Some chile conference attendees noticed that New Mexico chile garnered some air time on the late night TV talk show circuit.
Earlier this month, Late Show host Stephen Colbert spent a few minutes talking about New Mexico chile. On the Feb. 2 episode, he begins:
“There’s a story out of New Mexico where they’re considering making the roasted chile its official state aroma,” Colbert said, adding that a New Mexican senator visited a class of fifth graders and they “sparked a conversation about these savory hot peppers and the potential for New Mexico to become the first state in the nation to have an official state aroma.”
Colbert joked about how he had assumed that “the official New Mexico aroma was an abandoned RV that a bobcat is living in” which riled a few New Mexicans who were watching.
“No Steven. Don’t talk like that about New Mexico,” posted “@cynthiaridgeway1100” on the Late Night Youtube clip. And “@margaretfensterer3550” posted: “Stephen, you joke about NM (chile) ‘aroma’ as you have never been here during harvest and don’t know anything about it. Come and experience!”
Others also invited Colbert to the state to enjoy the chile aroma.
“Hey man! I’m from New Mexico and the smell of hatch green chiles roasting outdoors in the fall is the greatest thing ever. You gotta come out here, Stephen, and try that smell for yourself,” posted “@JeffreyGillespie.”
And “@alfwatt” posted: “Anyone who’s ever lived in New Mexico will know exactly what the state aroma is and have fond memories of driving by the grocery store during (chile) harvesting season when the roasters are tumbling and the smell of fresh roasted Hatch Green (Chile) just wafts in the air… It’s enchanting.”
State Sen. William Soules was that senator, and is sponsoring Senate Bill 188, a bill that indeed declares “the aroma of green chile roasting in the fall” as the official aroma of New Mexico.
He said the idea of the bill started when he visited a fifth grade class at Monte Vista Elementary school as an invited speaker.
“I’m a former teacher, and so I’m trying to get them engaged, so I started asking them, ‘so does anyone know what’s the official bird of New Mexico?’ and someone knew it was the road runner, and so we went through a couple others,” he said.
The students chimed in about the smell of roasting chile in the fall, he said, and he implored the class: “Let’s see about putting the smell of chile roasting as our official aroma for the state of New Mexico. Would you all help me?” he recalled asking the students. “And then it became this kind of rapid fire — ‘what about this? And we could do that!”
So began the effort for New Mexico to become the first state in the nation to have its own aroma.
The fifth grade students served as expert witnesses during the bill’s first hearing, and have been writing letters to committee members “encouraging them to support this, and giving reasons why it is good for tourism, good for the state, and good for the chile industry,” said Soules.
“They’re full into lobbying mode,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be much, if anything, that’s going to stop it.”
The end of the state’s session is March 18, and, if all goes forward with the bill, the governor would then sign it by this summer.
“I have told the students that I will do what I can to get the governor to go and sign the bill down at Monte Vista Elementary School in Las Cruces,” said Soules.
Paul Koplewitz, a project manager for Curry Farms in Arizona who was attending the Las Cruces Chile conference, was impressed at the idea of New Mexico having roasting chile as its state aroma.
“Roasted chile smell, that’s great, that makes total sense,” he said with a chuckle. “You’d better get that done before Arizona does.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the Las Cruces elementary school. It’s Monte Vista. It also had the wrong date for the end of the current legislative session. It’s March 18. The story has been updated with the correct information.