NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – On this day in 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state in the country, and 110 years later, there is quite a bit of history to look back on. The year is 1912, the streets of downtown Albuquerque were dirt. Horse and buddies wait to unload at the local warehouse, and men in three-piece suits chat outside the local store.
The ink from President Taft’s pen was barely dry on the proclamation for statehood when William McDonald took the helm as governor. A rancher by trade, he laid the groundwork for our statehood.
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Soon after statehood, New Mexico’s signature crop blossomed. “If you eat a chile Relleno in New Mexico you’re eating it because of the research that Roy Nakayama did,” said historian Rick Hendricks.
Hendricks used to be the state historian. He shared a lot of New Mexico’s history during the 100th birthday.
The honeymoon of being the 47th state ended abruptly in 1916 thanks to Pancho Villa’s raid from Mexico. “When the Villaistas attacked Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, that really sort of put a brake on the euphoria,” Hendricks said.
But then Route 66 blazed the trail through the state in 1926. The 1940s brought a massive influx of people and money. “Most historians would agree that the single most important thing that happened in NM from 1912 to today was the explosion of the atom bomb in ’45,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks said New Mexico gave its best during the war. “The contributions we made were quite remarkable, the Navajo code talkers,” said Hendricks.
New Mexico soldiers made up a large part of the infamous Bataan Death March. Then came something New Mexico is synonymous with, the claim aliens landed in Roswell in 1947.
In 1972, the state went aloft. The first Balloon Fiesta took flight in Albuquerque and this year, the now biggest balloon event in the world will mark 50 years.
The 90s and early 2000s were about growth and innovation. In 2007, officials broke ground on the Spaceport. For the next 17 years, Virgin Galactic would work to get tourists to space. Finally last year, they did it.
In 2011, one of the most important things to happen in the state, our first female governor, followed 8 years later by our second. “I think for a state that got off to a stumbling start with women’s rights it’s a very positive step forward,” Hendricks said.
It wouldn’t end there. In 2020, New Mexico elected its first all-female U.S. House delegation, all minorities. Not long after that, one of them, Deb Haaland was named Interior Secretary, becoming the first Native American to hold the post.
Another big moment for the state come in 2018 when Netflix decided to set up shop, followed the next year by NBC Universal. Since then, New Mexico has become a mega movie hub. Some New Mexicans commemorated the occasion by touring Albuquerque’s Fairview Cemetery where a number of the state’s early key figures are buried. They include Congressman Bernard Shannon Rodey, who was known for his fierce fight on behalf of statehood.
Also buried at Fairview, developer Franz Huning, who was influential in bringing the railroad to Albuquerque. Anyone interested in learning more about that history can download free materials for a self-guided tour at historicfairviewcemeteryabq.org.