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10 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About The New Mexico Flag

Flags. You gotta know how to hold 'em, you gotta know how to fold 'em.

If you've ever wanted to explore the dynamic world of vexillology with a New Mexico focus, get ready to raise your white flag and surrender ... to fun.

New Mexico has the best-designed flag of any U.S. state, territory or Canadian province, according to a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association, an organization dedicated to the scientific and scholarly study of flags.

The association publishes an annual peer-reviewed journal, the Flag Research Quarterly, undoubtedly subscribed to by Sheldon Cooper.

For the first 14 years of its statehood, New Mexico had no official flag.

And yet New Mexico has had not one, but two official state flags in its history.

The first was blue, with a small state seal in one corner and a miniature U.S. flag in another. It carried the words "New Mexico" along with "The Sunshine State" (long before Florida laid claim to the nickname in 1970).

In 1920, the Daughters of the American Revolution suggested that a new design be adopted — one more representative of New Mexico's unique character.

The colors honor the state’s Spanish conquistadorial heritage as well as Isabella I, Spanish queen of Castile and León, and the first woman to be on a U.S. coin.

The New Mexico state flag is interesting enough to be marketable. Although the ancient Zia Pueblo symbol appears on commercial products like license plates, motorcycles, portable toilets, jewelry, bumper stickers, t-shirts and hats, New Mexico never really got permission to use it.

The Zia Pueblo tribe claims the state appropriated the symbol without permission in 1925. The use of the Zia symbol illustrates both the shortcomings and the possibilities of using trademark law for indigenous groups seeking to protect their symbols. The tribe has made several attempts to use the federal trademark law to stop commercial entities from misappropriating its sacred symbol.

The size of the Zia Sun is about one third of the entire flag. It's simple and recognizable with a clean, geometric design (in comparison to other U.S. state flags).

The Zia symbol makes for some good-looking tattoos.

The central figure of the flag is the ancient Sun symbol of the Zia Indian Pueblo, which reflects the Zia philosophy of the basic harmony of the universe; all centering on the sacred number four.

Four represents many things, including the four seasons, the four directions of the Earth, the four stages of life (childhood, youth, adulthood and old age), and the Zia belief that with life comes four sacred obligations (one must develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others).

aerial image from Google Maps

The flag's Zia symbol influenced the architectural design and shape of the capitol building in Santa Fe.

The Zia symbol looks beautiful on hot-air balloons.