Inhabited by Indigenous peoples of the Americas for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory. Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, including descendants of Spanish colonists and recent immigrants from Latin America. It also has the second-highest percentage of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, after Alaska, and the fourth-highest total number of Indigenous peoples of the Americas after California, Oklahoma, and Arizona. The tribes in the state consist of mostly Navajo and Pueblo peoples. As a result, the demographics and culture of the state are unique for their strong Hispanic and Native-American influences. The flag of New Mexico is represented by the red and gold colors, which represent Spain, as well as the Zia symbol, an ancient symbol for the sun of that Pueblo-related tribe.
The name New Mexico, or Nuevo Mexico, is often incorrectly believed to have taken its name from the modern Republic of Mexico. New Mexico was given its name in 1563 and again in 1581, by Spanish explorers believing there were wealthy Indian cultures similar to those of the Mexica (Aztec) Empire. The Republic of Mexico, formerly known as New Spain, was given its name centuries later in 1821. The two developed as neighboring Spanish speaking communities, with relatively independent histories.