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What’s That Smell? New Mexico Has an Official State Aroma

In a legislative first, the Land of Enchantment has committed to an earth-bound scent.

Smell roasting chiles? It must be New Mexico.
(Michael Zysman/Shutterstock)
New Mexico’s 2023 legislative session ended on March 18. There’s a noseworthy outcome that may have escaped general notice amid tensions over how legislators might approach divisive issues such as reproductive rights, voting rules, gender expression and ESG.

On March 23, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill establishing the “smell of roasting chiles” as the official state aroma. It’s the first such designation by any state.

Gov. Grisham tweeted a video in which she signed the aroma bill in the presence of the students who floated the idea.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the scent was suggested by students during a school visit by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. William Soules of Las Cruces. The chile is already a state vegetable in New Mexico, a status it shares with the pinto bean.

This celebrity doesn’t come out of thin air. New Mexico produces more than two-thirds of America’s chile pepper crop. The village of Hatch, N.M., known as “the chile capital of the world,” hosts an annual chile festival on Labor Day weekend.

“There has been no one opposing,” Sen. Soules told NPR as the bill made it through the Legislature. “Often before I even tell them what we're thinking about for the official aroma, they go, oh, it's got to be chile roasting, right?”

Is this the whiff of a legislative trend?
Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.
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