New Mexico Proposes First Ever Official 'State Smell' To End Chile Rivalry

Every state in the union has its own state symbols. These often include things like animals, trees, and flowers, but a new bill proposed in New Mexico's state legislature would make it the first state to have an official aroma. According to the Associated Press, a bill to make the smell of roasted chiles the state aroma of New Mexico has passed its first test on its way to becoming law.

Of course, the chile pepper has been a symbol of the state for a long time. It's already been chosen as one of the state's vegetables. It also serves as the unspoken subject in the state question, "red or green?" This is in reference to the near-constant question of which chile sauce a diner wants slathered onto their burritos, tamales, enchiladas, or any other type of food typical to the state.

Lonely Planet says that every autumn the smell of freshly harvested chile peppers fills the air throughout the state as they are roasted and sold at stores and roadside stands. Now, aroma may be codified into the law as having cultural importance to the state of New Mexico.

New Mexico looks for edge in chile rivalry

The Associated Press says that New Mexico State Senator Bill Soules came up with the idea during a conversation with a class of fifth-grade constituents in his district. Those same fifth graders were then present as expert witnesses during Senate Bill 188's first committee hearing with the members of the Senate Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee, per Albuquerque Journal.

Members of the committee questioned the students and Senator Soules on whether another aroma, such as dairy or oil pumps, would better serve to promote the industriousness of the state. One student responded by pointing out that the smell of chiles can be found throughout the state each year. The other industries, however, would show more of a regional bias. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a legislative analysis of the bill showed it could be used to boost the state's claim to the chile, and give it a leg up on its neighboring rival Colorado. "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," said the analysis. 

The Associated Press points out that 60% of the U.S. chile pepper crop came from New Mexico in 2021, and if this bill should become law, that reputation would only be further cemented. The bill was approved by the committee in a unanimous vote, and now must also earn the separate approval of both the New Mexico Senate and House, before being sent to the desk of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.