ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Catholic community health organization wants to draw attention to child poverty in New Mexico and is using a parody of the state’s successful tourism ad campaign to do it.
Catholic Health Initiatives St. Joseph’s Children, a group that is pushing for the expansion of early childhood education, this week launched a “New Mexico Truth” campaign consisting of a website and commercials about how children in the state suffer economically.
The organization’s CEO, Allen Sanchez, said the website is meant to parody the “New Mexico True” campaign that has been credited with boosting tourism.
“The year of El Nino,” the website NewMexicoTruth.org boasts, using the term that means “the child” in Spanish but also describes a weather pattern with unusually warm temperatures.
That declaration is followed by various statistics on child poverty. Specifically, the website cites Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2015 report that ranks New Mexico 49th in the nation in children’s well-being.
The poverty campaign also uses a logo similar to “New Mexico True,” a multimillion campaign with slick commercials and online videos of the state’s landscapes and cultural attractions.
Heather Briganti, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Tourism Department, criticized the new campaign and called it an attack on the state.
“We’re completely disappointed that anyone would try to steal the New Mexico True campaign — which shines a positive light on our communities — in order to trash the state and shamelessly promote their political agenda,” Briganti said. “Not only is this smear campaign on our state in poor taste, but also a blatant copyright infringement.”
Mike Lonergan, spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, also denounced the campaign.
“This is nothing more than a petty, cynical attempt to hijack an ad campaign that showcases the beauty, diversity and wonders of New Mexico – one that is bringing tourists and revenue to communities large and small – in order to score cheap political points,” Lonergan said.
Sanchez said the intent of “New Mexico Truth” is not to criticize the tourism campaign, but it does want state officials to address child poverty by expanding early childhood education by dipping into one of the state’s permanent funds.
“If you want people to visit our home, that’s fine,” Sanchez said. “But you better make sure that you have our children fed.”