New Mexico: We’re Not Canada, But What The Hey, Eh?

New Mexico is almost a foreign country anyway, so if the election of Donald Trump motivates you to become an ex-pat without actually emigrating, we’re here for you.

Monsoon rainbow behind the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, N.M. Photo © William P. Diven

Monsoon rainbow behind the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, N.M. Photo © William P. Diven. (Click to enlarge)

No passport needed even though Spanish words and names spice up everyday life. In no time rolling off your tongue will be pollo asado, Cuyamungue, chimichanga, Guachepangue, posole and el baboso no está mi presidente.

You’ll feast on wondrous scenery, relish cuisine infused with red and green chile, discover there’s more to tequila than Saturday night shots, revel in diversity of art, country and culture and discover the borderlands are friendlier than clueless politicians back home claim.

You can stroll Santa Fe even if you can’t afford to live there, enjoy abundant public lands and waters and take full advantage of this complex and beautiful territory we took from Mexico by force of arms after Spanish colonists took it from the natives. The puebloans forcibly ejected the Spanish for a while, and despite some notable ups and down, we pretty much all get along.

The two million of us are about 3 percent African American and 4 percent Native American with the rest about evenly split between Anglos and Hispanics. No telling how many space aliens reside in Roswell. The Pew Research Center ranks us as the most Hispanic state in the country by percentage of population. So we don’t understand the fuss over taco trucks even if we favor comida sabrosa from a madre-y-padre hole-in-the-wall.

What we don’t have are a lot of jobs, and our economy continues to sputter in what was already one of our poorer states. We’ve actually lost population in recent years, and the handful of jobs at a Facebook data center under construction in Los Lunas won’t fix that. Regardless our loonies aren’t coins, and you won’t have to learn a new currency or think metric.

One reason we’re hurting is six years of political control by a Republican governor and political machine heavy with out-of-state funding and seemingly more interested in power than social and economic progress. Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration coarsened political discourse, disrupted public education and destroyed behavioral-health services all while using written statements and taxpayer-paid minions to shield her from inquisitive reporters. Her term-limited tenure runs two more years.

But more importantly for you who might migrate this way, we went for Hillary instead of the Donald 48-40 and supported Barack Obama 53-43 and 57-42 four and eight years ago. Martinez, a Texas native and the nation’s first Latina governor, twisted herself into a pretzel over the Donald’s anti-Hispanic rants while waffling on whether she’d vote for him. Hardly a courageous stand even for just one vote among our 794,000.

Comida to go from El Molero Fajitas on the Santa Fe Plaza blocks from the capitol with nary a taco truck in sight. Photo © William P. Diven. (Click to enlarge)

Comida to go from El Molero Fajitas on the Santa Fe Plaza blocks from the capitol with nary a taco truck in sight. Photo © William P. Diven. (Click to enlarge)

In our throw-the-bums-out moment on Tuesday, voters handed the state House back to Democrats after two years of Republican control. The Rs hadn’t run the lower house in 60 years and showed why in a special session called to deal with a budget crisis tied mostly to crashed oil prices.

Martinez waited until five weeks before the election to call legislators back to Santa Fe. The Democrat-majority Senate debated and passed fiscal bills in 12 hours and went home as House Republicans dithered most of a week on Martinez crime bills that could have waited for the regular session in January. Their attempt to restore the death penalty emerged in the middle of the night, passed around dawn and died on arrival when the Senate reconvened briefly to wrap things up.

Why bother? The neat answer is the Republican machine needed advertising fodder generated at taxpayer expense to club Democrats leading up to Election Day. The governor’s political adviser and his super PAC took it from there exploiting horrific crimes and their victims to portray a leading Senate Democrat as a bosom pal of cop and child killers and kiddie-porn peddlers. And it worked. A political newcomer with an actual criminal record — a DWI conviction and an affray charge later dismissed — won by about 10 percentage points.

Pending a recount, similar tactics failed against our Democratic senator, chair of the Senate Education Committee and an opponent of conservative orthodoxy passed off as education reform. In a nearby House district a local Dem picked off a high-profile state rep by about half a percentage point.

The machine’s choice for secretary of state, a far-right legislator who railed against Mexican-American literature in schools and wanted to impose voter IDs on a state with virtually zero voter fraud, also lost. This after the incumbent Republican, the first of her party to hold the office since 1928, resigned and spent last Christmas in jail as a felon who gambled away campaign contributions at casinos.

So if you still consider politics to be spectator or participatory sport, New Mexico is your place. You might even run into our ex-Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate. He’s a straight-shooting nice guy who isn’t afraid of citizens and journalists.

Does any of this change the fact that the country as a whole is in turmoil under a gloomy forecast? No, not at all. Are we in the Land of Enchantment free of multiple social troubles? Not when disputes from the 1600s still bubble up among current events. And do we have our share of nitwits, hustlers, charlatans and snake-oil dealers in and out of politics? Of course. But the sun shines most days in our little corner of old Mexico, the sunsets go on forever, Washington, D.C., is far away, and you can always visit Canada to escape the summer heat.

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