CO or NM: Who’s The “Chile Capital Of The World”?

by Staff Reporter / Jul 18, 2017 / comments
The ‘Chile Capital of the World’ License Plate. Courtesy photo

CO or NM: Who’s The “Chile Capital Of The World”?

Staff Report

SANTA FE ― It was a contentious issue while the New Mexico State Legislature debated whether to adopt a specialty license plate to celebrate New Mexico’s chile heritage, with Gov. Susana Martinez criticizing it as a “waste of time”. But over the weekend the Governor’s office issued a press release praising the recently released festive license plate and announcing that more than 2,000 “Chile Capital of the World” license plates have now been issued.

The legislature decided to create a specialty plate after Colorado adopted a specialty license plate in April celebrating their “outstanding chiles”

“This is a proud day for all of Colorado, not just for Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley, where the Pueblo chiles are grown,” said Colorado State Rep. Daneya Esgar of Pueblo in a statement. “Our local growers deserve recognition of their outstanding chiles.”

Colorado’s actions galvanized the issue with a bi-partisan push in the Legislature to “cool off Colorado’s heated and futile attempt of claiming the chile pepper as its own”, as quoted in the New Mexico Legislature’s analysis of House Bill 393, which was introduced by Kathryn Brown (R-Carlsbad).  

The issue became “heated”, with many legislators questioning whether Colorado even grows any chile. The image of a chile plant on the Colorado plate caused many Senators and House members to ask similar questions.


Sample Colorado License plate. Courtesy image

The New Mexico lawmakers debate included documentation showing that New Mexico’s chile history, tradition, production, and “heat” far exceeds anything in Colorado. For example, the Fiscal Impact Report (FIR) drafted for the bill stated that in 2015, New Mexico planted 8.3 thousand acres of chile and harvested 7.7 thousand acres, or 92.8%, of the crop.

The FIR continues;
Total New Mexico production of chile peppers was about 133.4 million pounds in 2015. The 8.3 thousand acres planted in New Mexico comprised 42.8 percent of all acres of chile planted in the United States. According to the Colorado Agricultural Statistics 2015, chile peppers are not even noted in the annual document. As such, it’s questionable that Colorado actually grows chiles.

In 1965 the New Mexico Legislature adopted the chile and pinto bean as the official state vegetables. Colorado does not have the chile as its official state vegetable, nor does it have a state vegetable of any sort. Section 12-3-4 NMSA 1978 (L) identifies “Red or Green?” as the official question of New Mexico. Colorado does not have a state question that involves “red or green” chile. Section 12-3-4 NMSA 1978 (M) identifies “Red and Green or Christmas” as the official state answer to the official state question. There isn’t a city, town, or village in New Mexico that does not have New Mexico grown green chile. Whole cookbooks are written and published providing New Mexico chile recipes. At this point, it is clear that New Mexico culture and lifestyles revolve around the chile crop; Colorado has fewer claims to chile.

You can read the entire Legislative FIR report on the chile bill HERE.

In the end, the New Mexico legislature’s bill to create the chile license plate passed overwhelmingly with a House vote of 58-1 and the Senate voting 31-7.

In spite of the bipartisan support, and having a Republican sponsor for the bill, Gov. Martinez vetoed HB-393 after the session adjourned.  But apparently the public pressure to show Colorado who really knows chile was too great, because the Governor quickly reversed course and instructed the Moter Vehicle Division (MVD) to create the license plate anyway.

“We have the best chile in the world – period; whether you’re going for red, green or Christmas, you can’t go wrong with New Mexico chile,” Gov. Martinez said. “And while I enjoy a little friendly competition with our neighbors to the north, I think we all know that there’s only one chile capital of the world: New Mexico.” 

The plates, which available at all MVD offices and online, declares New Mexico as the “Chile Capital of the World.” 

The Chile license plate is being launched as a standard plate and will require no additional fees on registration – unlike a specialty plate, which would require an additional fee of $35. For drivers with a current registration who choose to switch to the Chile License Plate, a $17 in-office or $7.75 online replacement fee is required. Drivers with specialty plates can switch to the Chile license plate for $ 7.75 online or $5 in an office. Online orders will be mailed to customers in 5-7 business days.

To order your new chile license plate, visit the Motor Vehicle Division online at www.mvd.newmexico.gov or visit your local MVD field office.