Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Enchanting Facts About New Mexico

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Compared to some of the states in the nation, New Mexico is a relatively young territory: It wasn’t officially recognized by President William Taft until 1912. But the culture of the southwestern landscape has made a tremendous impact on the rest of the world. Check out some facts on its Aztec origins, its unlikely exports, and how Smokey Bear got his start.

1. It isn’t really named after Mexico. New Mexico was coined in 1563 by Don Francisco de Ibarra, a governor of a Mexican province who thought the Indian people he saw in the territory reminded him of Aztecs—a discovery he later messaged as a kind of “new Mexico.” Mexico didn’t become known as Mexico until it dropped the New Spain label in 1821.

2. They were once invaded by the United States. President James Polk felt California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona should be part of his territory. Polk was initially nice about it, offering to buy the land, but when he was rejected, he ordered military forces to seize it by force in 1846. By 1848, Mexico had lost those states, which amounted to half of its property, to Polk’s aggression.


3. Infamous outlaw Billy the Kid was shot and buried in Fort Sumner in 1881. When he wasn’t busy working as a ranch hand, the man born Henry McCarty was reputed to have killed 27 people. A museum in the town features some of his original possessions, including a lock of his hair. 

4. It has its own Las Vegas. In 1900, the city on the Santa Fe trail was the largest in New Mexico, with a series of Old West legends like Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday passing through. Some of the original architecture remains for tourists.

5. People weren’t really sure what happened on July 16, 1945, the day the government detonated the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos: they were told it was an ammunitions explosion. While the engineering feat was later celebrated, some believe the resulting radiation caused health problems for nearby residents. 


6. The Taos Pueblo building is thought to be the oldest continuously-inhabited structure in the world. Erected sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D., the adobe walls were made from soil, water, and straw and are consistently replenished with mud to keep them supported. More than 150 families call it home.  

7. The Navajo people were instrumental in helping the Allies win World War II. Natives of New Mexico, they were recruited for their unwritten language—it has no alphabet or symbols. Virtually impossible to decipher without being raised learning it, Navajo soldiers were able to relay strategies, issue supply requests, and forward other key messages for the Marines without their “code” ever being cracked by enemy forces.

8. It wasn’t big on boxing. After a series of prizefights took place that drew negative press attention for their perceived brutality, New Mexico Governor William Thornton rallied fellow territories Texas and Arizona in banning bouts in 1896. When it became a state 16 years later, fighting resumed. 


9. It’s home to what entertainer Will Rogers once referred to as the Grand Canyon with a roof. Carlsbad Caverns was water-formed more than four million years ago, with three miles open to tourists. One popular attraction: the 250,000 Brazilian bats who hang out at the entrance and then swarm the night skies looking for insects. Their voluminous droppings were once shipped out and used as fertilizer for Florida’s citrus groves.

10. The town of Truth or Consequences changed its name to accommodate a publicity stunt. In 1950, the producer of the radio show bearing the same name told listeners he’d broadcast from the first locale to adopt the show’s title. Hot Springs took him up on the offer.

11. Despite its reputation for being a dry slice of desert, New Mexico’s Bandera Fire and Ice Cave offers two extremes. A collapsed tube in the volcano collects rain water that keeps a frosty surface thanks to temperatures that rarely exceed 31 degrees Fahrenheit.


12. The state bird is no fan of coyotes. The roadrunner received the honor in 1949, and is named for its preference of sprinting up to 15 mph to grab its prey. 

13. They don’t pay their legislators. State lawmakers aren’t granted a salary, but instead receive per diem compensation when the Legislature is in session that averages $16,000 a year. The perk? They receive a pension after 10 years of service, no matter what age they leave office.

14. The southern town of Artesia really looked out for its student population. During the height of Cold War paranoia in 1961, they constructed an elementary school that doubled as a bomb shelter. The entire building was located underground; kids were able to play on the roof at ground level. Despite the fact it had a morgue, the kids were largely oblivious to its secret identity. It closed in 1995 owing to high maintenance costs.


15. There really was a Smokey Bear, and he was found lost during the Capitan Mountains fire in 1950. The cub tried escaping the fire by climbing a tree; he survived, but received burns that needed treatment by animal conservationists. The resulting press attention led to a new home at the National Zoo, and a name: Smokey Bear. (There’s no “the”—that was added for a 1952 song.)

16.The residents of Taos have a noise problem. Since the 1990s, a “hum,” or faint buzzing, has been identified by several locals. Researchers have not been able to zero in on a possible cause, but it’s not helping real estate sales: some have moved because of the incessant noise.

17. It has an official state question: Red, or Green? The query refers to the state vegetable, the chile, and how ripe it is when served. You can also select option C—Christmas, which is a blend of the two.


18. They like to do a little effigy-burning. Zozobra, or “Old Man Gloom,” is a 50-foot tall figure made of sticks that’s burned every year in Santa Fe to help onlookers rid themselves of sorrow.  A smaller version is also torched in Aztec.

19. They’re incredibly serious about their hot air balloon rallies. The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta features a variety of creatively-shaped aircraft that makes it look like a Macy’s parade on steroids. The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta is a more modest affair, with craft launched over a lake.

20. They weren’t huge fans of unfiltered Shakespeare. The state received media attention in 1983 after ordering 400 “sexually explicit” words to be stripped from Romeo and Juliet in copies kept by school libraries.


21. It helped birth the UFO craze of the 1950s. In 1947, a local found debris from an unidentified craft 75 miles outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Military personnel quickly retrieved it and told media it was a collapsed weather balloon; a skeptical public believed otherwise. The town has since become a popular tourist attraction.

22. It has the can-you-believe-this-is-a-sport angle covered. The World Shovel Race Championships are held every year in Angel Fire: Contestants sit in unmodified snow shovels and slide down a snow-covered hill. The practice began in the 1970s, when ski lift operators would do it for fun. Riders can reach 60 mph.


23. It’s home to something that resembles another world. The White Sands National Monument sports over 275 square miles of white gypsum sand, which makes it resemble a kind of albino desert landscape. Because there’s hardly any source of water, native animals like the kangaroo rat have evolved to get their hydration from food sources like seeds.

24. It had a more tightly-contested electoral race than Florida in the 2000 presidential elections. While George Bush garnered 537 more votes than Al Gore in the Sunshine State, Gore beat him by 366 votes in New Mexico.


25. If you find yourself on a road trip, plan on a car wash: Sante Fe has more unpaved roads than any state capital in the nation. Beginning in 2016, the state will lower the default speed limit from 75 miles per hour to 55 on dirt paths. Think of it as more time to enjoy the scenery.

Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
10 Monster Facts About Pacific Rim
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.


Idris Elba in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Warner Bros.

One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.

“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”


Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”


In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.


Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.

Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."


Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.


Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.

“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”


A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.


Rinko Kikuchi in 'Pacific Rim' (2013)
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures

Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.


At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.


If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.

When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.

5 Ways to Define a Sandwich, According to the Law

It’s easy to say what a sandwich is. Grilled cheese? Definitely a sandwich. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato? There’s no question. Things start to get messy when you specify what a sandwich isn’t. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito, or an open-faced turkey melt?

The question of sandwich-hood sounds like something a monk might ponder on a mountaintop. But the answer has real-world implications. On several occasions, governments have ruled on the food industry’s right to use the delectable label. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg—pop culture icon, scrunchie connoisseur, and Supreme Court Justice—has weighed in on the matter.

When pressed on the hot-button issue as to whether a hot dog is a sandwich while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ginsburg proved her extreme judiciousness by throwing the question back at Colbert and asking for his definition of sandwich before making a ruling. Her summation? A hot dog fits Colbert's definition of a sandwich, and therefore can be considered one.

While RBG's ruling may not be an official one, it matches Merriam-Webster's bold declaration that a hot dog is a sandwich (even if the Hot Dog Council disagrees). Officially, here’s where the law stands on the great sandwich debate.


Hot dogs are often snagged in the center of the sandwich semantics drama. Despite fitting the description of a food product served on a bread-like product, many sandwich purists insist that hot dogs deserve their own category. California joins Merriam-Webster in declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich nonetheless. The bold word choice appears in the state’s tax law, which mentions “hot dog and hamburger sandwiches” served from “sandwich stands or booths.” Applying the sandwich label to burgers is less controversial, but it’s still worth debating.


When Qdoba threatened to encroach on the territory of a Panera Bread in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the owners of the bakery franchise fought back. They claimed the Mexican chain’s arrival would violate their lease agreement with the White City Shopping Center—specifically the clause that prohibits the strip mall from renting to other sandwich restaurants. “We were surprised at the suit because we think it’s common sense that a burrito is not a sandwich,” Jeff Ackerman, owner of the Qdoba franchise group, told The Boston Globe.

The Worcester County Superior Court agreed. When the issue went before the court in 2006, Cambridge chef and food writer Christopher Schlesinger testified against Panera [PDF], saying, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

Justice Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that Qdoba would be allowed to move into the shopping center citing an entry in Merriam-Webster as the most damning evidence against Panera’s case. “The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a ‘sandwich’ as ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them,’” he said. “Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term ‘sandwich’ is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.”


If you want to know the definition of a certain dish, the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good people to ask. It’s their job to make sure that the nation’s supply of meat is correctly labeled. When it comes to sandwiches, the agency follows strict criteria. “A sandwich is a meat or poultry filling between two slices of bread, a bun, or a biscuit,” Mark Wheeler, who works in food and safety at the USDA, told NPR. His definition comes from the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book used by the department (the USDA only covers the “labeling of meat, poultry, and egg products,” while the FDA handles everything else, which is why the USDA's definition excludes things like grilled cheese). Not included under their umbrella of foodstuff served between bread are burritos, wraps, and hot dogs.


The USDA’s definition may not be as simple and elegant as it seems. A sandwich is one thing, but a “sandwich-like product” is different territory. The same labeling policy book Mark Wheeler referred to when describing a sandwich lumps burritos into this vague category. Fajitas “may also be” a sandwich-like product, as long as the strips of meat in question come bundled in a tortilla. Another section of the book lists hot dogs and hamburgers as examples of sandwich-type products when laying out inspection policies for pre-packaged dinners. So is there an example of a meat-wrapped-in-carb dish that doesn’t belong to the sandwich family? Apparently strombolis are where the USDA draws the line. The Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book clearly states the product “is not considered a traditional sandwich” [PDF].


When it comes to sandwiches, New York doesn’t discriminate. In a bulletin outlining the state’s tax policy, a description of what constitutes a sandwich warrants its own subhead. The article reads:

“Sandwiches include cold and hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten, whether made on bread, on bagels, on rolls, in pitas, in wraps, or otherwise, and regardless of the filling or number of layers. A sandwich can be as simple as a buttered bagel or roll, or as elaborate as a six-foot, toasted submarine sandwich.”

It then moves on to examples of taxable sandwiches. The list includes items widely-believed to bear the label, like Reubens, paninis, club sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Other entries, like burritos, gyros, open-faced sandwiches, and hot dogs, may cause confusion among diners.


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