LAS CRUCES — It may not be from New Mexico originally, but it has made quite an impression since it arrived.
Chile is the subject of a fun and educational exhibit created at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum in Las Cruces in 2010. Titled “Red or Green?” The Origins and Cultural Significance of the Chile Pepper in New Mexico, the exhibit was also displayed in the Governor’s Gallery at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe for five months beginning in December 2012. The exhibit’s next stop will be at The Raton Museum in Raton, New Mexico, where it will be on display beginning in July 2015.
The fun and educational exhibit focuses on New Mexico chile varieties, their history and evolution, and how they came to have such a central place in the state’s culture.
“A major theme of the exhibit is how chile became such an integral part of New Mexico without being native,” said Cameron Saffell, formerly the historian for the Museum and a curator of the exhibit. “It’s a part of three state symbols, there are festivals all over the state, and now we have the state’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.”
The state Legislature named the chile as a state vegetable in 1965 and designated Red or Green?” as the state question in 1996, in reference to whether you prefer red or green chile on your food.
The exhibit traces the origins of the chile and how the Spanish brought the plant to the American Southwest in the early 1600s. It features the emergence of regional production centers such as Hatch and Chimayo, and the development of specific varieties by researchers such as Fabian Garcia at New Mexico A&MA College in the early 1900s.
Following the historical section, the exhibit focuses on how the chile became a key component of New Mexico culture – both as a cuisine and as a symbol.