What Is the State Song of New Mexico?

Sonal Panse

State songs and state emblems extol the natural and cultural treasures of the state they represent. The state song of New Mexico is "O Fair New Mexico," a descriptive paean that was written by Elizabeth Garrett, the daughter of Polinari Gutierez, and her husband Pat Garrett, the former Sheriff of Lincoln County. Pat Garrett is well-known in US history as the man who shot and killed the notorious Western outlaw Billy the Kid. Elizabeth Garrett, who had the song published and copyrighted in 1915, sang her composition before the New Mexico state legislature assembly in 1917. Her performance went down so well that, on 4 March 1917, the members of the legislature unanimously voted for the song to become one of the abiding state symbols of New Mexico. Governor Washington E. Lindsey signed the bill to this effect.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Elizabeth Garrett, the author of the state song of New Mexico, was born on 8 October 1917. The third child in a family of eight children, Elizabeth lost her eyesight shortly after birth as a result of an application of blue vitriol that was, ironically enough, applied to prevent infection. Her parents helped her cope with her blindness and have a normal, active childhood, and, when she was six, she was sent to study in Austin at the Texas State School for the Blind. Given her aptitude for music, she also received vocal and piano training in Chicago and New York. She worked as a music teacher and as a gifted soprano, and became well-known for her theater performances.

Two decades after her song was selected as the state song of New Mexico, in 1937, the New Mexico legislature assembly passed the Elizabeth Garrett Bill. This bill, which received the widespread support of politicians and citizens, granted her a monthly payment for life in appreciation for writing the state song of New Mexico. Elizabeth died in 1947, and the title of her most famous song, "O Fair New Mexico," is inscribed on her tombstone.

In addition to the state song of New Mexico, the state has had the "New Mexico March" dedicated to it by the famous composer John Philip Sousa in 1928. In 1971, the Spanish song "Asi Es Nuevo Mejico," which was written by the composer Amadeo Lucero, was performed before the New Mexico State legislature and was selected as the Spanish language state song of New Mexico.

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