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Home » New Mexico considers making roasted chile the official state smell
SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) — The sweet smell of green chili being roasted on an open flame permeates New Mexico each fall, wafting from street stalls and grocery store parking lots and sparking delicious visions of culinary wonder.
Now a state lawmaker says it’s time for everyone to wake up and smell the chili.
Senator Bill Soules’ visit to fifth-grade students in his southern district sparked a conversation about the savory hot peppers and the potential for New Mexico to become the nation’s first state to have an official state flavor, a proposal currently being considered by Legislature is being considered.
Senate Bill 188, sponsored by Soules, seeks to adopt “the flavor of green chili roasted in the fall” as “the official flavor of New Mexico.” If approved, the aroma would join a list of more than 20 other state symbols, not to mention a handful of state songs, a ballad, and a poem.
For New Mexico, chili is more than a key ingredient in every meal. So life is. It is at the center of the official state question – “Red or Green?” – and is one of the state’s official vegetables.
Producing more than 60% of the US chili pepper crop in 2021, New Mexico is home to Hatch, a farming village known as the world capital of the Chileans for the unique red and green peppers it has produced for generations. The famous crop is also used in powders, sauces and salsas that are shipped worldwide.
Soules introduced the bill to the state’s Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee on Tuesday. A fifth grade class at Monte Vista Elementary in Las Cruces voted in favor of the bill.
While green’s status as a potential “flavor of state” does not seem ripe for controversy, at least one committee member at Tuesday’s meeting offered alternative ideas. One lawmaker suggested considering “the smell of oil and gas” or “dairy farms,” but students countered Chile’s “everywhere” presence.
“No matter where you go in New Mexico, you’ll smell green chili,” an unnamed student said during Tuesday’s committee hearing. “But in other states, other parts of the areas in New Mexico, they don’t have the smell of cows and stuff like that. Green chili roasting is everywhere.”
The bill was voted 5-0 in committee on Tuesday. If it comes to the 2023 legislature, the scent would be the 22nd official state symbol.
Official recognition of the aroma could also pay off as another way to market New Mexico to visitors.
A legal analysis of the bill found that peak tourist season typically starts in March and tapers off towards the end of October, meaning it overlaps with the time for chili roasting. The analysis also found that New Mexico has consistently lower visitor numbers than neighboring Colorado, which recorded 84.2 million visitors in 2021, compared to about 40 million in New Mexico.
“The new state’s flavor might help lure visitors away from Colorado, which for some reason believes it has green chili on par with that of New Mexico,” the analysis quipped, alluding to an ongoing feud between the two states.
Soules, a former teacher and elementary school principal, used the aroma legislation as an opportunity to educate fifth graders about the legislative process. Students have researched state symbols in New Mexico and elsewhere in preparation to testify on behalf of the bill.
“They learn how to lobby, how to write letters to legislators to support this bill, they practice their public speaking,” Soules said. “They learn a lot of other things on this subject as part of their curriculum, so it’s a good education too.”
Here is a slide show of the various officially recognized state symbols of New Mexico. Don’t miss the following list for a breakdown of the various state poems and songs, including the state’s “official cowboy song”!
State Symbols, Poems and Songs of New Mexico: State Flower: Yucca. State bird: Chaparral, commonly referred to as the “roadrunner”. State Tree: Nut Pine or Piñon Tree. State Fish: Cutthroat Trout. State animal (mammal): The black bear of New Mexico. State Vegetables: Chile and Frijoles or Pinto Beans. State Jewel: Turquoise. State Grass: Blue Grama Grass or “Bouteloua gracillis”. State fossil: Coelophysis. State cookie: Biscochito or Bizcochito. State Insect: The tarantula or “Pepsis formosa”. Status question: “Red or green?” State response: “Red and green or Christmas.” State nickname: “The Land of Enchantment”. State butterfly: The Sandia butterfly. State reptile: The New Mexico whiptail lizard or “Cnemidophorus neomexicanus”. State amphibian: the New Mexico spadefoot toad. State Aircraft: Hot Air Balloon. State Historic Railway/Train: The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. State tie: The bolo tie. State Necklace: The Native American Squash Blossom Necklace. State capital: The city of Santa Fe and the Roundhouse Capitol Building. State Flag: Sometimes called “the Zia Flag,” described as the red sun symbol of the Zia Pueblo depicted in a gold field. State Seal: A circle depicting an American bald eagle with wings outstretched shielding a smaller Mexican eagle symbolizes the transfer of sovereignty from Mexico to the United States in 1846. The phrase “Great Seal of the State of New Mexico *1912* is on it written the edge of the circle. State motto: “It grows as it goes”, an English translation of the Latin expression “Crescit Eundo”. State slogan (for business, commerce, industry): “Everyone is someone in New Mexico.” State poem: “A Nuevo Mexico”, written by Luis Tafoya, in English and Spanish. State folklorist: Claude Stephenson. State Guitar: A guitar known as the “New Mexico Sunrise”. State Song – English: “O Fair New Mexico”, written by Elizabeth Garrett. State Song – Spanish: “Asi Es Nuevo Mexico”, written by Amadeo Lucero. State Ballad: “Land of Enchantment”, written by Michael Martin Murphey. State bilingual song: “Mi Lindo Nuevo Mexico” written by Pablo Mares. State Cowboy Song: “Under the New Mexico Skies” written by Syd Masters. The Associated Press contributed to this report.