New Mexico Is on Its Way to Become First State with Official Smell

  • This just begs the question, what would the official smell of other states be?

Almost every American is proud of some state. It doesn’t matter if you lived there your entire life, were born there but moved away, or immigrated from another state — there’s that one state that’ll always have a special place in our hearts.

Each state has its own set of officially recognized state symbols to showcase that state pride far and wide. State songs, colors, birds, and natural monuments are common ways to showcase the quintessential elements of your home state.

But no state has an officially designated state smell. That might be about to change, though.

New Mexico could soon become the first U.S. state with its own official aroma. A new bill is on its way through the state legislature that would appoint the whiff of fresh green chilies roasting in the fall as the New Mexico smell.

It’s an apt choice for the state. After all, New Mexico calls itself the Chili Capital of the World — although we’re sure some other places might argue otherwise.

The aroma bill, officially titled Bill 188, was sponsored by state senator William Soules. He, and the Legislative Finance Committee, believe it could attract tourists to New Mexico.

In fact, they’ve prepared a whole official report on it.

“Peak tourist season typically begins in March and tapers down toward the end of October, which would intersect with peak green-chile aromas,” the report states.

“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.”

Ouch. Colorado, need some aloe for that burn?

The State of Strange Symbols

Should the bill be signed into law, it would go into effect on June 16. After that, the “green chilis roasting in the fall” smell would join New Mexico’s other symbols.

Now, designating an official state aroma is a bit unusual. But then again, it’s not like New Mexico is a stranger to weird symbols.

For example, New Mexico has an official state tie — that being the bolo tie. The tie ties back to the state’s Native American and Wild West heritage, and it’s also the official state tie of Texas and Arizona.

Another symbol tying back to New Mexico’s history is its official state cowboy song. That song is “Under New Mexico Skies,” written by Syd Masters.

A much stranger state symbol is New Mexico’s state aircraft. Having an official aircraft isn’t that weird, but why did they pick the hot air balloon?

Oh, apparently it’s because Albuquerque hosts the annual International Balloon Fiesta. The more you know.

But then there’s the most bizarre symbol of all — New Mexico’s official state question. That question is: “Red or green?”

The question refers to — surprise, surprise — chilies. In New Mexican restaurants, it’s traditional to ask “red or green” when a diner orders a dish with chilies in it.

Wonder if the state smell would skew the answer one way or the other.

Smells Like Trouble

Yet the passage of Bill 188 isn’t a clear-cut deal. The report on its financial impact notes a couple of potential problems with the suggested state aroma.

First, the definition of the smell is highly specific. It clearly states the chilies must be roasting in the fall.

Usually, that’s no issue since the ideal harvesting time for chilies generally falls in early October. But the year’s weather could cause chili pods to mature as early as July.

Those chilies need to be roasted, but their aroma couldn’t be marketed as being quintessentially New Mexican. Yes, that is a serious issue.

Additionally, some chili farmers manage to get multiple harvests per year out of their fields. The report states that such intensive production is “completely justified” due to the high demand for green chilies.

“Under the legislation as written, these chiles roasted in the summer would be left out as part of the state’s official aroma,” the report reads.

That kind of smells like bad news. We’ll have to see if the bill goes through, or if the definition of New Mexico’s official aroma gets amended.