Why Is New Mexico Called the Land of Enchantment?

Esther Ejim

The "Land of Enchantment" is the official nickname for the state of New Mexico. This name is a direct reference to the history and beauty of New Mexico. Land of Enchantment was officially adopted as the nickname of New Mexico in the year 1990. It had previously been used as the title for a book, which was written in 1906 by Lillian Whiting. The book title caught on and was soon used to promote the state as a great tourist destination. Land of Enchantment may be the official nickname, but it is not the only nickname as New Mexico has other recognized unofficial nicknames.

Taos, New Mexico, is a popular tourist destination.
Taos, New Mexico, is a popular tourist destination.

For instance, the state is called “The Spanish State,” because it has a high percentage of people with Spanish heritage. It also shares a border with Mexico. Another nickname is “The Sunshine State,” which is a reference to the bright sunshine that the state experiences. This particular nickname is also the nickname for the state of Florida. A significant portion of New Mexico has a huge distribution of the cacti plant, which are a variety of cactus. This is why the state is also called either “The Land of the Cactus” or “The Cactus State.”

One of New Mexico's unofficial nicknames is "The Sunshine State."
One of New Mexico's unofficial nicknames is "The Sunshine State."

New Mexico is also called the “Land of Opportunity.” This nickname refers to the numerous opportunities that may be found in the state, including the chance to own some land, and consequently, a part of the beautiful state. One nickname originates from the title of the work of an archeologist named Adolf Francis Alphonse Bandelier. He had published the result of his study on the ethnological and archeological heritage of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. He named his book “The Land of Delight Makers,” leading to the unofficial adoption of the title as a state nickname.

Apart from the official state nickname, "Land of Enchantment," other official symbols include things like the black bear, which is the official state mammal of New Mexico, and the Coelophysis, which is the official state dinosaur. New Mexico has official state vegetables, which are the Chile and frijoles. Turquoise is the official state gem, while the state tree is the blue gamma grass. The state colors of New Mexico are red and yellow. New Mexico even has a state cookie, called Bizcochito. The official state bird is the roadrunner, the state fish is the Mexico cutthroat trout, and the official state flower is the yucca.

New Mexico shares numerous border crossing points with Mexico.
New Mexico shares numerous border crossing points with Mexico.

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Discussion Comments


The article left out the state's official question, "Red or Green?"


Many states and cities change their nicknames frequently. I'm from Seattle and we get a new nickname almost every year. No one is ever content with the current nickname. But New Mexico has held its nickname for quite some time. I think that's good. A state or city is bound to have multiple nicknames, some of them unofficial. Some of these names develop on their own, people come up with them or use the names associated with sports games, etc. But it's also important to have one nickname that sticks and represents the state and what it stands for, for many years.


@stoneMason-- Actually "Sunshine State" was on New Mexico's license plates before 1941, whereas Florida did not begin to use this nickname until the 70s. So technically, "Sunshine State" was New Mexico's nickname first.

Having said that, I think that the "Land of Enchantment" is definitely the most popular nickname for the state. It is the official nickname and is present in all the tourism content. And I think it's the best nickname, it's very suitable and true.

My college friends came to visit me recently and they were definitely "enchanted."


Surprisingly, I hadn't heard of many of he nicknames of New Mexico. I think the only one I've heard is "the cactus state." "Sunshine state" is always used to refer to Florida. That's what comes to mind first, I think they even have that on the license plates in Florida.

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