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100th Anniversary Graphic

History of New Mexico

New Mexico Magazine's 100th anniversary not only commemorates a century of storytelling but also dives deep into the state's vibrant history and cultural heritage. From the earthen hues of traditional adobe architecture to the spirited dances at the Indian Market, and from the legendary tales of Billy the Kid to the sacred rituals of the Pueblo peoples, each feature in this anniversary issue is a tribute to the enduring spirit and diverse cultures of New Mexico. Explore the landmarks, arts, and significant events that have shaped the Land of Enchantment over the past century.

July 2023 Cover ID

  • In Agua Fría, a family stands before an adobe home, circa 1912.

    The slope-shouldered outlines and earthen hues of adobe buildings root themselves in New Mexico. Bricks made from sun-dried clay, sand, straw, and water lend themselves to everything from a sturdy stable to a sculpted mansion. One of the earliest forms of eco-construction, adobe masonry techniques migrated from northern Africa and southern Spain with 17th-century Spanish colonists. Here, the practice merged with the earlier mud-building skills of indigenous peoples. The handprints of centuries’ worth of people remain forever a part of these structures, testaments to artistry and heart.

  • Watch the hot air balloon take off every year at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

    As the largest ballooning event in the world, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) attracts pilots from all around the globe. More than 550 applicants were approved to fly in 2023, including 113 special-shape balloons and 63 international pilots from places like Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Taiwan.

    One of the many draws for pilots is a chance to fly the famed Albuquerque Box, where low-altitude winds carry balloons to the south as they ascend to higher altitudes, and northbound winds enable pilots to reverse their direction, simulating a box-like flight path. In ideal conditions, pilots finessing these currents can enjoy an hour or longer flight while they navigate their balloons back to where they first launched.

  • Bill the Kid poses for a ferro-type photo outside a Fort Sumner saloon in 1879 with a Winchester carbine and Colt revolver.

    Although Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid, has been gone for over a century, his name remains synonymous with the American West. Despite being a charming singer and dancer, little is known about the notorious figure. While some attribute 21 deaths to him, recent research has revealed that he was only responsible for the killing of four men. His short and tumultuous life came to a close at age 22, when Sheriff Pat Garrett killed him at Old Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881.

  • Bisti Badlands (Getty Image)

    The best of the wilderness in the surrounding area is characterized by the same compression of time: The Bisti Badlands, 40 miles from town, part of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, is one of the few pieces of public land where you can see the exposed K-T boundary, the layer in the geological record that coincides with the extinction of the dinosaurs. Coming from town, take the second entrance off NM 371, park, and wander into the wash. There aren’t any trails, but a meander will take you past otherworldly rock formations, massive petrified logs, and, for the discerning (and lucky) visitor, dinosaur fossils, including the Bisti Beast, an early relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. 

  • Zozobra does not go gently into the night. The marionette’s theatrics and pyrotechnics are all part of the drama.

    In 1924, artist Will Shuster built a puppet in his backyard that he burned for a few friends, in an attempt to re-create a ritual he had seen performed in Mexico. The next year, with the help of E. Dana Johnson, editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, he increased the puppet’s size to 18 feet and named it Zozobra (roughly, “gloomy or anguished one”). To this day, the burning of Zozobra serves as a way for those in attendance to release a year’s worth of sorrows and trouble. In 1926, when the first public burning took place, a Fiesta tradition was born. For many, the burning came to signify the beginning of Fiesta.

  • A high viewpoint affords visitors a quarter-mile-long glimpse into the Big Room’s ornate features at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. At 750 feet underground, The Big Room, the massive central cavern that sees 500,000 visitors each year, has been open to self-guided tours since the 1970s—after so many hundreds of people overwhelmed daily ranger-led tours that the front of the line never saw its end. But it’s just one of the subterranean marvels, which include at least 120 caves, in the 46,766-acre park in southeastern New Mexico. 

    While the number of caves is expected to increase as exploration continues, there might be far more mysteries to unearth in Carlsbad—everything from how cave features form to how life exists deep underground. President Calvin Coolidge created Carlsbad Cave National Monument on October 25, 1923. Congress granted the caverns national park status in 1930. Carlsbad Cavern—the park’s namesake cavern—is more than 30 miles long. The 8.2-acre Big Room is the largest and most readily accessible cave chamber in North America, according to the National Park Service.

  • Hanging Red Chile Pepper Ristras in New Mexico

    Ristras of red chiles provide a unique aesthetic in New Mexico. Strung into bunches (ristra is Spanish for “string”), they hang from rounded archways and covered portals throughout the state. Originally, this was an easy way to dry and thereby preserve a bounty of chiles so the fruit could be plucked and added to the stew pot the rest of the year. These days, ristras might include dried flowers and bulbs of garlic or be sprayed with lacquer to ornament a home for years. 


  • A Cochiti Pueblo potter shows off her storyteller figures in Santa Fe.

    Between 1920 and 1960, figures of women holding one or two children were the most popular at Cochiti. Scholars refer to these figures as Singing Mothers or Madonnas and recognize them as the precursor to the storyteller. Widespread acceptance of Pueblo figurative sculpture as an art form did not occur until the emergence of the storyteller in the 1960s. Scholars credit one Cochiti woman, Helen Cordero, with creating the Storyteller and sparking a revival in figurative ceramics. Like many other Cochiti women, Cordero had been making freestanding female figurines with one or two children. In 1964, at the request of folk art collector Alexander Girard, she made her figures larger and added more children. She crafted a male figure surrounded by children, a figure inspired by her grandfather. With open mouths and closed eyes, Cordero’s Storytellers appear to be in deep thought as they tell stories to surrounding children. Cordero noted that a Storyteller is strictly a male figure. Other Cochiti potters also began making their figures larger and with more children, often featuring a female or an animal figure as the focal point­. 

    Traditional Cochiti storytellers have black and terracotta designs on a cream-colored background, a style that has characterized Cochiti pottery for more than a century. Some potters continue to use traditional natural vegetal and mineral pigments that artists like Cordero used, while others now use acrylic paints. 

  • New Mexico State Fair Rodeo

  • Coyote in an open field

    New Mexico’s most famous unofficial animal appears everywhere—from giant metal sculptures to portraits on the covers of the city’s art magazines. Its visage adorns the Coyote Café, where art over the doorway of the Cantina imagines both bartenders and patrons as cowboy-booted, hard-partying coyotes. Carved, howling coyotes sporting bandannas, however clichéd after decades, are still in stores around the Plaza. Coyotes in art, often wildly abstracted, stare with that steady coyote gaze from gallery walls up and down Canyon Road. 

  • The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad cuts through aspen groves

    As a working railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec began in 1880, ground to a halt in the 1920s, and was abandoned in 1969. Credit the never-say-die ardor of railroad fans for its 1971 rebirth as a tourist train, overseen by a joint New Mexico–Colorado commission.   

    Today the C&T is considered one of the most scenic and authentic train rides in North America and is one of New Mexico’s most popular and unique activities. Rail fans delight in half- and full-day excursions that hit a top speed of 12 miles per hour across open plains and mountain passes. 

  • Florencia Oz, Festival Flamenco

    New Mexico Is Flamenco’s beautiful, passionate stage. Since its founding in 1982, the National Institute of Flamenco, in Albuquerque, has spotlighted and elevated this traditional Spanish art form, by drawing artists from around the world for its annual Festival Flamenco Alburquerque, offering courses in flamenco arts at its conservatory, and training its professional repertory company, Yjastros (the only U.S. group invited to perform at the Festival de Jerez, in Spain). 

  • Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico Magazine

    Fort Union is a skeleton fort garrisoned by ghosts and memories of the old Santa Fe Trail. The long-abandoned fort stands as the last outpost of an empire-building frontier, still determined not to surrender. Broken walls have crumbled in military precision leaving proud chimneys standing in stark aloneness. Roofless rooms, like empty shells, are floored with caved-in ceilings. Brick copings lie in fallen sections among weeds. ... When you leave this old fort, you look back. You are struck by the sheer stubbornness of its once living might.

  • Gallup InterTribal

    The Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial has been held annually in Gallup, New Mexico since 1922. As the oldest continuous celebration of Native American art and culture in the state, it has become a model for similar events throughout the Southwest.

    While some of the details of the event have faded over the years, the founding story of the Ceremonial remains clear. Today, the event takes place each August and includes a juried art market, nightly dances, and parades with Native American marching bands and floats. The event's core is still made up of Native American dancers, and the all-Indian rodeo showcases the grit and horsemanship that many tribes are known for, with unique touches like a Pony Express Race and a women's frybread pan throwing contest.

    The nightly dances feature performers from across the United States and Mexico, and the grand entry is a dazzling display of participants in their regalia. Don't miss out on this incredible event that showcases the beauty and richness of Native American culture.

  • Artist Georgia O'Keeffe ponders her collection of rocks, bones and other natural treasures. She loved to show off her collection to visi­tors.

    Georgia O'Keeffe left an indelible mark on the world of modern art. Her entire career was sparked when she sent a series of her paintings to a friend in New York. This friend eventually showed them to renowned art dealer and photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. In 1916, Stieglitz was the first to exhibit O'Keeffe's work, and by the 1920s, her paintings had been nationally acknowledged. After settling in New Mexico as her permanent residence, O'Keeffe remained there until her passing in 1986.

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument

    The Aztec Ruins National Monument is a fascinating example of ancestral Pueblo architecture, culture, and artifacts. The site boasts three-story masonry walls and remarkably preserved 900-year-old wooden roofs. Visitors can take a half-mile self-guided tour of the original rooms, gaining insight into the daily lives of the ancient people. In the central plaza, a reconstructed Great Kiva stands as a testament to the ceremonial practices of the past. Aztec Ruins remains a sacred place to the descendants of its original builders, including modern-day Pueblo tribes in New Mexico and Arizona. The park offers a range of special events throughout the year, such as a lantern display in December, an Earth Day celebration in April, and Junior Ranger camps. Kids can explore the site's history free of charge with the year-round Junior Ranger program. 

  • Harvey Girls at La Fonda

    In 1883, the Fred Harvey Company welcomed a new wave of female employees, recruiting thousands of respectable and intelligent women from the East Coast and Midwest to become Harvey Girls and serve in their diners and hotels along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. By embracing these women, the Wild West was forever altered, with these Harvey Girls becoming part of the community and leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.

  • Originally commissioned in 1926, Route 66 stretches its concrete arms across eight states.

    Originally commissioned in 1926, Route 66 stretches its concrete arms across eight states, including a nibble off the corner of Kansas. New Mexico is the proud parent of more than 600 miles of the Mother Road (including discontinued stretches, aka alignments). The route is embellished with whimsical neon signs, fortified by classic diners, and smoothed by retro motels. 



  • A horno at Taos Pueblo

    The Spanish brought wheat with them when they came to Pueblo had never seen before, and had to be taught how to use. Pueblo men learned how to plant and harvest wheat in their fields, along with their vegetables. Once the wheat was harvested, Pueblo women learned new ways of preparing it for baking. Bread was the first food that Pueblo women made from wheat. But now, instead of baking their bread in a cooking pit, the women were taught how to build and use an above-ground horno, or beehive-shaped outdoor oven. 

    The construction of Pueblo hornos is much the same today as it was in early times. Individual Pueblo villages, as well as individual families, have their own unique style of constructing a horno. Some use sandstone that is cut into brick size; others use lava rocks of varied sizes and shaped; and still others use adobe bricks made out of a mixture of straw, clay, and sand. The floors of hornos are constructed by laying two layers of brick on the ground, in a circle. The middle area is left empty, to be filled in later with smaller pieces of rock. Forming the wall and roof of the oven requires expert placement of each brick and stone. Each piece is placed one at a time on the top edge of the floor; mortar is added; and the horno is then molded into a beehive shape. A 1’x1’ doorway is left open at the bottom, as is a small vent near the top. The inside floor and outside of the oven are then covered by layers of adobe plaster. With annual re-plastering, hornos last for years. 

    Hornos are passed on for generations in Pueblo families. New ones are built when a new family requests one, or when it has been damaged. Some families build hornos that vary in size according to whether they need them for family use or for community activities. 

  • Riverbend Hot Springs

    New Mexico is a unique state where you can ease into a state of tranquility while the world outside heats up. The state's geothermal activity has resulted in numerous natural hot springs, just a short distance from the beaten path. When Spanish explorers discovered these hot springs, they were amazed by the therapeutic properties that Native Americans had known about for hundreds of years. Some even claimed that they had discovered the Fountain of Youth. Today, visitors to these soothing hot springs can experience the same sense of renewal and inner peace.


  • KiMo TheatreKiMo Theater was built in 1927 for motion pictures and stage productions. KiMo means “king of its kind” in the language of the Isleta Pueblo. In 1961, a fire destroyed the stage and other areas of the theater, which led to its closure in 1968. The theater was almost demolished a few years after, but Albuquerque citizens voted to purchase and restore it. The KiMo Theater is now part of the National Register of Historic Places, as of 1977, and restoration was completed in 1990s. “It’s the cultural cornerstone of downtown Albuquerque,” says Harvey Hoshour, whose firm, Hoshour and Pearson, restored and recycled Albuquerque’s historic KiMo Theatre. 

  • Elmo Sanchez poses in Bobby Chacon’s 1964 Impala in front of a Penitente morada in Chimayó in 2015. Elmo belongs to a fraternity of lowriders, Los Guys, who get together to cruise and show off their rides.

    Although the exact origins of lowriders remain a topic of intense debate, Española named itself as the Lowrider Capital of the World in the 1980s – a title it still holds to this day. These cars are more than just vehicles; they represent a form of art, cultural and religious beliefs, and are integral parts of families.

  • Pueblo potter Maria Martinez revived black pottery and elevated utilitarian vessels to an art form.One of the best-known indigenous artists, Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo) learned to make pottery by watching her aunt and grandmother. Maria and her husband, Julian Martinez, mastered the process of black-on-black pottery, which became internationally known by the 1920s. Today, you can find her art in many museums around the country.



  • Pueblo potter Maria Martinez revived black pottery and elevated utilitarian vessels to an art form.

    New Mexico has a rich history of traditional Native American art that dates back centuries before it was established as a state in 1912 and even before the arrival of Spanish colonists in the early 1600s. Art forms such as weaving, pottery making, silversmithing, Kachina doll making, and more have been passed down from generation to generation, with many Native American artists and artisans dedicating countless hours to perfecting their craft and preserving the legacy of their forefathers, using tools that have been passed down to them.

  • Flag

    In 1923, when the Daughters of the American Revolution announced a contest for a state-flag design, physician Harry Mera recalled the Zia symbol. He and his wife, Reba, worked up a sample that split the three rays into four (unwittingly mimicking a “brother” to the sacred design) and depicted it in burgundy on a golden field to honor the state’s Spanish heritage.

    In official publications, the state explains the sun sign as representing the four directions (starting at the north and moving counter-clockwise to the west, south, and east), four seasons (starting with spring, then summer, fall, and winter), four times of day (morning, noon, evening, night), four stages of life (childhood, youth, middle age, and old age), and an overall obligation to develop a strong body, clear mind, pure spirit, and devotion to the welfare of others above oneself.

  • New Mexico True logo

    The New Mexico True campaign was first launched in 2012 by the New Mexico Tourism Department in an effort to showcase New Mexico’s history and culture.  

  • With its long tail and impressive crest, the roadrunner makes a great subject for folklore and cartoons.

    On March 16, 1949, the New Mexico Legislature named as our official state avian species the “Chaparral Bird,” aka Geococcyx californianus, aka the greater roadrunner. Longtime hero of Saturday morning cartoons, the state bird can fly, but it usually prefers to beetle along on its strong legs, and does so throughout the state, at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. Related to cuckoo birds, they’re smart enough to catch snakes (including rattlers), lizards, mice, and centipedes, but must beware of the far faster coyote, which, to our knowledge, has yet to actually purchase ACME anvils in pursuit of winged prey. During breeding season, roadrunners develop blue and red skin near their eyes. The bird’s zygodactyl feet—two toes forward, two backward—disguise the direction of its tracks. Native peoples, who admire the bird’s speed, sometimes use its X-shaped footprint as a sacred symbol to keep evil spirits from following them. 

  • The world's first atomic bomb detonated on July 16, 1945 at what is now known as the Trinity Site.

    In 1943, hundreds of scientists descended upon New Mexico with a top-secret mission: build an atomic bomb before the Nazis could. Led by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the team set up shop in a former boys’ school. On July 16, 1945, their hard work paid off when they detonated the world’s first atomic bomb—nicknamed “the gadget”—creating a mushroom cloud near Alamogordo. Today, this site is a National Historic Landmark known as the Trinity Site, a testament to the ingenuity and determination of Oppenheimer and his team.

  • The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is a hot spot for chiles of all colors and sizes each fall.

    The story of New Mexico chile is a 9,000-year history of the Americas, where the chiltepin plant first grew wild in the jungles of Bolivia and Peru. As predators bit into its berry-size fruit, the plant bit back, having developed a heated system of defense. Only migratory birds could withstand the counterattack, and their chile-seeded droppings took root across the landscape. 

    Chiltepin’s potent flavor and curative properties were prized by Indigenous peoples—including the Inca, the Maya, and the Aztecs—for ceremonial, medicinal, and culinary use. The Aztecs domesticated the crop, cultivating the Capsicum annuum species, which they called chilli. By the Spanish conquest of 1519, they had developed dozens of cultivars—poblanos, serranos, jalapeños, and more. Spanish chronicler Bernardino de Sahagún described the Aztecs’ chilli cuisine, citing such specialties as lobster with red and frog with green. European colonists quickly adopted the crop and changed its Nahuatl name to a Spanish spelling: chile. 

    Exactly when chile arrived in New Mexico is a heated subject. Indigenous cultures here traded with Indigenous cultures to the south long before the Spanish incursion of 1598. Presumably, chile would have been a valuable item of exchange. The first chiles documented as being planted in the state grew in places where both Indigenous and Hispano cultures thrived, and where those who came after still sow their heirloom seeds. 

  • The gorge runs from northwest to southwest of Taos for a total of around 50 miles.Nearly half a million years ago, the San Luis Basin in Colorado brimmed with a lake that then overflowed. As the water drained, it carved the Rio Grande Gorge into the volcanic rock of the Taos Plateau. Look for bighorn sheep and boulders marked with the occasional petroglyph while hiking trails along the rim of the gorge. (Pro tip: Go in the early morning or just before sunset and let the light set the mood.)


  • A group travels down the white-water rapids of the Rio Grande River via kayak and river raft.

    Take a break from reality and immerse yourself in our rivers. Whether you prefer a leisurely drift or an adrenaline-fueled adventure, our rapids have it all. We call it "River Time" – that tranquil, hypnotic state where you lose yourself in the moment. Let the current of Río Grande or the Chama carry you away and feel your senses come alive. As the boat rises and falls, you'll experience a range of sensations from gentle swaying to exciting splashes and spins.

  • Visit the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.The experience dramatizes an oft-told story in this stretch of southeast New Mexico: Shortly after midnight on July 3, 1947, a flying saucer purportedly crashed northwest of Roswell, near the town of Corona. The military quickly deflated news of the incident by calling it a weather-balloon crash. Believers cried government cover-up. Skeptics grew curious. Most Roswellians went about their business, even as the town and close encounters became synonymous. Some locals and visitors enjoy the suggestion that humans aren’t alone in the universe, and the palatial rooms at the International UFO Museum and Research Center provide artifacts for ongoing investigations. The museum has been a landmark attraction since 1992, along with the town’s quirky, marquee UFO Festival, held each July.

  • Rudolfo Anaya in his Albuquerque home with his sister Edwina Garcia

    Born in Pastura, New Mexico, Rudolfo Anaya spent most of his childhood in Santa Rosa before moving to Albuquerque with his family. He graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1956 and went on to earn a B.A. in English and American Literature from UNM, as well as several other college degrees. In 1963, Anaya began writing Bless Me, Ultima, but encountered challenges publishing his work due to the combination of English and Spanish in his writing. Despite this, he went on to become an acclaimed Chicano author, living in Albuquerque until his passing in 2020.

  • It is believed the Sandia Mountains got their name because of their pinkish color, which resembles a watermelon.

    Sandía, a mountain range in central New Mexico, derives its name from its pinkish hue resembling a watermelon. The range covers 17 miles north to south and 6 miles east to west. A unique feature of Sandía is that it's one of the few national wilderness areas that borders an urban environment. The portion from Tramway Boulevard up to the crest is owned by Sandía Pueblo, but a tribal compromise keeps the land open to hikers, climbers, skiers, and hang gliders. The tribe's claim to the mountain was not federally recognized until 2001.


  • Bulto of St. Isidore the Farmer

    The art of the santero, or maker of saintly images, is believed to have begun around 1760 in colonial New Mexico. Franciscan priests, charged with the task of establishing Christianity on the frontier, worked with local artisans to provide the holy images needed for worship and decoration in the newly built adobe churches. The santeros made retablos, painted images on hand-adzed pine panels, and carved three-dimensional bultos, both of which were then gessoed and painted with native pigments. 

  • Santuario Chimayo

    The devotion to the Holy Child of Atocha arrived in New Mexico in 1857 when Severiano Medina, a member of the tiny village of El Potrero, became ill and promised that, if he recovered, he would complete a pilgrimage to the shrine of Santo Niño de Atocha in Plateros, Mexico. He carried out this promise and received permission to construct a chapel to host the Holy Child. It was at this chapel where el Santo Niño became part of the culture of the northern Rio Grande Valley. 

    Santo Niño Chapel was a private chapel until 1992, when the descendants of Severiano Medina sold it to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Through the generosity of pilgrims, visitors and benefactors, Santo Niño chapel has been completely restored. Inside a small room adjoining the main chapel is a wooden statue of Santo Niño made by the famous santero, Felix Lopez. Filling shelves resting against the adobe walls are pairs of children's shoes left by the pilgrims. They are intended for the Holy Child so that he may have new shoes as he travels on his journey to provide comfort to those in need. 

  • Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway

    In a state as large and lightly populated as New Mexico, it’s uncommonly easy to find yourself on lonesome roads with spectacular, unadulterated views. Highways and byways unfurl through seemingly endless stretches of mesa and grassland prairie, climb through pine forests, hug paprika-colored cliffs, and wend through historic villages whose rustic architecture evokes New Mexico’s timeless appeal. The state is home to 25 designated scenic byways, and there are plenty of other worthy routes, too. However, the best way to experience their magnificence is to see them for yourself. Come and explore each unique scenic byway and be the judge.

  • Shiprock

    Shiprock, a prominent landmark in the Navajo Nation, is situated approximately 15 miles southwest of the town of Shiprock, NM. It's visible from afar, up to 50 miles on a clear day, and towers at a peak of 7,178 feet above sea level. The formation is essentially the remnants of ancient volcanic eruptions that occurred roughly 25-30 million years ago. The name Shiprock derives from the Navajo language, specifically "Tsé Bitʼaʼí," which translates to "rock with wings" or "winged rock."


  • Ray Bell helped nurse Smokey Bear back to health as a cub.

    Smokey Bear is a local story connected to our state’s history. It tells the story of the burned, orphaned cub who survived a human-caused fire in 1950 and became a global symbol of wildfire prevention with his “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” campaign. In April 2001, Smokey’s message was officially updated to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,” after wildfires became a chronic problem not just in forests, but in grasslands and other areas. 



  • Squash blossom turquoise necklaces were worn by both men and women.

    Squash blossom turquoise necklaces in Native American culture were not only worn as an accessory, but also as a symbol of wealth and status. This style was popular among both men and women, with the Navajo tribe credited as the originators of the design in the late 1800s. Other tribes, including the Zuni and Hopi, began incorporating this iconic style into their own jewelry traditions.



  • Try baking the official state cookie with this recipe by Cornerstone Bakery & Cafe.

    When most people think of baking Christmas goodies, lard and anise may not come to mind as key ingredients. Unless they’re New Mexicans. Every December here, it’s blessedly impossible to avoid rich, sandy-textured biscochitos—or their beguiling aroma. When it was named the state cookie in 1989, this shortbread-style cookie wasn’t being honored alone; the grandmas, moms, and aunties who made them were also being implicitly recognized. If you look up “biscochito” online, you could easily get the impression that Don Diego de Vargas and his cuadrilla galloped into what would become New Mexico with batches of the cookies stuffed in their saddlebags. The provenance isn’t all that clear, but we do know that the cookie bears similarities to various old Spanish sugar cookies. Anise, the Mediterranean spice and major biscochito flavoring, came to northern New Mexico in the early years of settlement, according to the historian William W. Dunmire. Because the spice was not easily obtained, it was saved for special occasions. Biscochitos began appearing in New Mexico cookbooks close to a hundred years ago. 

  • Taos Pueblo

    Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Site that has been occupied for more than a millennium. This adobe structure is a unique and awe-inspiring sight, made up of many individual homes, built side-by-side with common walls. While it may seem like a living museum, the Pueblo is actually a thriving community, with 150 Native Americans residing within its walls and over 1,900 Taos Indians living on the surrounding lands.

    The residents of Taos Pueblo still speak Tiwa, their native language, and follow their age-old traditions, which include no electricity or running water within the Pueblo walls. The church of San Gerónimo stands within the Pueblo and is a beautiful example of Spanish mission architecture. Although the original church was destroyed in the Taos Uprising in 1847, its ruins still stand next to the Pueblo's cemetery.

    The Taos tribe's oral traditions and native language are unwritten and unrecorded, with sacred traditions kept off-limits to non-tribal members. However, during the annual Taos Pueblo Powwow, an event that brings together spiritual leaders and tribal members, costumed dancers, singers, and other ceremonies provide insight into the fascinating story of these remarkable Native Americans.


  • The number and concentration of petroglyphs here make it one of the largest and most interesting petroglyphs sites in the Southwest.Spotting petroglyphs is a thrill on many New Mexico trails, but at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, they’re the star attraction. The Jornada Mogollon people carved more than 21,000 sunbursts, animals, and geometric designs in the basalt of the Three Rivers Valley, making the area one of the largest rock-art sites in North America. A half-mile trail starts from the visitor center and leads you through the desert, past many of the most interesting glyphs, carved here between 900 and 1400, including google-eyed and horned beings, standards of Jornada Mogollon sites. Another trail, on the east side of the picnic area, leads to the remains of a Mogollon village.

    Take serious note: These are sensitive cultural sites. Still regarded as spiritual places by nearby tribes, they can easily be desecrated by visitors who fail to recognize them as national treasures. When a rock art image is defaced, it can never be undone. Even the oils from your palm can be detrimental, especially for pictographs, which are painted rather than pecked. As a result, the locations of many such archaeological sites are intentionally kept obscure.   

  • The Zuni word for turquoise means “sky stone.” The pueblo uses the precious gemstone for protection.

    Going back a thousand years to Chaco Canyon, even earlier, think of the natural environment. Turquoise was spectacular. It’s bright, it’s vibrant. A rock may not seem that special to us now, but a thousand years ago it was as special as can be.

    When the Spanish invaders came into New Mexico, they were looking for a city of gold. They found turquoise, and they were disappointed that the people had only “Turkish” rock. From the Spanish perspective, turquoise had no value or meaning. The Spanish didn’t see it in the 16th century, but turquoise became a major product for tourists to buy through the curio trade. Turquoise increased in value over materials that were historically more difficult for Native artists to obtain.