Oh Arizona! You crazy!

Americans I meet that aren’t from the Southwest often seem to conflate Arizona and New Mexico and, for example, compliment me on the beauty of the Grand Canyon, when they learn I’m from New Mexico. Not surprising, they’re immediately adjacent, roughly squarish, similar in climate, sparsely populated, etc. To tell the truth, I do the same thing with Vermont and New Hampshire. The two states though have very different cultures, but in ways that are sometimes difficult to explain to people who know little of the history of this corner of the world. And then Arizona goes and does something crazy and makes the difference crystal clear. The law that the Arizona legislature just passed that requires police in that state to ask for documents proving a person’s right to be in this country when they have a “reasonable” suspicion that person may be in the country illegally would never, ever, ever, be passed in New Mexico.

For starters, our largest ethnic group is Hispanics. Last I checked Hispanics and Caucasians were around 40% each with Hispanics having a slight edge, and Native Americans with around 15%, with some room left over for “Other”. A law like this that is just a civil rights violation waiting to happen would be unthinkable in New Mexico, especially one that targets Hispanics. It’s actually quite helpful, when running for office around here, to be Hispanic. At the very least, in most precincts, you have to demonstrate a knowledge of and concern for the Hispanic community to get a nomination in either of the big two political parties. We do have some counties bordering Texas and Arizona that are a little more redneck than the rest of us would like, but for the most part we’re quite different culturally from our neighbors on either side. The joke that is the Texas School Board is lunacy we are fortunately spared here as well.

We’re a poor state with a lot of social issues ourselves but Arizona makes us look really good. Thanks Arizona! By the way, if you’re looking to boycott Arizona and still want a Southwestern vacation, I can’t think of a better place than here. We have terrific mountain resorts, art communities, shopping, excellent but inexpensive golf, casinos… and a very tolerant and welcoming population. Come on, spend your tourist dollars here instead! Arizona doesn’t want them, especially if you’re Hispanic!

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