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12 Things Everyone From New Mexico Has to Explain to Out-of-Towners

New Mexico Student Work
by Jim O'Donnell Apr 16, 2015

1. New Mexico is PART OF the United States of America.

We forever suffer from Americans’ geographical ignorance. Do you need a passport to visit New Mexico? No. Pick up a map folks.

2. New Mexico is poor.

In fact, this is the poorest state in the country. And sometimes what that poverty looks like can be a little shocking – especially for visitors from wealthier states. Buck up.

3. It isn’t Tex Mex. It’s New Mex.

Bro. Listen. New Mexico’s cuisine is unique. While there may be some surface similarities, this is not the kind of food you find in Texas, Arizona, or California. Instead, it’s a good example of what you get when you toss Spanish, Mediterranean, Aztec, Puebloan, Navajo, and cowboy food culture all in one giant pot and give it a stir. So don’t be rolling into Española asking where you can get some Tex Mex. You might not make it out of town alive. Now, pass me the caribe. My jocoque is a little dry. Do you mind if I put some posole in my Guisado de Chile Verde?

4. And by the way…it’s chile not chili.

Eeeeeee! Chili is a soupy thing they make with beans and meat in places like Texas. It tastes like BBQ or some such. Chile is a fruit — the spicy fruit of life and all that is good.

5. No. New Mexico does not look like Tucson.

I once toured an Associated Press photographer around the state for a few days. Every 15-20 minutes he exclaimed “But this isn’t what New Mexico looks like!” I assured him…this is exactly what New Mexico looks like. When we finally got down to it he told me that he had expected New Mexico to look something like southern Arizona or the Sonoran Desert in northern Mexico. Nope. No saguaros here. These are called forests.

Some visitors have told me they’d thought New Mexico looked something like Arizona’s Monument Valley. Nope. Not that either. We boast literally one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. From snow-capped 13,000 foot peaks dressed in pines and spruce and brilliant wildflower fields to jungle-like riparian forests of towering cottonwoods to white sand dunes and vast expanses of prairie, there is no one thing New Mexico looks like. Except awesome.

6. One inch of snow does not shut down the whole state.

Most of New Mexico gets regular winter snowfall, and in the north we frequently get several feet of snow each winter.

7. Your gas pedal is there for a reason.

New Mexico has mountains. Lots and lots and lots of mountains. That means lots of steep, winding roads. Seriously, there is nothing more annoying than creeping behind your giant fifth wheel-Winnebago-tour-bus thing over Glorieta Pass or trying to stay awake while behind your Texas-sized Suburban chugging its way up Bobcat Pass with a scared ninny at the wheel hitting the breaks for every swerve in the road. It’s a gas pedal people. Use it.

8. Christmas is served every day of the year.

When the waiter asks if you want “Christmas” on your burrito or enchilada he or she wants to know if you want BOTH red and green chile.

9. We have the best sunsets in the world.

We have breathtaking sunsets on average 340 evenings a year. And more often than not our sunrises are pretty stunning too. Why? It’s the crystal clear air and the soft high clouds. A photographer’s dream.

10. You’ll need to drink more water.

We are high up and dry. The sun and the air just suck the moisture out of your body. While we New Mexicans are made of tough stuff, you delicate outsiders best keep yourself well hydrated.

11. New Mexico has a monsoon season.

May and June are always terribly hot and dry for us in the Southwest. That heating of the high deserts, however, eventually causes a shift in the wind patterns that brings a change in the way moisture flows over the entire continent. Moisture is sucked from the Gulf of Mexico up and over our mountains where it builds into glorious afternoon rains that kick off around July 1st. It is the best time of year.

12. And the first wineries in North America.

Franciscan García de Zúñiga and a monk named Antonio de Arteaga started growing wine grapes along the Rio Grande around 1629. By the late 19th century, New Mexico was THE wine growing region in the United States, producing over a million gallons each year. These days, nearly 50 wineries dot the landscape and many of the wines produced here are award-winning and well worth your time. So there’s that.

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