A new bill moving through the New Mexico legislature would make the state the first in the nation to have its own official aroma: green chiles roasting in the fall.
Democratic state senator William Soules sponsored Bill 188, which seeks to add to the roster of New Mexico’s state symbols. Other symbols include the yucca flower, roadrunner, cutthroat trout and New Mexico black bear.
If the bill passes, the state aroma would join some of New Mexico’s more unusual symbols, like the bolo tie (the official state tie) and the air balloon (the official state aircraft). It would go into effect on June 16, according to the New Mexico legislature’s website.
A fiscal impact report on the proposed symbol addition noted that it “may have a positive, though difficult to calculate, impact on tourism to the state.”
New Mexico’s peak tourist season – starting in March and ebbing towards the end of October – typically intersects with the peak of green chile season in the state.
“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 report said.
But there was a technical issue noted in the report: The bill’s specificity would leave out red chiles and chiles roasted in the summer.
Chile colors are already featured among the state’s odder symbols, with New Mexico’s official state question being “Red or green?” – and the answer being, “Red and green or Christmas.”
“In addition to potentially increasing New Mexico-related-trivia, the legislation could increase contention in the great ‘Red or Green?’ debate, swaying the answer towards green,” the report said. “Further comment on the definitive answer to the ‘Red or Green?’ question is (unfortunately) beyond the scope of this analysis.”
The bill has already passed the state senate’s Health and Public Affairs Committee and the Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee. The next step is a vote with the full state Senate, according to a tweet from Soules.
New Mexico’s Department of Tourism describes the state as the “Chile Capital of the World” on its website. The spicy fruits have been grown in the state for at least 400 years, starting when conquistador Don Juan de Oñate brought crops from Mexico to the area now known as New Mexico.
In 2021, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture estimated that the state’s chile production was worth $44.9 million with a total of 51,000 tons of chile produced.