4-28 NM Quarter
SANTA FE -- Hurry, there's not much time left to submit your entry for the New Mexico quarter design. May 12 is the deadline.
Contrary to the way it might sound, we aren't being asked to submit a "design." It must be a "narrative concept" of less than 150 words. That gives those of us without an artistic bone in our bodies a shot at making suggestions. Besides, the U.S. Mint has all the artists it needs.
The New Mexico quarter gives our state an opportunity to promote itself to the rest of the nation. Our quarter will pass through nearly everyone's hands at one time or another. What kind of impression do we want to leave with them?
Do we want mountains on it so people will know we aren't just a desert? Do we want to put "USA" on it as we do on most of our promotional materials? Since this is a U.S. coin, that shouldn't be necessary, but as we know, a frightening number of people are clueless about the geography of their own country.
The purpose of the federal Commemorative Coin Program Act is to educate youth about each state's history, geography and diversity. That makes mountains and USA both legitimate subjects, but New Mexico is so rich in history, geography and diversity that we should aim higher.
We won't want to include as many subjects as our Rose Parade float because there isn't room. Some states have tried it and the results aren't good. A simple, unified concept comes across better, but which do we choose?
How about something unique? New Mexico's Indian culture dates back to the earliest in the United States and still survives uninterrupted. The magnificent Taos Pueblo is the oldest multi-storied building in the nation. And the Pueblos conducted the first successful revolt against a European conqueror.
That conqueror was Spain, which made what is now New Mexico the first European colony in the United States. The Indian and Spanish cultures both would make very fitting subjects for the quarter in terms of history and diversity.
Geographically, we also have many more than our share of unique features, with our national parks and monuments. The geographical features on other state coins look pretty puny against our choices.
Ideally, our design would be inclusive of the entire state. But New Mexico is so big and diverse that capturing it all is difficult. We have ranching in every county, but several other Western states already have chosen horses or cowboys. And some people are offended by ranching.
In terms of significant events, we have plenty to brag about. We were the birthplace of atomic energy and still the leader in nuclear research. But talk about offending people, that one's out, even though development of a totally new energy source is highly significant.
New Mexico also is the birthplace of rocket science, first developed by Robert Goddard near Roswell, followed by decades of testing and development at White Sands Missile Range and now capped by a spaceport in southern New Mexico.
Many votes from kids have gone to the UFO crash at Roswell, featuring aliens and spacecraft. Socorro, Magdalena and Aztec also have UFO stories and it's an open secret that the aliens mostly migrated to Santa Fe after their crashes. But is that how we want New Mexico presented to the nation and world?
Maybe the state Tourism Department should have a say in our depiction on the quarter. That agency currently is developing a "brand" for New Mexico -- something with which we most want to be identified. It seems logical that our brand should be a top contestant for the quarter.
Or maybe it should be the other way around. The winning design for the quarter should become our brand.
My vote is for choosing a subject that combines New Mexico's past with its future. My vote is for space travel, envisioned by Goddard and implemented by our commercial spaceport.