New Mex­ico — have it your way!

Pasatiempo - - Mixed Media -

Ques­tion: How and why did those over­see­ing our state’s tourism in­ter­ests shift from pri­mar­ily tout­ing the cu­ra­tive prop­er­ties of New Mex­ico’s cli­mate and its ar­chae­o­log­i­cal, nat­u­ral, and mul­ti­cul­tural won­ders to putting lit­tle green men and Pepe Le Pew on a pro­mo­tional float in the Tour­na­ment of Roses pa­rade? An­swer: “Progress” is hard to de­fine when it comes to the way New Mex­ico’s iden­tity has been man­u­fac­tured for the plea­sure of vis­i­tors, and any­thing is fair game if it means bring­ing more of them (and their dol­lars) to the re­gion.

In Marta Wei­gle’s new book, Al­lur­ing New Mex­ico: En­gi­neered En­chant­ment 1821-2001 (Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press), the mys­tery be­hind Pepe Le Pew isn’t solved — the car­toon skunk cre­ated by an­i­ma­tor Chuck Jones didn’t ap­pear in pro­mo­tions for the state along­side the more un­der­stand­able Road­run­ner and Wile E. Coy­ote un­til Jan­uary 2010.

Wei­gle, a Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico Re­gents Pro­fes­sor of An­thro­pol­ogy, crafts a com­pelling and well-re­searched ac­count of New Mex­ico’s evo­lu­tion from what 19th-cen­tury ex­plorer Capt. François Xavier Aubry called the Land With­out Law — where “only the brave and crim­i­nal come” — to the Land of En­chant­ment — where sci­ence, technology, and the sug­ges­tion of mil­i­tary con­spir­acy draw in vis­i­tors as hand­ily as art and ar­chi­tec­ture do.

Ad­dress­ing state iden­ti­ties that are at odds with each other — as re­vealed in in­ci­dents such as the 1990 con­flict be­tween sup­port­ers of Pe­cos Na­tional His­toric Park and de­vel­op­ers who had plans to turn nearby Forked Light­ning Ranch and other Pe­cos lands into a sprawl­ing golf re­sort and re­tail/vacation play­ground — Wei­gle walks the reader through the con­tro­ver­sies, con­flicts, and hard­ships that helped to shape a boom­ing tourist econ­omy in our once-rough neck of the woods. Spe­cial at­ten­tion is given to printed pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als used to hawk ev­ery­thing from the Fred Har­vey In­dian De­tours ex­pe­ri­ence at La Fonda in the mid 1920s to a lovely af­ter­noon at the Waste Iso­la­tion Pi­lot Plant nu­clear-waste repos­i­tory in Carls­bad.

Wei­gle dis­cusses and signs copies of Al­lur­ing New Mex­ico at 6 p.m. Fri­day, Sept. 24, at Col­lected Works Book­store (202 Gal­is­teo St., 988-4226).

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