traces of "Old Mexico"

The coat of arms and state seal is the Mexican eagle with snake in his beak and perched on a cactus, with the larger American (bald) eagle standing protectively over him. So you can see we have a very strong heritage here from Old Mexico.
William E. Dunning, 16 July 1998

Unusual Flag Ceremony

This is to report on an unusual, [perhaps unique?] flag ceremony which is held every year on April 9 in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico.

It was on April 9, 1942 that U.S. troops, fighting alongside Filipinos in Bataan, Philippines, surrendered in World War II to invading forces of Japan. The Americans had fought since December of 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor and the start of that war.

After the 1,800-man American force struck the Stars and Stripes and ran up the white flag of surrender, they were force-marched for ten days in the infamous 70-mile Bataan Death March and then kept in POW camps for three and a half years. At war's end, 900 survived. The other half had died as prisoners. Several thousand Philippine soldiers also suffered, died or survived that ordeal.

Virtually all of the mainland Americans in that ill-fated group were members of the New Mexico National Guard. The survivors remaining today, most in their 80's, participate in this ceremony in the hope that the rest of us will not forget.

In 1945, Congress declared April 9 to be Bataan Memorial Day. Shortly after, at the flagpole and plaque outside the New Mexico state office building designated as the Bataan Memorial Building, vets inaugurated this unusual ceremony. They lower the Stars and Stripes, fold it, and run a white flag up the pole for a few moments of silent meditation. Then the surrender flag comes down and the American flag goes back up again in a gesture of triumph.

Each year, fewer and fewer of the original survivors are able to attend the ritual, but younger men and families carry it on, with the usual panoply of prayers, speeches and band music.

Evans Garcia, now 84, remembers how he survived a firing squad in one of the camps. Stood up before rifles for some forgotten offense, Garcia flipped a middle-finger salute to his captors and berated them as cowards who had to have so many Japanese to kill just one American. Somehow, the POW camp commander was impressed enough to spare Evans Garcia's life. He was beaten, but he lived, and tells the tale today. He and a few others "keep the faith" with this annual ritual.

William E. Dunning, 10 April 1998

State Military Crest

  image located by Alfred Zhou, 7 May 2012

The state military crest is a diamondback rattlesnake poised to strike.
Sascha Zimmer, 16 February 2005

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