12 New Mexico Nicknames and the History Behind Them

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A pink building near many trees under a lilac and blue sky
New Mexico's history, plant life, and even a spaceship sighting inspired its monikers

New Mexico is a fascinating state full of things to do, see, and experience. One of the best ways to get to know this territory better is by learning about the many nicknames that have been attributed to it over the years.

Land of Enchantment is the most commonly used moniker, but numerous others exist. So, whether you're planning to visit or are just interested in learning more about the American Southwest, keep reading. Here are 12 New Mexico nicknames and the history behind them.

12 Nicknames for New Mexico

A tall rock mountain on a sunny day
New Mexico's landscape is the result of millions of years of volcanic activity

Land of Volcanoes

New Mexico's reputation as the Land of Volcanoes dates back millions of years. The state was created by volcanic activity over many millennia, resulting in the New Mexico landscape seen today.

In addition to volcanoes playing a part in how New Mexico developed, they continue to be important to the state's geography. The region has over 10 inactive volcanoes in its territory. However, this nickname isn't used in everyday conversation. It's primarily mentioned in geological literature about the state.

The Wild West

The Wild West was an alternate name for the American Frontier that encompassed various parts of the United States, including New Mexico. As a result, it became a common nickname for the state.

Today, this moniker can still be found all over the region, from featuring in historical texts to adorning souvenir items. There are even frontier towns in New Mexico (commonly called ghost towns) where you can experience a glimpse of life in the Wild West.

A greenhouse beside a field of chiles and trees
The state of New Mexico produces world-famous chiles

Chile Capital of the World

New Mexico's nickname as the Chile Capital of the World is well-earned. It's a common New Mexico fact that the state is famous for these spicy peppers.

The moniker is a relatively recent one, but it comes from years of local farmers perfecting the process of growing various kinds of chiles. The state's rocky soil and desert climate provide the perfect environment for these plants to thrive. As a result, you'll find this nickname on pepper-related souvenirs and in articles about this crop.

The Land of the Delight Makers

The Land of the Delight Makers is a name that was first coined in the 1920s by writer and photographer George Wharton James. While compiling a book about the territory's history, he began to notice how the area's culture helped shape southwestern art and literature.

It's thought that "delight makers" refers to those in the area that made art, crafts, and other creative elements. Although the nickname didn't gain much traction, its use in the title of James' book ensured it some level of popularity.

Bill Chizek/Shutterstock.com
The Outer Space State is one of the New Mexico nicknames due to the Roswell story
People believed a spaceship fell from the sky in Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1940s

The Outer Space State

In 1947, a mysterious object fell from the sky in the town of Roswell, New Mexico. Though the debris from this crash was later identified as being part of a military balloon, rumors quickly circulated that it was a spaceship.

From that day forward, New Mexico became a hub for people hoping to spot aliens, and the area quickly earned the Outer Space State nickname. This moniker is used on signs, tourist literature, and souvenirs throughout the state, particularly around Roswell.

The Spanish State

New Mexico's reputation as the Spanish State has surprisingly obvious origins. It was previously part of New Spain and Mexico. The area eventually became a US state in 1912, although it had been a United States territory since 1848. Spanish is even one of the official New Mexico languages, which adds to the relevance of this moniker.

Since the state still borders Mexico, many of the country's influences can also be seen in New Mexico's culture today. The nickname is sometimes found on souvenir items, particularly near the Mexico and US border.

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com
Old houses near a brick-paved courtyard decorated by colorful flaglets
Places like Albuquerque, New Mexico, experience over 300 days of sunshine in a year

The Land of Sunshine

With its extremely sunny climate, it's no surprise that the Land of Sunshine has become one of New Mexico's most popular nicknames. Many cities, like Alberquerque, get around 310 days of sunshine a year!

It's not sure when this exact moniker was coined, but it's been used since at least the mid-1900s. New Mexico was also called the Sunshine State for a time. That nickname even appeared on state license plates before being adopted by Florida as its official state nickname.

The Land of the Brave

The Land of the Brave may not be New Mexico's state nickname officially, but it gained some traction as a result of Stew Cosentino's book History of New Mexico: Land of the Brave, Land of the Slaves.

This text describes the bravery of the indigenous people who called the territory home. However, the book also takes a hard look at the less-flattering side of New Mexico's history, including how new settlers negatively affected indigenous communities. This is not an everyday moniker but may be seen in educational literature.

A cactus with pink flowers in a desert near the mountains
New Mexico's topography and climate are ideal for cacti

The Cactus State

One of New Mexico's top landmarks is White Sands National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is full of cacti. You can also find many of these plants across the rest of the state.

So, it's not surprising that the territory has come to be known as the Cactus State or the Land of the Cactus. The dry climate in this part of the country creates the ideal conditions for these drought-resistant plants to thrive. You'll most likely see this name used on souvenirs, but it's occasionally found in informational material at botanical gardens and parks.

The Colorful State

The Colorful State is a New Mexico state nickname that you'll understand as soon as you enter the state. Though the reason for this moniker is unknown, it likely references the state's landscape.

After all, New Mexico is known for the vibrant colors of its scenery. The nickname is shared with Colorado and can be found on souvenir items and postcards.

A road sign saying "Welcome to New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment"
One of the New Mexico nicknames, Land of Enchantment, has been around since 1906

Land of Enchantment

In 1999, Land of Enchantment became the New Mexico official state nickname. However, the moniker was first coined in 1906 by author Lilian Whiting to refer to New Mexico and the rest of the Southwest.

In 1935, it began being used by the State Tourist Bureau. It was then added to New Mexico license plates in the 1940s before finally becoming the state nickname around 50 years later.

The Land of Opportunity

In the mid-1800s, New Mexico represented a chance for a better life for Americans taking on the journey west. Due to the plentiful sunshine and fertile land around the Rio Grande, it was a near-perfect place to settle down.

These early days of New Mexico's development helped inspire the nickname the Land of Opportunity. This moniker wasn't coined until after the territory became a state in 1912. However, it never gained much traction. Today, it's primarily found in books and other older texts.

In Summary

New Mexico has no shortage of monikers. While you might have heard that it's the Chile Capital of the World, finding out that it's also known as the Land of Sunshine might have been a surprise. Hopefully, this list has helped you get to know this southern state and inspired you to learn a little more about New Mexico!

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Written by Gabrielle T

ggtraveler1213 FORMER WRITER Gabrielle loves all things travel and culture. She is originally from the USA, but she has lived in Italy for over a decade. She's always ready to pack her bags, grab her passport, and head out on an adventure!

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