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NM’s chile competition with Colorado heats up

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A still frame from the New Mexico Tourism Department fall marketing campaign “Chile Capital of the World” (New Mexico Department of Tourism)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Department of Tourism has launched a “Chile Capital of the World” campaign promoting the state’s signature crop with television commercials, billboards and other ads that will also run in Colorado.

“Our passion and pride for chile cannot be matched, and we believe this is the right time to frame this campaign around one of our greatest passion points,” said Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer in a news release announcing the campaign Tuesday.

Viewers in New Mexico have started seeing the 30-second commercial touting the only “true green chile” is in New Mexico because “we’ve been doing this for hundreds of years.” The video features scenes of chile fields and farmers, as a woman’s voice announces New Mexico chiles are grown in the perfect climate and rocky, rugged soil “where only the strong survive.”

The ad, which will also air in select cities in Colorado, refers to “our less fortunate neighbors to the north” and shows a man who looks like he’s wearing yoga pants stretching and a van with Colorado license plates being loaded with New Mexico chiles “so they can keep their families warm” all winter long, the announcer says, referring to Colorado residents.

The campaign will also have billboards in Colorado, namely in Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, that will proclaim New Mexico the “Chile Capital of the World.”

The New Mexico True ads aim to “highlight the culture and cuisine, while inspiring statewide pride” during chile season, according to the Department of Tourism. But the campaign will no doubt heat up competition with Colorado, which is trying to promote its Pueblo chiles.

Colorado’s governor was swift to respond after learning from the Journal about New Mexico’s campaign. “The fact that they have to design a promotional campaign in support of their chiles shows how superior the Pueblo chile is,” said Gov. Jared Polis.

“Our Pueblo chiles promote themselves. Granting yourself a title doesn’t simply make it true. One thing is for certain, Coloradans know the Pueblo chile is the best chile in the world,” Polis said in a statement emailed by his office.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham responded to that comment with her own statement via email.

“Even the Colorado chile growers who purchase their seed from New Mexico know the truth – New Mexico chile is and will always be king,” Lujan Grisham said.

In July, Polis started a Twitter war of words over bragging rights by tweeting his state’s chiles are “the best in the world” and describing New Mexico chile as “inferior.” That drew a sharp response from Lujan Grisham. “If Colorado wants to go chile to chile, no question that New Mexico can bring the heat. Hatch chile is, has been and always will be the greatest in the world,” she tweeted back.

Growers in Hatch are pleased to hear about the new chile marketing campaign, which began in September. “I’m all for publicity, so I like it,” said Jo Lytle. Her husband, Jim, bought their chile farm in the Hatch area when he was 15. He’s now 76.

She remembers another healthy competition with a governor of a neighboring state in the late 1980s when the Lytles opened the Hatch Chile Express store in the village. “We used to be threatened by Ann Richards, the governor of Texas, saying, ‘I’m gonna shoot jalapeños at you guys,’ ” Lytle recounted, chuckling.

“It’s so easy to offend people nowadays, so I tell people, get a life. Enjoy it. This is great,” she said of the competition with Colorado. As the green chile harvest wraps up, she said her family is grateful. “We praise God that we had a good crop this year,” Lytle said.

The New Mexico True chile marketing campaign runs through October, and encourages New Mexicans and fans of New Mexico chile to support local growers by stocking up this harvest season.

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