What’s the Deal with the New Mexico State Flag?

The flags of the United States of America can be eerily similar. Those of the New England states often incorporate a man or historical figure, while nearly all U.S. states have a motto inscribed somewhere within the design. As with many things, New Mexico is different. In fact, our flag is downright strange.

The New Mexico flag consists of a red sun symbol on a field of yellow. It was officially introduced in 1925 and designed in 1920 to highlight the state’s Native American Pueblo and Nuevo Mexico Hispano roots. In its design year, the Daughters of the American Revolution pushed the state to design a contemporary flag. To aid in the task, they helped sponsor a contest to design the new state flag; it was won by HArry Mera of Santa Fe, an archaeologist.

The colors of the New Mexico flag are similar to those of Habsurg Spain, Spain, and the Crown of Aragon—direct acknowledgement of the conquistadors. The red sun is the symbol of the Zia, an indigenous tribe centered at Zia Pueblo within New Mexico. The symbol was found at Zia Pueblo on a 19th-century pot and is regarded as the tribe’s sacred symbol. Four is the sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle. As a result, the Zia sun has come to symbolize many things:

  • The four points of the compass
  • The four seasons of the year
  • The four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, and night)
  • The four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years, and old age)
  • The four sacred obligations (strong body, clear mind, pure spirit, and a devotion to the wellfare of others)

The Zia symbol is so entrenched in New Mexico culture that it is included in the state’s pledge:

I salute the flag of the state of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.


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