New Mexico
The pictures in this feature were taken by Charlotte Lipson, a leading PR consultant from New York, now living in New Mexico.   Charlotte has been a long time friend of South American Pictures thanks to a chance encounter in the highlands of Peru in the 1960s.    She has been contributing images and help from New York and now from New Mexico for many years.
The State Flag
As recently as the 1940's more than half New Mexico's population were of Hispanic descent and the State is  a treasure chest of history. The remains of past cultures are well preserved in numerous classic sites dating back to long before Europeans arrived.

The State Flag carries a symbol of a red cross,  a native American design from the surviving native American Zia pueblo. In the mind of the Zia the cross embodies a concept of the harmony of the universe. It represents the four quarters of the Earth, the four parts of the day from sunrise to sunset, the four seasons and the four ages of life from birth to death.


The Land of Billy the Kid   Stagecoaches ran through deserts to Santa Fe the State capital.  Mexico is to the south, Arizona is to the west and Texas to the east. The State tree is the Pinon Pine and fills many of the canyons.  Much of the land is high and Wheeler Peak the highest point reaches 13,161ft or 4011m.  The connection for South American Pictures is the long history of the region especially its occupation by the native Americans, first as nomadic groups arriving from Asia and then later when settled as tribes.




The first peoples   Between 5000BC and AD900 the land was the home of the Jornada Mogollon, a people who were descended from the earliest nomads. The Mogollon made countless rock drawings representing the simplest aspects of their life ....sun drawings, wildlife, hands and masks together with geometric patterns that undoubtedly had a deep spiritual meaning.

One of the best known sites for petroglyphs is a low ridge above Three Rivers near the Arizona border. At this site more than 20,000 individual rock drawings have been identified. In the later stages of their occupation of the southern part of New Mexico, the Mogollon built their stone houses on rock ledges and in caves. Best known of these are the Gila cliff dwellings, now a National Monument.At Gila there are five caves containing a total of about forty dwellings.  Investigators have discovered that the Mogollon farmed corn, beans and squash - a fruit of the bush-gourd and related to marrows. They used fibres from yucca plants, typical vegetation of the desert, for making sandals and the tiny 'aprons' worn by the women. The old town of Gallup founded on the Atlantic Pacific railroad to the west of Albuquerque in the northern part of the State sits in the middle of a true wilderness filled with the relics of earlier occupation. The Chaco canyon with its Anasazi ruins is among the best known and well preserved areas. Gallup is the starting point for visiting the homeland of the native Americans and their pueblos. Tribal people here include the Zuni, Hopi, Taos, Acoma and Navajo - the largest Indian Nation in the USA with 210,000 people spread across a reservation of more than 25,000 square miles, or 64,725km².

As a landmark in New Mexico's recent history, the world's first atomic bomb explosion stands alone.

July 16th 1945   A new era of warfare opened and life on Earth would never be the same again. The explosion was the culmination of years of nuclear research and a high pressure secret race to develop a weapon. The 'Manhatten Project' was the body given overall control of the work and a desert area known as 'Trinity Site'  was closed to all visitors. The site is rarely opened and has been designated an historic landmark. In July 1995 the site was opened as part of the 50th anniversary of  'The Bomb' and Charlotte was there. The focal point of the explosion - ground zero - can be seen and radioactivity has fallen to a sustainable level. The only danger comes from beads of fused material known as Trinitite. They are still radioactive and must not be touched.

Another military site not far away is the missile range at White Sands, a desert of pure gypsum.The range is closed but large areas of the sands are open to visitors who can enjoy one of America's most famous natural wonders.

Is Anyone Out There?   New Mexico can claim one of the first accounts of a UFO (OVNI) that landed or possibly crashed.  The Roswell Incident has been well documented and argued over since July 1947 when an object was seen falling to the ground near Roswell, 33.23N 104.31W, not far from Carlsbad and its enormous caverns. The first witnesses to arrive at the New witnessesimpact site described a crashed UFO with up to five small bodies inside. The wreckage seemed to be covered with strange markings. Officially the incident is closed. After years of probing by journalists and official denials, a large number of people believe there has been a gigantic cover-up by the authorities. Roswell has become embedded in the folk history of New Mexico and is likely to remain that way for years to come.

'Contact'. A movie from 1997 starring Jodie Foster and based on a book by the late Dr.Carl Sagan, contains some location filming at the site of a giant radio telescope in New Mexico. The highly rated film concerns the quest for intelligent life in space and we are left in no doubt that another race of great importance to mankind has started . New Mexico's National Radio Astronomy Observatory known as 'The Very Large Array' is some 52 miles -83kms west of Socorro in the southern part of the State.  Set at an altitude of 700ft -2165m,

a series of large dish radio antennas receive signals from the very edge of the universe. Each dish weighs 235 tons - or 238,730kgs - and can be directed with extreme accuracy to pinpoint objects in deep space. The signals are converted into images by computer.

Scientists at the VLA are adamant that their prime goal is not the search for life - but what if they do find a green planet whirling on the outer fringes? I bet they'll look over their white-coated shoulders to make sure they're not looking in a mirror and then keep quiet about it.

More information about the VLA can be obtained from National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Public Information Office, P.O.Box 0, Socorro, New Mexico 87801 USA.

Still in the Air New Mexico is a favorite with balloon enthusiasts who enjoy the space and cool air over the deserts. White Sands was the venue for the 1996 'Balloon Invitational'  when 75 hot air balloons arrived from all over the USA. Some of the designs were conventional but others came straight from a child's fantasy world....

And Even Hotter New Mexico is famed for its chiles, those spicy peppers used in numerous regional dishes. You wouldn't believe it but down there in 'the Old Southwest' a heated debate concerns the spelling of 'chile'.  The local way is with an 'e' and they are sticking to it. The spicy dish of beans and sometimes a little meat is 'chili'.

Chiles are one of the State's important crops and many varieties are grown, some with exotic names such as Sonora mild, Sandia picante, Barker extra-picante (wow!), Cayenne, and Jalapeno. The annual harvest is celebrated when the growers display brilliantly coloured ristras - or necklaces of chiles. At one time the ristra was the way chiles were dried before they were ground into powder. Today they are mostly for decoration. Later our features will turn to Latin American cooking and another feature will cover chiles and spicy cooking .   Recipes will be included.

Only a Taste   This page has space for only a taste of New Mexico.  Look out for Charlotte's work on the New Mexico pages in the archive.  We will include the Day of the Dead - celebrated on All Souls Day and All Saint's Day [November 1st and 2nd ].  Today the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos is a a festival of the Catholic church and followed by many.  A similar festival was observed by native American people who believed the souls of departed relatives would return each year. With the arrival of European culture the beliefs were seen as one and the November dates became set in the Americas. November 1st is traditonally for children while on the next day the adults gather at gravesides. Flowers, candles and a special bread pan de muerto are all part of the festival. More widely seen are the small papier maché dolls resembling skeletons, and events where people dress, rather ghoulishly in costumes resembling the dead.

More on New Mexico   Have you ever heard of Duck Racing or of a town named Truth or Consequences? For the history addicts there are Aztec ruins (but surely... aren't they in Mexico. Correct ... but there are ruins at a site called Aztec in New Mexico too). Finally, just across the border we will take you to 'Juarez' - Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua state. You can be assured that New Mexico 'is the USA with a difference'.  Bienvenidos

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