New Mexico considering naming a first-in-the-nation 'state aroma,' thanks to fifth-grade class
The state of New Mexico may soon have an official aroma, thanks in no small part to the spirited advocacy of a fifth-grade class.
Senate Bill 188 would designate "the aroma of green chile roasting in the fall" as the "official aroma of New Mexico."
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. William P. Soules, D-Las Cruces.
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On Jan. 31, the bill unanimously cleared the Senate Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee by a 5-0 vote.
A fifth-grade class from Monte Vista Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, served as the "expert witnesses" for the hearing and appeared virtually from their classroom, as the Albuquerque Journal noted.
"Is there anyone in the room who does not know what chile roasting smells like?" asked one of the students in the hearing, the publication pointed out.
The initiative began last fall when state Sen. Soules, a retired teacher, visited Monte Vista Elementary School along with another state senator.
The students then began a letter writing campaign, researching the possibility of a "state aroma," and worked on their public speaking skills, he told the Albuquerque Journal.
"Chile is important to New Mexicans and every fall we look forward to the aroma of chile roasting and that it is time to get our own chile," the Las Cruces Democrat told Fox News Digital by email. "This bill supports our chile farmers, cuisine, tourism and culture."
Soules continued, "In addition, this bill is working with children and giving them a direct route to engage in government and to learn the process of how bills become law."
He added, "They are my expert witnesses and they are lobbying committee members and the governor. They have learned about the economic impact of chile in New Mexico and will forever be a part of this legislation."
"While this bill is quirky, it is also a serious bill for New Mexicans because chile and the aroma of it roasting it is so deeply ingrained in our culture and identity," he also said.
The students were quick on their feet during questioning.
After one senator raised the idea of other smells — such as dairies and oil wells — being included as the official state aroma, a student replied that these smells were not unique to New Mexico, as the Associated Press noted.
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A fiscal impact analysis of Senate Bill 188 said that the legislation "may have a positive, though difficult to calculate, impact on tourism to the state," according to the same source.
"The New Mexico Tourism Department reports that peak tourist season typically begins in March and tapers down toward the end of October, which would intersect with peak green-chile aromas," said the analysis.
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The fiscal impact analysis also poked fun at New Mexico's neighboring state of Colorado – a state with "consistently" higher tourism rates.
"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 declaration of a "state aroma" would also serve as a way for "potentially increasing New Mexico-related trivia," the analysis also said.
New Mexico has a number of unusual official state symbols.
In addition to the more typical designation of state flower (yucca flower), state bird (roadrunner) and state tree (pinion tree), New Mexico also has a designated state aircraft (hot air balloon), cookie (bizcochito) and necklace (Native American squash blossom necklace), the state's website says.
Hot air balloons fly in front of Churchrock (center) at the 25nd Annual Red Rock Balloon Rally at Red Rock State Park in Gallup, New Mexico, 04 December 2005. (Photo credit Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
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The chile pepper also plays a role in three of New Mexico's existing official state symbols: the state's official vegetable, plus its official question and official answer.
The chile and the pinto bean are the official vegetables of the state of New Mexico, says the state's website.
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In another legislative quirk, the state's "official question" is "Red or green?" — referring to the preference of chile color — and the official answer is "Red and green or Christmas."
"Christmas" refers to a mixture of red and green chilies, notes the state site.
If the bill passes, New Mexico would be the first state with an official aroma.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.