The idea for a major commemorative exposition was born on the University of New Mexico campus, and it was led by the school's energetic and history-minded President James F. Zimmerman. He
proposed an elaborate statewide celebration that would awaken the general population to the priceless heritage of New Mexico's
long and thunderous history.To gain public support, Zimmerman
pointed out that the event would have both high cultural value but also significant economic benefits.
In 1935 UNM made its case before the Legislature and obtained passage of a special act creating a state commission to handle the planning and fundraising for the Coronado program. Zimmerman
was placed in charge, and additional commission members included New Mexico authors Erna Fergusson, Gilberto Espinosa and Ruth Laughlin Alexander.