Vagueness of the term Enchantment

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By Harold Morgan

The acceptance of “Land of Enchantment” as the best description of New Mexico came slowly and reluctantly. The vagueness of the phrase is the problem for the marketer. Just what is “enchantment?”
Recently the Albuquerque Journal asked some state leaders (whatever that means) to consider in 100 words “what it means to be a New Mexican.” The exercise derived in part from the running theme of lousy state leadership from reporter-columnist Win Quigley. A dozen responded, one from the south and one from the semi-north, Española.
One said little in 279 words. That was Roberta Cooper Ramo, attorney and pillar of the Albuquerque establishment. “Cultural diversity” was the thread connecting the others.
Only one got seriously serious, moving beyond the question. That was R. Braiden Trapp, managing editor of the Rio Grande Sun. In exactly 100 words, Trapp noted elements including that New Mexicans “have a strong sense of three diverse histories; but have no knowledge of those histories.”
My kids had one required semester of New Mexico history. In Oklahoma, a place with a much shorter history than New Mexico, I had two comprehensive history units and would have had a third had my parents not decided New Mexico was a much better place.
Enchantment lays another attitude across the cultural diversity. A comment in a recent email exchange with an Anglo (i.e., neither Native American nor Hispanic) liberal intellectual states it well. This person said, “It may be fair to say that perhaps the pervasive Anglo American (British isles based) standards of economic, social, educational and other measures is one that is basically incompatible with many New Mexicans’ sense of worthwhileness.”
Vocabulary offers the first response to this incredible statement. Just how many New Mexicans’ sense of worthwhileness lies outside the undefined standards?
For most of us the standards of our capitalist democracy have to do with a reasonably comfortable life, family and opportunity for children and a functioning community. I learned this lesson by going door to door for political candidates, including myself on one occasion, and listening.
Rejecting standards is also highly hypocritical. My guess is that rejecting standards of economic well being, social interaction and educational attainment comes from being prosperous and well educated. Further, the technology of our society is everywhere. An iPhone is too much for you? OK, but a regular phone is fairly high technology. Communicate only via letters on paper? OK, but the Postal Service likes airplanes for transport. And health care, does the rejection include the high technology of today’s health care?
Enough big city liberal intellectuals have rolled into the north to sanctify the purity of the village culture to become a cliché. The objective, however unstated, is to create a rural ghetto of noble peasants.
While this cultural diversity is pretty cool, the conceptual dominance ignores science, the world-class activity that is the other big part of the meaning of being a New Mexican. Yet it is science, much of it unique in having to do with national defense and paid for by the federal government, that gets the brunt of complaints about diversifying our economy. Simultaneously the Martinez administration provides “Technology 21,” a new “iteration,” meaning an update of a 2009 “living document” from the Richardson administration that calls itself “a science and technology roadmap for New Mexico’s future.” (This map is one of the documents listed with the interim Jobs Council committee. See nmlegis.gov/lcs/committees_interim.aspx.)
Disconnects appear. Develop science or don’t. Celebrate culture but dump on the culture business (tourism) as offering little money and no career.
And, hey, Albuquerque “leaders,” what about the rest of the state? The growers of cattle and crops. The miners. The pilots at Cannon and Holloman.