New Mexico's Zia

The zia is used on the state flag.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about symbols and how they get integrated into our surroundings. The reason this is on my mind is because in New Mexico, one simply cannot avoid the zia. It is literally everywhere. It is in store signage, on building exteriors, embedded into tile floors, on t-shirts, on the state license plate, and of course, the state flag. It is surprisingly ubiquitous.

Zia means “light” in Arabic and is also the name of an indigenous Indian tribe in New Mexico. What else is ubiquitous in New Mexico? Sun. Sunshine. Bright, blazing sunny sun sun. So that connection, I get. But I wonder: do builders or designers feel so impassioned by the state symbol to include it in all facets of our surroundings?

This is the aspect that I find most interesting — how the zia is integrated into both home and commercial buildings. Nowhere else have I lived can I think of a symbol so omnipresent that multiple houses on one block proudly showcase the same symbol. I mean, you don’t walk down a block in New York and see depictions of Lady Liberty in the ironwork of people fences or in the trim of their homes.

I have decided to start capturing the images of zias as I see them walking around town. I don’t have to go far for the first photo. Right in our entry, there is a zia design made of tile in the floor. Welcome Home.