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At a swim meet in Tucson, Jacqueline Cervantes Vanderlugt told an Arizonan acquaintance that she was from Las Cruces. She asked where that was, and Vanderlugt explained that it was “in New Mexico, right next to you guys.” The swimmer was full of questions: Could she see Vander­ lugt’s green card? How did her team get to Arizona from Mexico? Wasn’t her coach crazy for bringing them all this way? “Then she noticed the water I carry in my bag to stay hydrated and said, ‘You know, in this country, you don’t have to bring your own water. We have clean water here,’” she recalled. The girl went on to insist that Vanderlugt try a delicious American food called pizza.

During a long airport layover on her way home from Orlando, Linda Crowden stopped at a Starbucks, where a young woman behind the counter was smiling and chatting with customers. After Crowden ordered, the barista asked where she was headed. Crowden told her she lived in New Mexico. “She lit up like Santa Claus had just walked in the door,” Crowden said. “Oh,” she said, “isn’t that in California, near Disneyland?” Crowden smiled, took her coffee, and walked away quickly so the barista wouldn’t see her laughing.

Carrie Bittay­D’Intino’s father was volun­ teering at the Old Town Albuquerque visi­tors’ center one day when a pleasant woman came in off a bus tour and said that she had stopped at several stores looking for pesos to take home as souvenirs, to no avail. The volunteers explained that because New Mexico had been part of the United States since 1912, her best bet would be to try a local bank to see if they had any pesos for exchange. The woman nodded but still looked confused. “She paused for a moment, appearing to mull over what she had just been told,” Bittay­ D’Intino said. “She then asked why she could not get any Mexican stamps at the Old Town Post Office.”

When one of Carl Schmidt’s longtime friends slipped and fell while visiting his daughter in North Carolina, Schmidt offered his legal assistance. He called the University of North Carolina Medical Center’s records department and asked them to fax the relevant medical reports and X­rays to his office in Albuquerque. “I’ve never heard of Albuquerque,” came the reply. “Where is that?” In New Mexico, Schmidt said. “Oh, no, we can’t send any­ thing out of the country,” said the clerk. Undaunted, Schmidt waited half an hour and tried again, hoping the clerk he had spoken with would be out to lunch. “This time, I immediately asked for the head of the department and explained my experi­ence to him,” Schmidt said. “When he had finally recovered after laughing for a full minute, he assured me that I would get the proper records forthwith.”

As a realtor, Edward Gerber lists homes online with the Multiple Listing Service. One day, he received a request for informa­ tion regarding a condo in Albuquerque, asking about condo fees and whether a “U.S. person” could live and buy a home in Mexico. Gerber checked the phone num­ ber and found the inquiry had come from Huntsville, Alabama. “I got no answer when I tried the number, so I responded via e­mail that the unit was still available and condo fees were $193 a month. I also told them I was no expert in Mexican law, but since this was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A., a U.S. person could certainly buy it!” Gerber said. “I’m still waiting for an offer.”

Barry Ore took a trip from his native Albuquerque to visit some relatives in Arkansas. Upon arriving at his aunt’s house, he was still adjusting to the change

in climate and shaking out stiffness from the long car ride when a curious cousin began interrogating him about his home­ land. “Are there a lot of people who speak English, too, or do they mostly only speak Spanish?” she asked. “Yes, most everyone speaks English,” Ore said, “although there are a lot of Spanish speakers as well.” “Did y’all need passports to get here?” she per­sisted. Ore politely set his cousin straight, in fluent English, on the precise where­ abouts of the 47th state.

After living in New Mexico, Marcey Carabajal moved to Auburn, New York. While talking to a friend at a bar, she mentioned that she would be traveling to New Mexico to visit family. The person holding down the barstool next to her turned to ask whether people in New Mexico still wore “those big sombreros.” When Carabajal explained that New Mexico was not Mexico, “he looked con­ fused, and without saying a word got up and left.”

While settling into a new weekend cot­tage on the Chesapeake Bay, Paul Anderson met his octogenarian neighbor, who had lived in the same rural hamlet all his life. In the process of getting acquaint­ ed, Anderson shared that although his wife was from Virginia, his side of the fam­ily was from New Mexico. “Oh yes,” the neighbor replied, “I knew a fellow who went out there once. He married a local girl and they had cottagea baby, but he had trou­ble getting his family back into the U.S.” “I started to explain,” Anderson said, “but then let the moment pass, content that I finally had a genuine ‘One of Our 50 Is Missing’ to share.”