By ROBERT NARANJO
Valley Daily Post
Americans often confuse New Mexico, a state with unparalleled history, culture and beauty, as being a foreign country.
New Mexico Magazine for many years has run a feature column entitled, “One of Our Fifty is Missing,” where New Mexicans write about instances where they called, wrote, or emailed a business in another state looking to order something and were told, “We don’t ship to foreign countries.” The New Mexican then has to explain, sometimes without success, that New Mexico is a state in the United States located between Texas and Arizona.
Sometimes this phenomenon happens when simply talking to someone while visiting another state and New Mexicans are casually asked if a passport is needed to visit or why they have such a command of the English language.
During the recent Presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump early in the campaign told a crowd at a rally that he wanted “to put a wall around New Mexico.” And, make us pay for it! New Mexicans wondered how someone running for the highest office in the land would not know that New Mexico was a state. “He’ll never win,” they mused. But win he did. We’re not sure if anyone has informed him of his error.
That was likely one of the highest profile persons who has made the mistake of thinking New Mexico was a foreign country. Was that gaff featured in New Mexico Magazine’s One of Our Fifty is Missing? A look through recent issues of said magazines did not include Trump’s geographical mistake.
Historically, New Mexico was once much larger than the 121,412 square miles that it encompasses. When Gen. Stephen Watts Kearney invaded New Mexico with the U.S. Army of the West in 1846, New Mexico included all of the modern day state of Arizona and parts of what is now southern Nevada. Congressional legislation split New Mexico Territory in half and the Territory of Arizona was created in the 1860’s.
The Gadsden Purchase, signed Dec. 30, 1853, saw a swath of disputed land purchased from Mexico by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, James Gadsden, creating the final U.S. southern international boundary. The purchased land was known as the “Sale of La Mesilla” in Mexico. The U.S. needed the land to secure an east-west railroad line through the newly purchased territory but the rail line had to wait until after the Civil War.
After several attempts at statehood, which for various reasons were rejected, New Mexico and Arizona territories had to wait until 1912 to formally join the union as states. A wait that lasted 64 years.
Jan. 6, 1912, President William Howard Taft signed legislation admitting New Mexico to the union as the 47 th state. The same legislation admitted Arizona as the 48th state a little over a month later on Feb. 14, completing what became known as the “Lower 48.” Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as states in 1959.
When President Taft signed the enabling legislation for New Mexico statehood, he said, “Go forth and prosper.”
Happy 105 birthday, New Mexico.