Constituent state of the United States of America. Its 121,593 square miles (314,925 square kilometres) make it the fifth largest of the U.S. states; it has only 258 square miles of water. Rectangular in shape except for a small panhandle in the southwestern corner, New Mexico is bounded on the north by Colorado, on the east by Oklahoma and Texas, on the south by Texas and the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and on the west by Arizona, which was part of the Territory of New Mexico from 1850 to 1863. At its northwestern corner it joins Arizona, Utah, and Colorado in the only four-way meeting of states in the nation. The capital is Santa Fe.
A state of the American Southwest, New Mexico is part of the “Old West” of cattle drives, cowboys, and clashes between pioneers and Apache Indians. In the vast flatness of its Great Plains and the rough, weather-scored peaks of its mountain ranges, it still retains much of its frontier flavour. Severe tensions and increasingly frequent confrontations between its Spanish-American (Hispano), Indian, and Anglo (i.e., English-speaking white) populations are a continuing reminder of the bitter antagonisms that characterized its long history and were still unresolved when it became the 47th state inthe Union in 1912.
Despite the traditionally agrarian nature of the state, augmented by successful irrigation methods, New Mexico has become urbanized. Large numbers live in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo county. Santa Fe is a much smaller city, but itsfounding in 1610 preceded that of Albuquerque by 96 years, and it is the oldest continuously used seat of government in North America. It was also the southwestern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, a wagon trail that was a major commercial and migration route from Missouri to the Southwest from 1821 to 1880, when the railroad was completed.