I’ve always known that there are few people in this world, and in this country, and in the neighboring state of Texas, who do not know anything about New Mexico. Whenever I encounter someone in New England who has been to New Mexico, I’m overjoyed because it means they know where it is!
Even my well-meaning, extraordinarily intelligent friends ask questions that I think are obvious, which clearly means that NO ONES KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT NEW MEXICO AT ALL, so here’s a guide to help you. In the style of David Letterman:
The Top Ten Questions You Shouldn’t Ask a New Mexican
10. “That’s where they filmed Breaking Bad, right?”
9. “Is it really like that?”
Ahem. Is what really like what?
Assuming this is a follow up from the Breaking Bad question, are you asking: Is the landscape really that barren? Is it true you could park a trailer in the “middle of no where” and not be found for days? Is it true that high school chemistry teachers deal meth?
Yes, yes, and no (?), respectively.
I don’t watch the show, so I don’t know specifics. As thrilled as I am that we were put on the map by the glorification of cooking and selling meth, I couldn’t get past the first episode.
But I do know that the images are realistic of New Mexican landscape. I once overheard an East Coaster saying it wouldn’t be possible to park a van and stay undiscovered “in the middle of no where” because the cops would see it or someone would notice, etc. etc., and I’d like to falsify that claim.
Let’s take a look at Rhode Island in relation to New Mexico:
I was curious about the math, so I actually did it for you.
Verdict: New Mexico is 100 times bigger than Rhode Island. (121,697 sq. mi versus 1,212 sq. mi). Clearly my map was not to scale.
BUT –thinking of untouched space– the population of New Mexico is not 100 times that of Rhode Island’s, or even 50 times, or even 10 times Rhode Island’s. Our population is exactly twice that of Rhode Island. So, in case you’re wondering if its possible to wander out in the desert and never be found, the answer is yes.
As for other Breaking Bad questions, assume the answer is no.
8. “How did you learn to speak such good English?”
I’ve been speaking English my whole life. In fact, if anything, you should be surprised I speak a language other than English* because I am, well, an American.
*I don’t. But hypothetically.
What this question is really conveying is: “Wow, I would’ve never guessed you’re from a foreign country.”
Believe it or not, kids, New Mexico is often confused with Mexico.
Before you roll your eyes at me, please note that this happens ALLLLLL THE TIMMEEEEE.
“How is that possible?” you ask.
“Didn’t people learn that in, like, 3rd grade?”
“Are you sure they aren’t just kidding?”
“I don’t believe it.”
Well, Oh Educated One, believe it. Ask any New Mexican.** We have all been forced to clear up the misunderstanding that we are from Mexico.
Even within the smartest states of the union (Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut according to this article), at Ivy League Universities, I have had conversations that go like this:
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from New Mexico?”
“Oh really? Where in Mexico?”
New Mexico (New, as in NEW Mexico). In New Hampshire I was asked to provide a passport at the liquor store because my driver’s license “wasn’t enough;” in Rhode Island, the TSA security guard asked her colleague if she should accept a New Mexican drivers licenses (validating my ticket to Chicago); my boss recently thought when I wrote “the New Mexican in me” that I meant the newly Mexican part of me; I was charged international shipping when I wanted something from Ohio to be sent to New Mexico. The list goes on.
**7. You’re the first person I’ve ever met from New Mexico!
I know this one’s not a question, but it’s a weird statement to make. I enjoy being the Token New Mexican, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never felt the need to tell someone else that he or she is the first person from– say– West Virginia that I’ve ever met.
Perhaps it seems like eventually I’ll meet someone from West Virginia, so I don’t need to congratulate them or myself. The only time I’ve ever said something like that was when someone mentioned a country I couldn’t identify on a map.
Evidently, being from New Mexico is similar to being from Bhutan.
6. “It snows in New Mexico?”
I’ve gotten this question 5,934,834 times in the last month, so I feel I should elaborate.
Coming out of #Blizzardof2015, I can say I’ve never experienced that kind of snowfall before, but I have seen that white fluffy stuff fall from the sky before. This was taken from my backyard a couple of years ago:
In Roswell, we don’t get a lot of snow, but it happens. And then the whole city shuts down. We have one plow for the entire city, so “snow removal” isn’t a thing. If a neighborhood is shady (that is, without sunlight), it will stay snowy and icy for a while because most snow is removed by sun and warmth.
Fun fact: 2″ of snow merits a snow day.
In northern New Mexico, where the ski areas are, they get snow more regularly.
5. “Did you say skiing? Where is there skiing in NEW MEXICO?”
I suppose “on a mountain” is not obvious?
There are mountains in New Mexico. (Who do you think we are…Arizona?***) There are several, in fact. The Rocky Mountains don’t just stop at the Colorado border. Taos, New Mexico, is renowned for its skiing, but I spent most of my time at Ski Apache, which is an hour and a half from my house.
So, for future reference, when I say I’ve been skiing since the age of three, I’m not telling a weird New Mexican joke.
PS. Hate to break it to you, but downhill skiing in New Mexico is world’s better than downhill (ice) skiing in New England.
4. So. Winter?
People tend to equate New Mexico with living Southern Florida. Bathing suit weather year round!
Sorry to disappoint you, but we do have, like, cold weather. When it started to drop to about 40 degrees in Rhode Island, people kept saying, “I bet you’re missing New Mexico now!” as though I was used to the Sahara sun in December.
I’ve dispelled the myth about snow, so hopefully you’re aware it gets cold enough to snow, but just to be clear: the temperatures do drop, sometimes to the teens and 20’s, and when I still lived in Roswell, I remember people talking about ranching in zero degrees.
Desert cold and New England cold are two different beasts.
To begin, “damp” cold is A THOUSAND TIMES WORSE than the coldest, negative temperatures in the desert****. In New Mexico, a person’s idea of winter attire is a hoodie and jean jacket (with sherpa lining!), so they’re likely thinking it’s colder than it really is.
Last year I took home my knee-length down jacket (because that’s what I was wearing when I left Boston) and people in Roswell looked at me as though I should be setting up camp in the arctic tundra. They don’t need to invest in that kind of clothing because after one or two days of 20 degrees, it’s suddenly 70 degrees again and people are playing tennis, outdoors, in shorts, in the middle of February.
But…New Mexico can be beautiful in the winter!
(photo credit goes to my dad)
3. “Have you tried the Mexican restuarant on _______ street? It’s the best.”
No, and I will probably never set foot there.
It’s not that I think it’ll be terrible food (unless we’re in Texas); it’s just that it’s not real Mexican food. In the same way that a gluten-free pizza topped with pumpkin, pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes doesn’t remind an Italian of his homeland, shrimp tacos with pineapple salsa and a side of cilantro atop more cilantro doesn’t resemble anything I’d find at home.
The thing that all New Mexicans have withdrawals from is red and green chile. It’s impossible to find anywhere else. It’s what we smother all dishes in, and it’s what makes the dish. It’s spicy. It’s delicious. We’ve developed a heat tolerance that is unlike Asian food or Thai food or any sort of “Red Hot” sauce–a different flavor profile, but one that sets our mouth on fire, makes our noses run, our eyes water, our stomachs burn, and still we keep eating because IT TASTES THAT GOOD. If a restaurant doesn’t know what it means to smother a dish in red or green chile, they are not a real Mexican food restaurant.
Examples of NM Mexican food:
Please note: burritos should not be filled with rice. Rice is a side dish.
(I’d show you more pictures, but this happened:
2. “Do you miss Arizona?”
FOR SOME REASON, after learning that I’m from New Mexico, people will inevitably ask me how things are going in Arizona.
I’m not sure how this mental leap is made. First, I was from a foreign country. Next, I was the Token New Mexican Girl. And now I’m from Arizona?
I find this only slightly less upsetting than being confused with Mexico. I would never ask a native New Yorker if he was headed home to New Jersey for the holidays, so I’d appreciate it if you could keep your deserts straight.
Think Arizona, think Beyoncé:
AND THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK A NEW MEXICAN IS:
1. How far do camels spit?
A pen-pal from some distant place (like Maryland) asked my friend this question.
I don’t know. We don’t even have camels at our zoos.
But you can ask my friend, M-dog. He took this photo–maybe he knows: