There are times I think about the people who have lived here before me. I ponder the unique strength of both the indigenous and settling peoples that chose to live in the desert that is New Mexico. I consider their travels; what they must have thought of the dynamic landscape they traversed and made their home. New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment, and while its features are mesmerizing, there is a strange beauty to our state that seems to be an acquired taste.
Perhaps it was the wild terrain: The Tent Rocks and the White Sands are otherworldly in their appearance. Most were likely deterred by the towering mountains or the vast, barren deserts. New Mexico’s lack of water is one of the land’s critical flaws. Regardless of reason, few have fallen in love with our state enough to make it their home. And in keeping with our heritage, New Mexico continues to appeal to the few.
Some of the most familiar icons of New Mexico are great examples of appealing to the few. Most people in our state can agree that chile should be spicy, though there might be a division over whether it should be Red or Green. But the pursuit of hotter chile is generally one that takes place within our state’s borders. And speaking of heat: our state quarters and license plates proudly display a hot air balloon: an inefficient form of travel that is both beautiful and dangerous, and the balloons pepper the Rio Grande Valley sky unlike anywhere else in the world. New Mexicans are a rare breed, reveling in the features and traits that make us stand apart.
Unfortunately, our state has also distinguished itself in other ways. The New Mexican teenage birthrate is 4th highest in the nation, we are among the state leaders in teenage drug use, and over 25% of our youth live below the poverty line. New Mexico is 8th in the nation in single mother homes, at 9.4% Despite our low population, our juvenile crime rates and organized gangs rival national urban numbers. The need to improve our state and our population has never been greater.
The New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranches, still true to our New Mexican roots, are also an acquired taste. We are a faith based program that receives no government funding. This allows us to operate our campus in a manner that we see fit, with limited government oversight. In a society that is trending to greater reliance on social programs, The Ranches works to empower our residents to stand on their own; living independently and in control of their own lives. We challenge the youth in our care to face their problems head on, as ugly as they sometimes may be, and develop into functional and productive adults. Personal growth does not take place in safe spaces or with trigger warnings.
Marginalized notoriety will always be an ingredient of New Mexico’s success. However, for our state to survive long enough to succeed, we must reintroduce some flavors lost to our culture: Accountability, Hard Work, and Self Awareness. At The Ranches we try to instill these and other values in our residents, but we cannot do it alone. We must enlist your help to make our state a better place. Collectively, we must raise the bar of our expectations and ask more from one another as we seek to put New Mexico at the top of only the good lists. We must help those around us acquire their own taste for greatness.