A map of New MexicoNew Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the United States. Its landscape features mesas (small plateaus with flat tops and steep sides), deserts, forested mountain slopes and rocky, snow-covered peaks. The rugged Sangre de Cristo range, part of the Rocky Mountains, runs north-south to the east of the valley of Rio Grande in the centre of the state. The semi-arid uplands of the Gila Wilderness lie in southwestern New Mexico. The Great Plains occupy the eastern portion of the state. Rising in the south is the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, one of the largest mesas on the North American continent. A flat, dry, scrubland plain, its western edge is marked by the Mescalero Escarpment, a steep slope that forms the eastern flank of the Pecos Valley.
New Mexico, or Nuevo México in Spanish, was known by this name to Spanish explorers in the 16th century. (The present-day country of Mexico was known as “New Spain” until it became independent in 1821, adopting the name "Mexico" then.)
Window Rock, New Mexico
Francisco de Ibarra, a Spanish adventurer in search of gold, reported in 1563 that the region he explored could be a “new Mexico”, home to wealthy Native American civilizations similar to those of the Aztec Empire (“Mexico” was the Aztecs’ own name for their heartland). Juan de Oñate established the official name when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico in 1598.
New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic ancestry (47%) in the US. The Hispanic population includes descendants of the original Spanish colonists. New Mexico also has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans as a proportion of its population after Alaska.
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