There’s something about New Mexico that just brings out the stupid in people. I don’t know what it is about the United States, but if you waylay a stranger on the sidewalk today (assuming you don’t live in New Mexico) and ask them if New Mexico is part of the United States, a solid third of them will say no. These are our citizens. They graduated from high school. They vote. And they don’t know that New Mexico is a State. And it’s so pervasive, that all of us currently living in The Land of Enchantment (yes, it’s the state motto) have a story about coming across well educated people who should freakin know better.
When a shipment of textbooks was late, one of the profs called up the publisher (academic books are often ordered directly from the publisher) to ask where the books were, the woman on the other end of the line helpfully suggested that they might be tied up in customs. The prof, confused at first asked “Where are you shipping from?” The publisher, “Conneticut.”
A fellow grad student was buying stamps in Tennessee—at a post office!—when the clerk asked her if she was from New Mexico because she was sending postcards there. Grad student said “Why yes I am.” The postperson then asked, “What sort of money do they use there?” Grad student “We have a quarter.”
When I was moving to New Mexico from Vermont (another interesting state, but for entirely different reasons), I flew back and forth a few times. One time, I presented my ticket to the ticket agent (remember when you checked in at the airport? My god, that was a long time ago), she smiled and said, “Oh wow, New Mexico. Are you going for pleasure or business?”
“I’m going to go to grad school there,” I said.
“How exciting,” she said (yeah, for the record, getting accepted to grad school: exciting. Actually going to grad school, not so much). Then she got a sudden look of consternation and asked: “What language do they speak there?”
I blinked. I couldn’t believe a ticket agent at the airport didn’t know. In my best deadpan I said, “New Mexican.”
She cocked her head and squinted her eyes at me. Mine were laughing, I’m sure. Then without another word, she handed me my boarding pass and beckoned the next passenger.
Recap: To visit New Mexico you do not need a passport (unless you’re traveling from another country, like say, Mexico). If you ever ship something there, it will not get stuck in customs (unless you send it from outside the US). They speak English (well, American, but let’s not quibble over details), and if you hand someone a peso in New Mexico, most of them are likely to ask “What the hell is this?”