In July of 2019, following the decision by Whole Foods Market to sell green chiles grown in Pueblo Colorado, instead of chiles from New Mexico, Jared Polis, the governor of Co., set off a war of words with Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of NM, regarding which state grows superior chiles. This in turn has been inspiring memes on social media taking up the cause.
In addition to having some fun and coming up with our own meme, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology wanted to wade into this fracas in order to observe the anthropological themes at play (e.g. community identity, commerce, social media, etc.) as well as to highlight the research of UNM Anthropology PhD candidate Holly Brause, who has been studying the chile in southern NM and Chihuahua for the last 5 years.
In Brause’s words: Nothing unites New Mexicans quite like our love of chile. In both its fresh green and dried red forms, New Mexican chile is an integral part of New Mexican cuisine, and a powerful symbol of New Mexican heritage and identity. Despite its cultural importance, the actual New Mexico chile industry has been losing ground (in acres planted) to Mexico since the passage of NAFTA, and increasingly, to other chile producing countries around the world. To add insult to injury, now Colorado boasts that Pueblo chile is superior to New Mexican chile. To combat such an audacious claim from our northern neighbor, in 2017 the New Mexican legislature added an emergency clause to a bill that created a new license plate that proudly proclaims New Mexico to be “The Chile Capital of the World,” after rumors circulated that Colorado was planning to release their own chile plates. Even while New Mexican chile producers continue their struggle to find a way to compete in a globalized marketplace, New Mexicans passionately defend the superiority of their beloved heritage crop against competitors and detractors, both foreign and domestic.
Our meme features the endangered Mexican Wolf, or Lobo, indigenous to the region that is now New Mexico, and mascot for the University of New Mexico.