Every fall, the air in New Mexico is infused with the sweet, smoky scent of roasted chile peppers, a tradition that follows chile harvesting season. Now, a bunch of fifth-graders have spearheaded a campaign to deem that salivation-inducing bouquet as the scent of the Land of Enchantment, making it the first state to claim its own official aroma. On Tuesday, legislation passed in a state Senate committee that would do just that for the chile, already one of the state's official vegetables, reports the AP. The news agency notes that New Mexico produced upward of 60% of the nation's chile peppers in 2021.
Source NM delves into the bill's origin story out of a fifth-grade classroom at Monte Vista Elementary School in Las Cruces, where students were having a sit-down with state Sen. William Soules to learn about the legislative process, and about other laws tied to the state's cultural heritage. As they talked about the state bird and even state cookie, the students wondered why there was no official state aroma, considering how important roasted chiles are to the region. And so they pushed Soules to help them put the roasted chile aroma on the books, even appearing over Zoom as the state Senate Indian, Rural, and Cultural Affairs Committee met earlier this week.
Having the roasted chile as the state aroma "could increase tourism," one student testified. "It'll help local farmers and ... make lifestyle [in New Mexico] a lot better." A legislative analysis of the bill has shown that that student may be onto something regarding a benefit to tourism. Other grown-ups in New Mexico government besides Soules agree. "The aroma of New Mexico green chile being roasted is unmistakable and is recognized throughout the nation," New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said late last year, per the Las Cruces Bulletin. "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," Soules adds, per the AP. (Read more New Mexico stories.)