We who live in New Mexico got one of those chuckles that is tinged with irony after watching the news recently. It seems that a New Mexican resident was attempting to secure a marriage license in Washington, DC but was prohibited from doing so without his passport.
The reasoning was that they couldn’t issue licenses to those who weren’t native Americans and this gentleman was deemed to be foreign because of his New Mexican citizenship. Apparently, someone forgot to tell this employee (and her supervisor) that New Mexico is America’s 47th state. Our statehood was granted in 1912, shortly before Arizona’s.
My gut feeling about this misunderstanding is that while it may not be new news for the residents of New Mexico, our recent press coverage and political controversies have made this situation worse. Where was this employee’s history lesson that discussed our fifty states, with the last two added as far back as 1959?
A resident of Albuquerque told me recently that our license plates say, “New Mexico USA” in order to alleviate any doubt about our legitimacy as Americans. While I find most of this amusing, as an educator I also find it disturbing. We should be teaching all of America’s development, not merely the 13 colonies, the presumed secession of California and the efforts to add Puerto Rico as the 51st state.
New Mexico is a lovely place, full of mountains, a highly diverse population, history, desert and a galaxy of beautiful greenery. Our tagline is “Land of Enchantment,” a legend that was first placed on New Mexican license plates in 1941 and became our official state nickname in 1999. This is a memorable designation and one with which I fully agree.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to remember that we’re a state. It makes me wonder if residents of New Hampshire or New Jersey are asked for their passports. Let’s make an effort to give us the legitimacy to which we’re entitled. What we’re asking for is a little respect. Shalom.