At our Corrales writing group’s holiday party, we were enjoying some posole and margaritas when a longtime transplant from California looked up from his place on the living room couch and asked us, “So how long have you been in New Mexico?”

Fortified by some Christmas cheer, the leader of our group, who’d moved here from New Jersey, replied, “Long enough to not put green chile on the side.”

Another member of our group, born in California, laughed and said, “I’ve been here long enough to always order fried eggs on top of my stacked enchiladas.”

A third, this one originally from New York, chimed in. “I’ve been in New Mexico long enough to include chile as a topping on pizza.”

Just what is the correct way to answer that question? Is it a measurement in terms of years, months, weeks, or days? Or do we transplants think of a more visceral means related to food or some other criteria? We decided to do an informal survey and ask a wide variety of people who have landed in New Mexico from some other location. The results astounded us. “I’ve been in New Mexico long enough to ...”

“... know that highway signs on I-25 to Las Vegas do not lead you out of the state.”

“... properly pronounce Madrid and Thoreau as MAD-rid and Threw.”

“... wish I had met Tony Hillerman.”

“... not even think about calling animal control when I see a coyote.”

“... expect double rainbows.”

“... own a bolo tie.”

“... have purchased and actually worn a cowboy hat.”

“... know they will still be talking about where Billy the Kid is really buried long after I’m gone.”

And of course, we know we’re finally New Mexicans when we’ve been here long enough to experience a “One of Our Fifty is Missing” moment.

Jim Tritten


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