The city is moving forward with a plan to drop a symbolic giant chile on the Santa Fe Plaza as part of a New Year’s Eve celebration — an idea that Las Cruces officials hope Santa Fe will drop altogether.
The Southern New Mexico city hosted its first-ever Chile Drop last New Year’s Eve, and officials there worry that a copy-cat event elsewhere in New Mexico could detract from their spectacle.
“When you have it in another part of the state, it kind of dilutes it, dilutes the uniqueness of it,” Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But this is America, and they’re free to do what they want to do.”
Miyagishima said he sent a text message to Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, who proposed dropping a brightly lit object in the shape of a chile pepper in the City Different. Miyagishima said he asked Gonzales to reconsider, but never got a response.
“I was being optimistic that he was mulling it over,” Miyagishima said. “By not responding, I was thinking, ‘Maybe he won’t do it.’ But obviously it fell on deaf ears.”
Las Cruces’ mayor isn’t the only elected official to raise concerns. State Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, wrote on Facebook on Sept. 21, “I appreciate Mayor Ken Miyagishima leadership on this. Our Chile Drop received international publicity and brought in tourists to our hotels and restaurants. It’s a great branding opportunity for Las Cruces, and we should discourage Santa Fe from copying it.”
Santa Fe’s plans for livening up activities on the Plaza as 2016 arrives are still in a very early stage.
On Wednesday, the City Council approved a resolution directing city staff “to explore the feasibility of staging a New Year’s Eve event on the Plaza” and specifically mentions a “chile drop.” Gonzales, who is traveling on city business in Washington, D.C., was absent.
The resolution also calls for city staff to compile “a complete listing of existing events within the Plaza periphery that would overlap, coincide or conflict with the proposed New Year’s Eve event.”
Gonzales described his proposal for a New Year’s Eve celebration as part of a “People to the Plaza” initiative he launched last year. Gonzales, a former regent for New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, said in a text message Wednesday that he loved the concept of that city’s New Year’s Eve celebration, though he didn’t attend it last year.
“That’s why I initially suggested a chile drop,” he wrote. “However, we are Santa Fe, the community of incredible artists. So, I’ve asked our arts commission to put out a call for artists to offer an idea of a symbol that could be dropped at midnight on the Plaza that reflects the New Mexico and Santa Fe culture. Whether that is a chile or not remains to be seen.”
When asked what Santa Fe could drop at midnight instead of a chile, Miyagishima said he didn’t know.
How about an adobe?
“You know, that’s not a bad idea,” he said. “A lighted adobe brick.”
Miyagishima said Las Cruces was “flattered” that Santa Fe wants to “copy our idea.” But he said the chile pepper is more closely associated with Southern New Mexico. The village of Hatch, known as the chile-growing capital of the world, is about 30 minutes from Las Cruces, he said. In addition, he said, New Mexico State University does “a lot of experimenting with green chile.”
“I think it belongs here in Southern New Mexico,” he said.
“Chile is part of the New Mexican heritage, and every community should celebrate that,” he said.
Miyagishima said he wishes Santa Fe well and hopes the city has fun with the idea. He said he enjoys Santa Fe, loves the weather and likes the smell of firewood in the winter.
“May the best city win,” he said. “Now that they’re going to do this, it will make us work twice as hard to make ours that much better. I am not going to lose to Javier Gonzales, so whatever he can do, we can do better.”
While Las Cruces drops an image of a chile pepper on New Year’s Eve, Gonzales told The New Mexican in August that Santa Fe’s could be red and green. “My thought would be the chile would start at green and as we approach midnight, the chile turns red,” he said.
Miyagishima said Gonzales’ idea may be worth imitating. “You just gave us a good idea,” he said. “We may just do that. We’re just going to do it better.”
Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Rep. Jeff Steinborn was a state Senator.