Genevieve Provencio, of Farmington, was delighted when her son moved back to New Mexico, but he needed her to send his birth certificate to his new home in Belén to get a driver’s license. Not knowing the zip code, Provencio called a toll-free number for the U.S. Postal Service. Sorry, the worker told her, they didn’t have zip codes for Mexico. Provencio explained that New Mexico is, in fact, a large state located between Arizona and Texas. The worker said she would check with her supervisor.

“After what seemed like 30 minutes, she gave me the code,” Provencio says, adding that she suggested the worker and her supervisor consider taking a refresher course in U.S. geography.

As a native of Roswell who spent years working in the rental-care industry, Bonnie Ranft got her share of odd questions. Is the road to Ruidoso paved? Are there still Indian raids? But her ultimate Missing moment came in 1968, when she wanted to call a childhood friend whose father had been transferred from Roswell’s Walker Air Force Base to one in Limestone, Maine.

Upon dialing the friend’s new number, Ranft was surprised by the grilling she got from a switchboard operator. Who was she? Who was she calling? Why was she calling? Who gave her permission to call?

Ranft’s mother took over the call, only to be told that base personnel were not allowed to receive long-distance calls from foreign countries. Mom fought back, delivering fact-based explanations—such as our 1912 statehood—to no avail.

“She finally asked the switchboard operator when our call could be put through,” Ranft says, “and he told her when New Mexico became a United States territory.” That would have been way back in 1850.

Before moving to Deming, Claudia Walsh and her husband lived in Illinois, where she decided to brush up on her old high-school Spanish by taking a refresher course. The instructor, who was from Santiago, Chile, asked students to describe in Spanish where they liked to vacation. Walsh talked about her numerous trips to New Mexico and all the places and foods she enjoyed. The instructor agreed that New Mexico was beautiful, adding that she especially loved Acapulco.

“I corrected her and said, ’New Mexico, a state between Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, not the country of Mexico,’” Walsh says.

The teacher gave Walsh a blank stare, then added that Cancún was nice, too.

Michael Turri was standing in the checkout line at an Angel Fire grocery store when he over-heard a little boy asking his mother why they were buying so much bottled water.

“Because, honey,” the woman replied pedantically, “when you are in Mexico, you can’t drink the water.”

Turri was left wondering just what kind of research the mother had done before taking her family on vacation.


Randy White, of Taos, called his Texas bank to let them know his debit card had stopped working. “Are you traveling?” the representative asked. No, White said, but he had moved to New Mexico. The representative replied, “Why are you living in Mexico? Isn’t that dangerous?” 

Despite White’s protestations, the bank sent him a travel form. After calling them back and again trying to explain that he still lived in the U.S., White finally told the bank: “I haven’t been to Mexico in over 10 years; I live in New Mexico, one of the 50 states. But if it makes my debit card work, I’ll fill out the form.”

While visiting an informal refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Zora O’Neill got to talking with a young Syrian student named Yaman. He asked where in the US she was from. “New Mexico,” she said, then started to explain: “It’s in the West, between—”

Yaman broke in and finished her sentence: “Between Texas and Arizona, I know.” He’d learned it in school—and watched every episode of Breaking Bad.

“Yaman is in northern Germany now; when his family’s asylum claim is approved, he should be able to start college again,” O’Neill writes. “He definitely doesn’t need more geography classes.”

Send it to or Fifty, New Mexico Magazine, 495 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501. Include your name, hometown, and state. Thanks! 

FROM FACEBOOK // When we moved from Los Alamos to New York, I presented my son’s NM birth certificate at the local Social Security office and they asked if he was a citizen. I was shocked. Allyson Riley Debes 

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