This Is What Happens in New Mexico / by Karie Luidens


Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales

I saw his name plaque on the House floor and did a double take.

I’ve met Representative Gonzales. More than met him—I’ve eaten his wife’s homemade wheat tortillas hot off the pan in his sister’s Albuquerque kitchen. That was after I spent a September morning with the Gonzales family peeling fresh-roasted Hatch green chiles. They were such gracious hosts, they sent me home with a Taos community cookbook so I could learn more about their hometown and try to cultivate the beloved flavors of northern New Mexico myself.

Of course. I knew that I knew a state representative. I knew that before I showed up at the Roundhouse to sit in the gallery as an anonymous observer of a floor session. I just forgot until I spotted his profile, then his plaque, that he would of course be one of the legislators at work in the House today.

My face cracked into a grin.

Of course.

Antelope Wells is hardly a place.

Albuquerque is a small world.

Santa Fe es familia.

This is what happens in New Mexico. In some places, there aren’t a lot of people. But in the places where there are, you meet people who know people who love people who are related to people who introduce you to other people who work with the people who pass our laws. You keep looping back on the same communities, interlacing and overlapping and linking together. New Mexico is, I guess, as perfectly circular as its name and pledge imply.

I walked into the Roundhouse expecting to see distant strangers participate in a formal process. I expected it to be alien and complex and opaque.

Then I looked up and thought oh, it’s Bobby! I danced at his son’s wedding a couple years ago. I peeled chiles with his wife and sister. I have plans to get lunch with his daughter-in-law tomorrow in Nob Hill. Tomorrow. These legislators—the people we chant at and call and lobby, the all-powerful button-pushers who make our laws—they’re fleshy familial people like the rest of us.