Colorado could get a license plate with chili on it; New Mexico is not having it

Plans for a Pueblo Chile license plate are moving forward in Colorado.

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A mockup of the proposed Colorado license plate with Pueblo Chile on it. (Courtesy of the Pueblo Chile Growers Association)

A mockup of the proposed Colorado license plate with Pueblo Chile on it. (Courtesy of the Pueblo Chile Growers Association)

Some New Mexicans are getting a little hot after seeing plans for a Pueblo Chile license plate move forward in Colorado.

“As a chili fanatic, I think it’s offensive,” one New Mexico resident recently told KRQE about Colorado’s plans.

Another resident told the Santa Fe TV station that “they should stick to the Rocky Mountains.”

There’s a long-standing, regional battle over whether chili from Hatch, New Mexico or Pueblo is better. State Rep. Daneya Esgar wants to take the fight to a new front — literally, the front of vehicles — with the introduction of a license plate with Pueblo Chile on it.

The Pueblo Democrat got her first taste of victory with Senate Bill 1012 on Thursday making it through the Colorado House of Representatives Transportation and Energy Committee. The bill is set to go before House Appropriations Committee next and possibly the House floor after.

“We want to make sure that all of Colorado knows that Pueblo Chile is our chili. Pueblo Chile is Colorado’s chili and eventually will be the leading brand of chili across the United States,” Esgar said in a statement.

If the bill passes, the license plates could be available to any Colorado vehicle owner starting in January 2018. A one-time $25 fee would be placed on plates, the bill states.

Colorado is the underdog in the chili clash.

There were 333 acres of chili harvested in Colorado as of the last census from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2012. That’s compared to 9,577 acres in New Mexico for the same year.

In 2015, $41.09 million worth of chili was produced in New Mexico, according to the USDA. The same information wasn’t available for Colorado but it’s probably safe to say the industry was much smaller.

In 2015, farmers in Pueblo started the Pueblo Chile Growers Association to promote and market chili grown in Southern Colorado. The association has gained some victories, as the late, great Denver Post reporter Colleen O’Connor noted, with the brand being sold in major retailers like Whole Foods.

The association is working with Esgar on the Pueblo Chile plates, association president Dalton Milberger said.

Neither Milberger nor the association’s past president could be baited into talking trash about New Mexico or Hatch Chile lovers.

“It’s just to help spread the brand across Colorado,” Esgar said. “We’re not trying to take any of their business away.”

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