The design of New Mexico's state flag was submitted for a contest to create a new state flag. When New Mexico joined the Union, a flag was designed that was used for several years. A contest was held to choose a new design that would better reflect the characteristics and history of the state. The contest ended with a very different flag being adopted that included a red symbol of the Zia people of New Mexico on a yellow background.
New Mexico was admitted to the Union in 1912, and the first design of New Mexico's state flag was adopted then. The flag had the state name written diagonally across a blue background. In the lower right corner was the state seal, with the US flag at the top left. This flag was served as New Mexico's state flag for about eight years.
In 1920, New Mexico was encouraged by the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) to create a new flag that would reflect the spirit and character of the state. They held a contest, as had been done in several other states, and citizens were able to submit their ideas. Harry Mera of Santa Fe won, submitting a yellow flag that featured a red symbol of the sun in the middle. His wife, Reba, had constructed the new flag.
Dr. Mera's design gave New Mexico's state flag its own unique look and made use of some important ideas from the native people of the state. The sun symbol in the center of the flag was first seen on a water jar used by the the Zia Pueblo. It is a "Zia" and represents the sun as well as the number four, which was sacred to the Zia people. The sun symbol is a circle with four sets of four rays each coming off of it.
For the Zia, the gifts of life were given in sets of four. This included the four seasons, the four directions on a compass, the four times of day, and the four stages of a person's life. The number also represented the four obligations that came with the gift of life. These included keeping "a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and devotion to the welfare of people and family."