61 Amazing Vintage Photos of Life in New Mexico during the Early 1940s

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern United States. It is one of the Mountain States of the southern Rocky Mountains, sharing the Four Corners region of the western U.S. with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, and bordering Texas to the east and southeast, Oklahoma to the northeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora to the south. The state capital is Santa Fe, which is the oldest capital in the U.S., founded in 1610 as the government seat of Nuevo México in New Spain; the largest city is Albuquerque.

New Mexico is the fifth-largest of the fifty states, but with just over 2.1 million residents, ranks 36th in population and 46th in population density. Its climate and geography are highly varied, ranging from forested mountains to sparse deserts; the northern and eastern regions exhibit a colder alpine climate, while the west and south are warmer and more arid; the Rio Grande and its fertile valley runs from north-to-south, creating a riparian climate through the center of the state that supports a bosque habitat and distinct Albuquerque Basin climate. One–third of New Mexico’s land is federally owned, and the state hosts many protected wilderness areas and national monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the most of any state.

New Mexico’s economy is highly diversified, with major sectors including oil and mineral extraction, cattle ranching, agriculture, lumber, scientific and technological research, tourism, and the arts, especially textiles and visual arts. Its total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 was $95.73 billion, with a GDP per capita of roughly $46,300. State tax policy is characterized by low to moderate taxation of resident personal income by national standards, with tax credits, exemptions, and special considerations for military personnel and favorable industries; subsequently, its film industry is one of the largest and fastest growing in the country. Due to its large area and economic climate, New Mexico has a significant U.S. military presence, including White Sands Missile Range, and strategically valuable federal research centers, such as Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. The state hosted several key facilities of the Manhattan Project, which developed the world’s first atomic bomb, and was the site of the first nuclear test, Trinity.

In prehistoric times, New Mexico was home to Ancestral Puebloans, Mogollon, and the modern Comanche and Utes. Spanish explorers and settlers arrived in the 16th century, naming the territory Nuevo México after the Aztec Valley of Mexico, more than 250 years before the establishment and naming of the present-day country of Mexico; thus, the state did not derive its name from Mexico. Isolated by its rugged terrain and the relative dominance of its indigenous people, New Mexico was a peripheral part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Following Mexican independence in 1821, it became an autonomous region of Mexico, albeit increasingly threatened by the centralizing policies of the Mexican government, culminating in the Revolt of 1837; at the same time, the region became more economically dependent on the United States. At the conclusion of the Mexican–American War in 1848, the U.S. annexed New Mexico as part of the larger New Mexico Territory. It played a central role in American westward expansion and was admitted to the Union in 1912.

New Mexico’s history has contributed to its unique demographic and cultural character. One of only six majority-minority states, it has the nation’s highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino Americans and the second-highest percentage of Native Americans after Alaska. New Mexico is home to part of the Navajo Nation, 19 federally recognized Pueblo communities, and three different federally recognized Apache tribes. Its large Hispanic population includes Hispanos, who descend from early Spanish settlers, as well as Chicanos and Mexicans. The New Mexican flag, which is among the most recognizable in the U.S., reflects the state’s eclectic origins, bearing the scarlet and gold coloration of the Spanish flag along with the ancient sun symbol of the Zia, a Puebloan tribe. The confluence of indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, Hispanic, and American influences is also evident in New Mexico’s unique cuisine, music genre, and architectural style. (Wikipedia)

These photos were needy lives but full of joy of people in New Mexico in the early 1940s. They were taken by photographer John Collier Jr..

A boy reading in one-room school in an isolated mountainous Hispanic community, Ojo Sarco, New Mexico, 1943
A dance, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
A family around the kiva fireplace, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
A family around the kiva fireplace, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
A family around the kiva fireplace, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
A gunsmith as well as a cattleman chatting in front of his shop, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
A family in their wagon, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
A man and his wife studying maps of the world, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
A man with his family, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
A ninety-nine-year-old man reading in his room, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
A nurse and an interpreter trying to reach a patient’s house beyond passable roads, Llano Quemado, New Mexico 1943
A nurse from the clinic operated by the Taos County cooperative health association, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
A stockman churning butter after a hard day in the saddle, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
A young nurse lying on bed, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
An old couple, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Around the woodstove in the general store, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Boy with his chemistry set, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
Children asleep in their bed, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Children in Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Christmas Eve pageant, New Mexico, 1942
Congregation leaving after mass, San José de Gracia, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Congregation leaving after mass, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Cutting and splitting wood for the fireplace and the cook stove, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Dentist making an extraction, Questa, New Mexico, 1943
Dinner in the kitchen, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
Doing homework on the kitchen table, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Doing the family washing, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Emergency transport, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Father and parishioners, Taos County, New Mexico, 1943
Father giving a sermon in Spanish, San José de Gracia, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Father on a field trip with a boy scout troop in Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Going to the mountains for wood, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Gunsmith at work, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
Harnessing up the team to get ready for a trip to the mountains in order to collect for wood, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Boy in grade school, Questa, New Mexico, 1943
Homework on the ranch, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
In front of the general store, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
In Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
In the general store, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
In the one-room school, Ojo Sarco, New Mexico, 1943
Leaving church on Sunday, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Listening to folk songs, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1943
Man and his son cut down a dead tree for firewood, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Man and his son drawing water from the river, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Men rebuilding house roof, Ojo Sarco, New Mexico, 1943
Mother helping her children with their homework, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Mother helping her children with their homework, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Old woman in her room, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Orchestra at a dance, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Pitching hay into a hay rack for winter feeding, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
Sewing, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Snow being melted down for wash water, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Sorting beans for the morning meal, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Spinning wool by the light of the fire, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
Starting out on the range in a snowstorm, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943
Students in front of one-room school, Ojo Sarco, New Mexico, 1943
The keeper of the general store, Trampas, New Mexico, 1943
The radio is the only contact with the outside world, Peñasco, New Mexico, 1943
Troop of boy scouts, Taos County, New Mexico, 1943
Writing to a boyfriend in the United States Army, Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico, 1943

(Photos from John Collier Jr.)

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