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New Mexico

N.M.  State Area Command  

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In 1540-’42 the spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado undertook an expedition to explore and find the mystical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola as described by Cabeza de Vaca who had just arrived from his eight-year ordeal traveling from Florida to Mexico. Over 50 years after Coronado, Juan de Oñate came north from Mexico and founded San Juan de los Caballeros, the first Spanish settlement in a new province of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, on July 11, 1598. The Native Americans at Acoma revolted against this Spanish encroachment but faced severe suppression. In 1610 the capital was moved and established in Santa Fe at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Although the colony failed to prosper, some missions survived. Spanish settlers arrived at the site of Albuquerque in the mid-17th century. Missionaries attempted to convert the natives to Christianity, but had little success.

The objective of Spanish rule of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico was exploitation of the native population and resources. The exploitative nature of Spanish rule involved them in nearly continuous raids and reprisals with nomadic Indian tribes on the borders, especially the Apache, Navajo, and Comanche.

Franciscan missionaries came to Santa Fe with Onate and a struggle ensued between secular and religious authorities. In the late 1650s the hostilities ended by the arrest of the governor and his trial by the Inquisition in Mexico City. Thereafter, the Franciscans reigned supreme in the province. Pueblo dissatisfaction with the rule of the clerics was the main cause of the Pueblo revolt.

The first major challenge to Spanish rule would come from the Pueblo Indians; the second would be an ongoing struggle against the nomadic Indians, especially the Comanche.

At the beginning of the 19th century the transition from Spanish to Mexican rule occurred  peacefully and Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico became a part of the Mexican Empire and the Mexican Republic.

In 1846, during the Mexican-American War, the American army entered Santa Fe without opposition and a joint civil and military government was established. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, Mexico ceded much of its northern holdings, including Nuevo Mexico.

The Congressional Compromise of 1850 halted a bid for statehood under a proposed antislavery constitution. Texas transferred eastern New Mexico to the federal government, settling a lengthy boundary dispute. Under the compromise, the American government established the New Mexico Territory on 9 September 1850. The territory, which included all of Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado, officially established its capital at Santa Fe in 1851. Statehood was finally granted to New Mexico on January 6, 1912.




The heraldry of New Mexico is purely european and american in spite of the fact that its european settlers lived for a long time within a large population of nomadic and Pueblo Indians.  In the time of spanish rule the heraldic emblems of the Spanish Empire, the Spanish Indies, and the viceroyalty of New Spain were, at least formally, also valid in Santa Fe. In the 17th and 18th century, in the era of  the domination of the Franciscan Order, its arms were probably seen. No remains of these arms however seems to have been preserved in any private or public collection.


Arms of King Philip III

On the frontispiece of “Historia de la Nueva Mexico, del capitan Gaspar de Villagra. En Alcala. Año 1610”.

The arms are in fact the arms of king Philip II until 1580


Arms of the Franciscan Order

in the time of its confrontation with the Governor of New Mexico.[1]


Present arms of the Franciscan Order

on the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre, Albuquerque


The coat of arms of the Franciscan Order showed the five wounds of Christ and the arms of a Franciscan friar and of Chirst in saltire both having the stigmata. In a newer version both arms are in a saltire with a latin cross radiant.


New Mexico


New Mexico's first seal was designed shortly after the organization of the Territorial Government, in 1851. The original seal has long since disappeared, possibly as part of the artifacts placed into the cornerstone of the Soldiers' Monument in the Santa Fe Plaza. Imprints of the original seal show it consisted of the American Eagle, clutching an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other. Along the outside rim was the inscription "Great Seal of the Territory of New Mexico."

In the early 1860s an unknown official adopted a new seal, using a design similar to today's Great Seal. It featured the American Bald Eagle, its outstretched wings shielding a smaller Mexican Eagle. The outside rim of the seal contained the words "Territory of New Mexico," with the date of 1850 along the bottom in Roman numerals.

In 1882, Territorial Secretary W.G. Glitch augmented the earlier design with the latin phrase "Crescit Eundo." meaning "It grows as it goes". It is a quote from Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). There, it refers to a thunderbolt increasing in strength as it moves across the sky, interpreted by the authors of the motto as a symbol of dynamic progress.



Coat of Arms, 1887

Seal, 1887


The seal of the territory was formally adopted by law on the 27th session of the legislature held in 1887 when that body passed an act entitled ‘An Act adopting and establishing the coat of arms and great seal of the territory,’ which was approved by the then Governor, Edmund G. Ross, on the first day of February, of that year. The first section of it reads as follows:

“’The coat of arms of the territory of New Mexico shall be the Mexican Eagle grasping a serpent in its beak, the cactus in its talons, shielded by the American eagle with outspread wings, and grasping arows in its talons. The date MDCCCL, under the eagles, and above that, on a scroll, the motto Crescit Eundo. That the great seal of the territory have the coat of arms thereon, being the same seal now used by the secreatry of the territory, and that the same be adopted and established as the official seal and coat of arms of the territory of New Mexico.’”.[2]


When New Mexico became a state in 1912, the Legislature named a Commission for the purpose of designing a State Seal. In the year and half it took the Commission to decide to adopt the new State Seal, the Legislature authorized interim use of the Territorial Seal with the words "Great Seal of the State of New Mexico" substituted. In June 1913, the Commission, which consisted of Governor William C. McDonald, Attorney General Frank W. Clancy, Chief Justice Clarence J. Roberts and Secretary of State Antonio Lucero, filed its report adopting the general design of the Territorial Seal, substituting only the date 1912.

The official act of the legislature reads:

The coat of arms of the state shall be the Mexican eagle grasping a serpent in its beak, the cactus in its talons, shielded by the American eagle with outspread wings, and grasping arrows in its talons; the date 1912 under the eagles and, on a scroll, the motto: "Crescit Eundo." The great seal of the state shall be a disc bearing the coat of arms and having around the edge the words "Great Seal of the State of New Mexico”.


That seal is still in use today as the official seal of New Mexico.


Nowadays the seal is usually represented in full color.


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay


Seal of the House of Representatives (201?)


A symbol referring to the pueblo- as well as the spanish past of New Mexico is on the flag adopted 15 March 1925.



The Daughters of the American Revolution pushed New Mexico to design a contemporary and unique flag in 1920. A contest to design the new state flag was won by Dr. Harry Mera of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mera was an archaeologist who was familiar with the Zia Sun Symbol found at Zia Pueblo on a 19th-century pot. The symbol has sacred meaning to the Zia. Four is a sacred number which symbolizes the Circle of Life: the four directions, the four times of day, the four stages of life, and the four seasons. The circle binds the four elements of four together.




Being a service of the New Mexico government the police uses the Great Seal of the state.



New Mexico State Area Command  [3]




New Mexico Army National Guard Crest for Coat of Arms


Description: That for regiments and separate battalions of the New Mexico Army National Guard: From a wreath of the colors, a coiled rattlesnake Proper.

Symbolism: The snake appears on the State seal. The serpent is the classic symbol of wisdom and the rattler is the American symbol of independence.

Background: The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of New Mexico was approved on 5 July 1922.

Distinctive Unit Insignia.


New Mexico Army National Guard Distinctive Unit Insignia


Description: A gold color metal and enamel device 11/8  inches (2.86 cm) in height overall consisting of a gold morion bearing the red Zia Sun Symbol from the State flag of New Mexico.

Symbolism: The Zia Sun Symbol was suggested by the State flag of New Mexico. The Spanish morion alludes to Coronado and the Spanish role in the early history of the State.

Background: The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the New Mexico Army National Guard on 17 April 1972. The insignia was redesignated on 12 August 1985, for Headquarters, State Area Command, New Mexico Army National Guard.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia.


New Mexico Army National Guard Shoulder Sleeve Insignia


Description: On a yellow shield (of the same shape depicted on the coat of arms of the United States) 2¼ inches (5.72 cm) overall in width and 2½ inches (6.35 cm) overall in length including a 1/8 inch (0.32 cm) red border, a red Zia Sun Symbol (in the same proportions as fixed by act of the New Mexico Legislature).

Symbolism: The colors red and yellow, the official colors of New Mexico, and the Zia Sun Symbol, the State's official emblem, were taken from the State flag of New Mexico.

Background: A shoulder sleeve insignia was approved for the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, New Mexico National Guard on 28 June 1955. That insignia design was cancelled and the current design authorized for the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, New Mexico Army National Guard on 7 March 1975. The insignia was redesignated for Headquarters, State Area Command, New Mexico Army National Guard, on 12 August 1985. (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-583)



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© Hubert de Vries 2013-11-30


[1] From: Francisco Coelho: Thesouro de Nobreza (1675), fol. 9

[2] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. Pp. 161-162.

[3] Retrieved from the site of the American Institute of Heraldry

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