The Flag of New Mexico: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

New Mexico State Flag
© Zoomi365/Shutterstock.com

Written by Doug Shaffer

Updated: June 4, 2023

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New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is a state that boasts a rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes. One of the most recognizable symbols of New Mexico is its state flag. The banner features a unique design based on the influence of the Native American tribe that lived in the area.  

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the history of the flag of New Mexico, where it originated, what it symbolizes, and some interesting facts about this iconic emblem.

The History of the Flag of New Mexico

New Mexico didn’t have a flag for over ten years after it became a state in 1912. The closest it came to a flag was in 1915, when Ralph Twitchell displayed an unofficial flag at the San Diego World’s Fair. The “Twitchell flag” included:

  • A blue background
  • The United States flag in the top left corner
  • The state seal in the bottom right corner
  • The word “New Mexico” written boldly in all caps across the middle in silver

In 1923 the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) held a statewide competition to collect designs for an official flag. After evaluating numerous submissions, the DAR chose Dr. Harry Mera and Reba Mera’s design. Their flag was officially adopted as the flag of New Mexico on March 15, 1925. Currently, the state still uses the Mera flag as its official banner.

Where Did the Idea for the New Mexico Flag Originate?

The idea for the New Mexico flag originated from the New Mexico chapter of the DAR in 1920. At that time, the state did not have an official flag, and there was a growing desire to create a distinctive emblem representing the state’s unique character and heritage.

The DAR’s efforts resulted in a statewide contest in 1923 that invited the creation of new flag designs. The group eventually selected the winning design created by Dr. Harry Mera. Two years later, Governor Arthur T. Hannet signed a bill making the Mera design the official state flag in 1925.

Mera’s design drew inspiration from the Zia sun symbol, a sacred symbol used by the Zia Pueblo tribe for centuries. The symbol is a significant part of New Mexico’s cultural heritage, and Mera believed it represented the state’s unique character and traditions. 

What Does the Flag of New Mexico Symbolize?

The flag of New Mexico is rich in symbolism and meaning, reflecting the state’s unique character and heritage. The Zia sun symbol, which forms the central element of the flag, is a sacred symbol for the Zia Pueblo tribe, representing the four cardinal directions, seasons, times of day, and stages of life. 

The flag’s design features a bright yellow sun symbol on a red background. It also has four groups of rays emanating from the central circle, which is highly significant to the tribe. It’s believed that life has four sacred obligations — cultivating a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others.

The Zia Sun Symbol was a Sacred Symbol of the Zia Pueblo Tribe.

The Zia Sun Symbol was a Sacred Symbol of the Zia Pueblo Tribe.

©allandp/Shutterstock.com

Did the State of New Mexico Ever Have Other Official Flags?

While they weren’t “official” New Mexico flags, two flags flew over the land before the Mera flag — the Spanish Cross of Burgundy and the Twitchell Flag. 

New Mexico’s history is characterized by its many cultural influences, including its conquest by the Spanish. When the conquistadors arrived in the Zia’s land, they flew their flag, the Cross of Burgundy, from 1506 to 1843. 

After the Spanish lost control of the area, there wasn’t a flag until the unofficial “Twitchell flag” debuted in 1915. 

Interesting Facts about the Flag of New Mexico

New Mexico’s rich heritage and culture date back hundreds of years to the Native American tribes living on the land. The state’s flag proudly represents the region’s history and people. Below are some interesting facts and information about New Mexico’s state flag story. 

  • Despite its simplicity, the New Mexico flag was considered the best of all American states in a 2001 North American Vexillological Association poll.
  • The New Mexico flag is one of only four state flags that doesn’t feature blue – the others being AlabamaCalifornia, and Maryland.
  • Of the four states to not use blue in their flag design, the New Mexico flag is the only one to exclude white from its banner.
  • The flag of New Mexico is notable for featuring unique Native American imagery, making it one of just two state flags to do so – the other being Oklahoma.


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