Mountainair is located on US Highway 60 in central New Mexico, just east of the Manzano Mountains. The Salinas Pueblo Missions' main visitor center is in Mountainair.

The Belen Cutoff of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad ran through Mountainair from 1907 into the late 1960's (I should have said "passenger trains" here, which did stop running in the 1960's, but the freight trains continue to this day). The town had been founded at the summit of Abo Pass in 1903. Being at the summit of Abo Pass, getting the train to stop was reasonably easy, and in those early years, Mountainair boomed. The world's largest pinto bean processing center was built here and Mountainair proudly claimed the title of Pinto Bean Capital of the World. In 1946, the population peaked at about 5,000 people, then a bad 10-year drought set in. The government paid people to conserve the topsoil by not farming. That's when the changeover to cattle ranching began.

These days, Mountainair has been attracting folks who just plain like the rural feel of the area. The 1980's saw Mountainair appear on the retirement and arts radars and the town has been seeing a slow renaissance ever since.