(NEXSTAR) — If you’re one of the 265,000 people who moved to Colorado last year, you may not know where the name “Colorado” even comes from (you might also be uncertain what to call yourself — we’ve got you covered there, too).
To fully explain it, you have to look at some of Colorado’s most iconic features: its red rocks.
Whether it is Red Rocks Park, Garden of the Gods, or areas within Mesa Verde National Park, you don’t have to wander far in Colorado to spot dazzling red rocks.
Those red rocks, as well as the area’s red soil, helped create the name Colorado, which is closely tied to the Spanish translation of “colored red,” “coloreado rojo,” according to the state archives. There’s also “colorido,” which translates to “colorful.”
Congress selected the name when the state was only a territory in 1861.
Without the help of some advocates from a southern city, Colorado City, the state may have had a different name.
Dorothy Aldridge wrote in her book, “Historic Colorado City,” that representatives of the city advocated for the territory they lived in to be named after their city as a way to promote it.
They were, of course, successful. Had they not been, the territory could’ve been named something else. Options included Jefferson, Pike’s Peak, and Montana, according to the Colorado Springs Friends of Red Rock Canyon.
One of Colorado City’s founders, Anthony Bott, initially explained that “Colorado” serves as a nod to the red rocks around it, as well as the Spanish word for “red” (which is rojo, but remember, the Spanish word for “colored” is “coloreada”), Aldridge noted.
So what about the Centennial State moniker? That’s not even close to “colorful” or “colored red.”
That hinges entirely on our statehood. Colorado became a state in 1876, exactly 100 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, giving way to the nickname, Centennial State.
Why not the Red Rock State? We may never know, but it’s safe to say some of our neighbors with red rocks (like Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) may not necessarily be a fan.