Why New Mexico’s flag is so unique

Flag of New Mexico, from State Symbols USA page.


The colors on New Mexico‘s state flag are the red and yellow of old Spain.  The simple, elegant center design is the ancient Zia sun symbol, which represents the unique character of New Mexico .

The Zia Indian Nation of New Mexico regard the Sun as sacred.  Their symbol for the sun  (a red circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions)  is painted on ceremonial vases, drawn on the ground around campfires, and used to introduce newborns to the Sun.

Four is the sacred number of the Zia and is seen repeated in the four points radiating from the circle, each consisting of four bars.  To the Zia Indians, the number four represents:

The four points of the compass (east, west, north, and south)

The four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter)

The four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, and night)


The four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years, and old age)

The Zia’s belief is that life comes with four sacred obligations:  one must develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others.



New Mexico’s flag is unique and bright-colored which is exactly why it has been ranked as the best flag in the country.  Ted Kaye who wrote the book “Good Flag, Bad Flag” conducted an online survey for the best and worst state flags.

New Mexico came in first because of its colors and the distinctive Zia symbol.  

None is as well designed as New Mexico’s, at least according to the survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association, dedicated to the study of flags.  Its members favored “strong, simple, distinctive flags,” the group wrote in announcing the results of a survey conducted in 2001, its most recent such poll.  New Mexico’s flag conforms to all three principles. 

In the center of its yellow flag sits a red circle representing the sun, with four rays extending in each cardinal direction, forming the rough shape of a plus sign.  The flag, adopted 90 years ago, borrows that design, the Zia symbol, from the tribe of the same name:



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