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New Mexico could be the first state with an official aroma: roasted chili pepper

If signed into law, the aroma of roasted chile would be added to the nearly two dozen other official state symbols

Chili peppers
Chili peppers | Shutterstock

February 2, 2023 9:02am

Updated: February 19, 2023 7:48am

New Mexico might become the first state to have an official aroma, after a bill naming roasted chili as the state’s aroma passed the Senate Indian, Rural, and Cultural Committee on Tuesday. 

If signed into law, the aroma of roasted chili would be added to the nearly two dozen other official state symbols, including the bolo tie as the official tie of the state, the hot air balloon as the official aircraft, and the tarantula hawk wasp as the official insect.

In New Mexico, chili is one of the key ingredients for almost every meal. It is also ingrained into the state’s culture: it is the state’s official vegetable and is a key component of the state’s official question “Red or green?”

During the legislative hearing on Tuesday, a group of fifth-graders from Monte Vista Elementary School in Las Cruces served as expert witnesses. The group of school children has been working on the legislation with sponsor Senator Bill Soules. 

“When we talked about New Mexico being unique with ‘Red or green?’ as the official question, it was brought up, ‘What about the smell of chile roasting?’ From there, we started talking about [making] that the official aroma of New Mexico,” said Senator Soules.

The student experts and soules said that the bill, known as SB 188, could have a significant impact in attracting tourism to the state—although it might be difficult to calculate how much. 

“New Mexico has consistently lower visitation rates than neighboring Colorado, which reported 84.2 million visitors in 2021 compared to approximately 40 million visitors to New Mexico in the same year,” the report states.

“The new state aroma could help draw visitors away from Colorado, which, for some reason, thinks it has green chili comparable to that of New Mexico.”