Every fall in New Mexico, the sweet aroma of green chile being roasted on an open fire permeates New Mexico. It wafts from grocery store parking lots to roadside stands.
Now one state lawmaker says it’s time for everyone to wake up and smell the chile.
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Sen. Bill Soules’ visit with fifth grade students in his southern district sparked a conversation about the savory hot peppers and the potential for New Mexico to become the first state in the nation to proudly have an official state aroma, a proposal now being considered by lawmakers.
“It’s very unique to our state,”Las Cruces Democrat refered to roasting chile. “I have tried to think of any other state that has a smell or aroma that is that distinctive statewide, and I can’t think of any.”
New Mexico views chile as more than an ingredient in every meal. It’s life. It’s at the center of the official state question — “Red or green?” — and is one of the state’s official vegetables.
New Mexico produced 60% more of the U.S. Chile Pepper crop in 2021. Hatch, an agricultural community known for its unique red and green peppers has made it the chile capital. It is also used to make sauces, salsas, and powders that can be shipped around the world.
Legislation recognizing roasted chile as the official aroma passed its first committee on Tuesday, and supporters say it’s not likely to fire up much debate — other than lawmakers sharing their own stories about how they can’t go a day without eating it, from red chile lattes to smothered breakfast burritos to plates of enchiladas and tamales infused with the peppers.
“Chile is in the hearts and on the plates of all New Mexicans, and the smell of fresh roasting green chile allows us to reminisce on a memory eating or enjoying our beloved signature crop. We like to call that memory a person’s ‘chile story,’ and each of us as New Mexicans have a chile story,”Travis Day is the executive director for New Mexico Chile Association.
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It could pay to recognize the scent to help market New Mexico.
The bill’s legislative analysis noted that the peak tourist season usually begins in March, and tapers down towards the end October. This means it overlaps with the time of chile roasting. New Mexico’s visitation rate is consistently lower than Colorado. New Mexico had 84.2 million visitors in 2021, while Colorado reported 40 million.
“The new state aroma could help draw visitors away from Colorado, which, for some reason, thinks it has green chile comparable to that of New Mexico,”The analysis was a joke, in reference to the ongoing conflict between the states.
Soules is a former elementary school principal and teacher who has used the aroma legislation to educate fifth graders about the legislative process. As part of their preparation to testify in support of the bill, students researched state symbols from New Mexico and other states.
“They’re learning how to lobby, how to write letters to legislators to support this bill, they’re practicing their public speaking,” Soules said. “They’re learning lots about other things as part of their curriculum around this as a topic, so it’s a good education too.”
This article was written by The Associated Press.
The full article is available here here