It can get downright depressing when comparing New Mexico to other states, at least when it comes to economics, education, crime and other indicators of prosperity and progress.
U.S. News and World Report ranks us 47th, 48th and 49th, respectively in those categories, which makes it difficult to take pride in this “land of entrapment,” as I’ve heard New Mexicans call it more than once.
The online magazine currently ranks New Mexico 46th overall using dozens of categories. Although we’re in the bottom rung of most of the rankings, hey, we’re about the middle of the pack (26th) in health care, including an impressive 6th in child dental visit—so at least we can smile about that.
Bad jokes aside, just to lift my spirits about my adopted homeland, I went online in search of some good things about New Mexico. I found them in travel logs on CNN’s website and, not surprisingly, in real-estate pitches.
Travelers love New Mexico if they get off the interstates, don’t get hit by a dust storm and do some exploring. Bloggers who travel our state tout our mountains and deserts, our heritage and cultures, our sunshine and our skiing, as well as our view of the stars and the depths of our caverns. More often than not, visitors actually refer to our state slogan, Land of Enchantment, as real (I suppose it’s only the natives who feel entrapped).
I find the outsider reports about the state and its offerings the most interesting and uplifting. They view the state with fresh eyes.
Stephanie Pearson wrote a piece for CNN.com on “10 things to know before you visit” in New Mexico, listing things I’ve come to take for granted, such as how chile (and, yes, she spelled it our way) “smothers most everything that comes out of a New Mexico kitchen,” and other things I’ve never realized, such as how New Mexico’s wine industry is “older than California’s.”
Leave it to a real-estate website to spin New Mexico in all sorts of positive directions. A blog touting “the lighter side of real estate” at Movoto.com, writer James Stuart lists “30 things to know” before moving to New Mexico, and I actually laughed out loud over some of them. Here are some of my favorites from Stuart’s list:
• “New Mexico: It ain’t new and it ain’t Mexico.”
• “It’s so laid back, you gotta wear shades.” Then, in reference to our 300 days of sunshine a year, he adds that “if you don’t have any shades, at least bring sunscreen.”
• “New Mexicans will wrap anything in a tortilla.”
• New Mexico is also “a haven for artists who like to live on the wild side.”
• “Albuquerque is so much more than the place where Bugs Bunny took that wrong turn.”
Of that last one, maybe only us baby boomers, raised on Looney Tunes, get that one.
As a kicker to his pitch for New Mexico, Stuart pours it on: “You don’t choose New Mexico. It chooses you.”
“They aren’t kidding when they say New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment,” he continues. “This state has a magnetism all its own. Maybe it is the clear sunlight, or the crisp, dry air, or the way that people are friendly here. But people have a romantic attachment to this special place and they are reminded of it every day.”
I think he’s trying to sell me a piece of scrubland out in the middle of nowhere. Hey, as long as it’s in New Mexico, I’m sold.
Of course, reality often clashes with the real estate. New Mexico is a poor state compared to the rest of the nation, so much so that the cliché, “Thank God for Mississippi,” is thrown around as an expression of relief that we’re not always at the bottom of state comparisons.
Still, there’s something about our landscape, and our people, that pulls people in and keeps people here. Perhaps author Rudolfo Anaya’s words capture a piece of it: “When people ask me where my roots are, I look down at my feet, and I see the roots of my soul grasping the earth. They are here … in the Southwest … I still live in New Mexico.”
Rankings be damned. New Mexico is one of a kind.
Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.