New Mexico takes its name from the anglicized name ‘Neuvo Mexico,’ the name of the area given by the Spanish to the upper Rio Grand, the river which divides the state in two. Occupied for thousands of years by Native Americans, the area’s first European settlers were the Spanish who added it to their territory of New Spain. Later a province of Mexico, it became a state on January 6th, 1912. The Hispanic influence in the area continues to this day and contributes heavily to the state’s unique culture. Geographically, New Mexico is primarily high-desert and is probably best characterized by its moving panoramas, rose-colored deserts, arid mesa steppes, and heavily forested mountains. Notable natural attractions include Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and White Sands National Monument. Large swaths of land in the southwestern part of the state are dedicated toward missile testing sites and airforce bases.
Military research facilities were established in the state during and just after the close of World War II. The Los Alamos Research Center and the Sandia National Laboratories both served to establish the state as the research and development leader in fields such as nuclear, solar and geothermal energy. The first company to develop commercial space flights has placed its headquarters and mission control here. The largest city, Albuquerque, is an economic and transport hub. Santa Fe, the state capital, is often rated as one of the best places in the U.S. to live, with a lively cultural feel and liberal attitude. The peaceful atmosphere and favorable climate have made New Mexico a popular retirement destination for many of America’s elderly. Tourism is an important economic earner, with New Mexico’s natural beauty drawing thousands of visitors every year. Concerning presidential politics, New Mexico has given its electoral votes to all but two presidential winners over the last 94 years – one Republican and one Democrat. In the 2004 election George W. Bush won the state by a margin of a mere 0.8 percent.