By Grant McGee
It’s true. A portion of the population of the United States of America apparently can’t wrap their minds around the concept that there is a state called New Mexico.
“New Mexico” magazine has a feature in their issues called “One of Our Fifty is Missing,” stories submitted by folks who had encounters with people usually from back east who think our Land of Enchantment is in the Republic of Mexico.
Maybe it’s because we don’t go out of the region all that much, at least to the east.
I have returned from my summer vacation. During the 4,300 mile trek to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and back I did not see one license plate from New Mexico until I was just south of Lubbock. I saw some Arizona plates, bunches of Texans but no New Mexicans.
At the Louisiana welcome center on Interstate 20 I was asked by the attendant where I was from.
“New Mexico,” I said with a big smile.
“Oh,” she turned to her co-worker, “we had some Mexicans come through yesterday.”
Watching The Weather Channel might give a person another clue why some of our fellow citizens don’t remember our state. I wanted to see what the weather was like back home. The forecaster would tell how hot it was in Phoenix or about the severe thunderstorms in the Dallas/Fort Worth area while standing in front of our state.
Not too long ago I had to send a package to Las Cruces.
I called the shipping company headquarters in New Jersey.
“What is the destination of your package?” asked the friendly shipperette.
“Las Cruces, New Mexico.”
“Oh, let me put you through to the international shipping department.”
“Ma’am, ma’am,” I exclaimed, trying to get her attention before she hit the transfer button. “New Mexico is a state. It’s between Texas and Arizona.”
There was a pause.
“I knew that,” she said curtly. “I was distracted. Of course New Mexico is a state.”
Then there are the misconceptions of our towns here in the 47th state. I’ve had a few of my own.
For instance, there was my first impression of Clovis. Driving through in 1992, I thought the whole town was just on Mabry Drive. Grain silos on the west end, a truck stop on the east end. I didn’t see Prince Street, downtown or Cannon Air Force Base. I thought it wasn’t much different than San Jon or Tucumcari, just a bit bigger.
I had to explain to my daughter in Virginia that Clovis isn’t surrounded by sand dunes and cactus. It was a snowy December day. I was telling her about the big fluffy flakes and the chilly temperature.
“Really?” she said. “It gets down to the 20s there?”
I could tell by her tone of voice she had her own image of New Mexico.
“So what do you think it’s like out here?” I said.
“I figured it was always hot and y’all have those big, giant cactus all around,” she said.
“You’re thinking about Phoenix and Tucson. We’re part of the Great Plains. There’s wind, prairie grasses, cows, a few trees and more wind.”
So even if some of our fellow Americans weren’t paying attention in geography class we know what we have here and how good it is.
Come to think of it, maybe we don’t want anyone to know we’re here.
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: