It's Not New, and It's Not Mexico

Since its genesis in 1970, this been one of our most popular departments. Here, a selection of notable items detailing myriad misconceptions about New Mexico’s geographical identity.

A noteworthy precursor to “One of Our 50 Is Missing” appeared in the March/April 1970 issue. Ernie Blake, director of the Taos Ski Valley, addressed this letter to James O. Robertson, director of the New Mexico Department of Development:

Only 49 states?

“Monday I took a friend in the brokerage business to dinner in New York at the Plaza Hotel, at its Trader Vic’s. When we were through, I attempted to pay with my American Express card. After some delay, it was returned and I was informed that the hotel accepted American Express only from within the U.S. boundaries.

“My attempts to refer to the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo were rejected coldly and with disdain. After some negotiation and a threat to call the Mexican consul general in New York City, my credit card was finally accepted, but only after my broker friend guaranteed our bill. It seems to me our magnificent state should make a major effort to convince the people of the United States that we are (still?) a bona fide part of this country and that they can visit here to ski, to hunt or fish, or just relax without the need for shots or a passport.”

That’s just what New Mexico Magazine tries to do every issue, Ernie, the editor replied.

 

ONE OF OUR 50 IS MISSING
May/June 1970

This was the first report of “Fifty” confusion  in “Mailbag”: Now comes a letter from reader Bruce Atkinson in Manhattan:

“I have been trying to locate a newsstand which carries copies of New Mexico Magazine locally, but everywhere I am told that ‘foreign magazines’ are not handled. Your prompt attention to this subscription letter will be appreciated.”

 

RETURN TO SENDER
December 1978

It happened to David Cargo, a former New Mexico governor now in law practice in Oregon. Cargo dropped a letter addressed to Santa Fe in the mailbox. Within a few days, the letter was back—stamped devuelto (returned)—along with the postman with his hand out to collect postage for Mexico.

Cargo reassured the doubting post office that New Mexico was, indeed, a state in the United States—and presumably he was able to send the letter on its way.

 

STEALING OUR GLORY
February 1983

From the first “One of Our 50 Is Missing” column: Michael Bristow, a New Mexican who recently moved to California, wrote about an article he saw in the June 6, 1982, edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. The United Press International (UPI) story ran with the dateline “gallup, ariz.,” and the headline was “grand canyon state, gallup area center for indian jewelry.”

 

LOST IN SPACE
January 1988

Someone in NASA must think New Mexico is on the moon. Or out there beyond Pluto.

Yvonne Jasso of Doña Ana discovered that the Kennedy Space Center was selling a coin commemorating the historic space shuttle landing at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. The packaging for the coin correctly stated that Columbia touched down at White Sands on March 30, 1982. But in a glitch, California was listed as the home of the range.

Yes, there could be a song title here. Sen. Pete Domenici certainly was humming when he blasted off a letter to NASA requesting that the agency get New Mexico in the sights of its telescopes. At last report, the false packaging had been jettisoned.

Karl S. Halpert, of Portland, Maine, and Fred W. Tully, of Alamogordo, brought this situation to light. Now if we can only keep the astronomers out of the dark.

 

SKIDDING AT INDY
August 1993

The Associated Press bureau in Indianapolis has to be commended for its coverage of the Indianapolis 500 except for one story that appeared in newspapers across the country May 25.

AP noted that nine of the first 10 qualifiers for the Indy 500 were foreign-born. Listing the drivers’ homes in order, Albuquerque, N.M., was listed fifth, as the home of Al Unser Jr., the fifth fastest qualifier.

Needless to say, the well-known members of the Unser racing family all reside in Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, which became our country’s 47th state in 1912.

If it’s any consolation to the Indianapolis AP Bureau, the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s largest-circulation newspaper, ran the AP story, unedited.

 

INEXPLICABLE
July 1988

While visiting their daughter in Oklahoma, Jeton Luna and her husband stopped at a small restaurant in Stroud.

After ordering, the couple engaged in some small talk with the waitress, and mentioned they were visiting from Santa Fe. Astonished, the waitress muttered, “My goodness! You speak such good English!”

The Lunas explained that New Mexico was a state in the Union, but the waitress didn’t seem to understand what they were trying to tell her.

“Maybe our English wasn’t so good after all,” Jeton said.


ALL WET
January 2003

Mary Datwyler, a customer service representative with the J.C. Penney Catalog Center in Rio Rancho, recently had a strange conversation while taking an order from a woman in Arkansas.

While searching for her credit card, the customer made polite small talk, asking, “So where are you located?”

“Rio Rancho, New Mexico, northwest of Albuquerque,” Datwyler said.

“Oh, near Cancún,” she responded.

“Not exactly,” she said. “I’m in New Mexico, between Texas and Arizona.”

“Yeah,” the Arkansas woman acknowledged. “I went there once. You’ve got great beaches!”


SKY-HIGH CHARGES
January 2013

Marianne Salas and her husband recently visited from their home in San Jose, California, to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. With her brother and his significant other along for an evening at a Balloon Glow, they experienced the latest incarnation of lost New Mexico. As each of them tried to use their Droid phones for Internet searches, they received prompts to “Allow data access? Accessing data during trips outside of the U.S. may incur roaming charges.” Marianne exclaims, “I knew Balloon Fiesta Park was unique, but who knew we had crossed into another country?”

Send Us Your Story—Please!Dear “Fifty” fans, help sustain this popular feature by sharing your anecdotes—we know you have some choice ones that you just haven’t ever gotten around to writing down and sending in. Just dash it off if you like, and we’ll take it from there. Submissions will be edited for style and space. Please include your name, hometown, and state. E-mail to fifty@nmmagazine.com or mail to Fifty, New Mexico Magazine, 495 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501.