One of Our 50 is Missing!

Rueful anecdotes about New Mexico’s mistaken geographical identity, since 1970.

Send Us Your Story—Please!
Dear “50” fans: Help sustain this popular feature by sharing your anecdotes—we know you have some choice ones that you haven’t gotten around to 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

BREAKING SAD
Late last year, the website BuzzFeed asked its UK readers to try and label the states on the U.S. map. In their responses, New Mexico is misidentified as Arizona, South Utah, Albuquerque (with New Mexico in Louisiana’s spot), South Carolina, and “Walter White [of Breaking Bad] somewhere round here.” Another attempt also mixes up New Mexico and Arizona, with an arrow pointing to Arizona reading “Jesse Pinkman” (another leading Breaking Bad character). See them all at mynm.us/BritishUSA.

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND
A December report in the Santa Fe New Mexican described the opportunities and obstacles inherent in a nascent garnet mine operation in Otero County. The story noted: “And then there is the reality that many customers are used to buying garnet from India, and may not have heard that New Mexico now has a domestic reserve. ‘All we have to do is convince a lot of people back East that New Mexico is in the United States,’ [a consultant] said.”

YOU’VE BEEN PUZZLED
Vicky Etchegoincelhay writes, “I’ve given up! To this day, my friend of 60 years will wish me well before every trip I make to my native New Mexico, warning me not to drink the water. I have explained it to her in a calm manner, and yes, also in anger. I gave her a wooden puzzle of the U.S., pointed to my home state, and declared, ‘It’s a state!’”

SCHOOL DAZE
In 1982, Kay Quarles’s daughter, of Belén, sent a letter of interest to the University of Texas at El Paso, asking about classes and her chances of finding a job there. UTEP admissions advisers sent her a letter stating that they would require her to take English as a second language, and that since she was from a foreign country, it would be next to impossible for her to find a job. “UTEP had faced the UNM Lobos on their own Texas campus a few days prior to the school’s written response. Maybe it was in retaliation for us beating the Miners,” Quarles said.

UGANDA FOR THE WIN
In 1985, Rick Jones was living in Nashville, Tennessee. In the apartment above him lived a Ugandan engineer. Next door to Jones lived a woman who had a master’s degree from Tennessee State University and worked on the campus. “I just found out that I had gotten a job and would be moving to Las Cruces,” Jones remembered. “One day I told my neighbors about getting the job, and that shortly I would be moving to New Mexico. The TSU grad said, ‘Oh, you’ll have to get a passport and a visa.’ Before I could say anything, the Ugandan engineer said, ‘New Mexico is part of the United States!’”

LOST SALE, FOUND CLUE
While visiting her daughter one summer in Washington, D.C., Molly Houston went to a shoe sale at a major department store. She found some sandals she liked and bought a pair. She told the salesperson that she wanted to buy a second pair in a different color, but she didn’t have room for them in her suitcase. “He offered to mail them to me and asked where I live,” Houston said. “When I told him ‘New Mexico,’ he said he had never mailed any shoes to a foreign country before, and didn’t have any idea how much it would cost.” Before Houston could correct him, another salesperson who overheard the conversation proceeded to do the honors for her. “And did she ever!” Houston recalled. “She gave him a two-minute lecture, and I declined purchase of the second pair of sandals.”

EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL (STATES)?
Right after New Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously last December that same-sex marriage would be legal in the state, NPR.org ran an article about the breaking news. The photo that accompanied the article showed two same-sex couples; the caption identified the location as Mexico City.