The documentary will discuss the history of chile, how it came to New Mexico, the different varieties, the health benefits of chile, the economic impact that chile has on New Mexico, the responsibilities farmers have to ensure the best crop, and how chile has impacted culture and food in New Mexico. This is in simple terms, this is the story of how one plant has helped form a culture.
New Mexico's favorite food item is spelled c-h-i-l-e and in 1983, Senator Pete Dominici made it official by putting it in Congressional Record. He rose and addressed the United States Senate, declaring that even though the word was chili in the dictionary , New Mexicans refuse to spell it the way the rest of America does, and so, he stood before the full Senate and with the backing of my New Mexican Constituents state unequivocally that the dictionary is wrong. Then, after extolling the virtues of New Mexico chile, he told his colleagues, Hospitable as we are to all visitors, we have chile that is mild enough to make a baby coo in delight, or hot enough to make even the strongest constitutions perspire in a sensual experience of both pleasure and pain. He ended by saying, "I could go on and on about the wonders of red and green chile, but in reality, all I wanted to do was inform Congress on the correct way to spell the word." (chiletraditions.com)
Chile peppers originated in the lowlands of Brazil as small red, round, "berry-like" fruits. This location called the 'nuclear area' has the greatest number of wild species of chile peppers in the world today. Scientists believe that birds are mainly responsible for the spread of wild chile peppers out of this 'nuclear area.' Over the centuries birds developed a symbiotic relationship with chile peppers. Birds do not have the receptors in their mouths that feel the "heat" and a birds digestive system does not harm the chile pepper seed. There are five domesticated and 25 known wild species of chile peppers. When Christopher Columbus was looking for a new spice trade rout and bumped into the new world, he came across these new fruits when the Western Natives offered him some chile pepper. When he ate the pods he felt the same "burn" or "heat" felt from black pepper and he mistakenly called it "pepper" this is why today chile peppers are called peppers. Columbus took the fiery pods back to Spain and they quickly spread across the Eastern hemisphere and are used in almost every international cuisine around the world. There are several stories about how chile peppers came to New Mexico, some scientists believe that Onate brought them on his expedition of the Camino Real and others believe they arrived in New Mexico through trade between the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest and the Toltec Indians of Mexico. There is no archeological evidence to neither prove nor dispel either theory. But one thing is for sure, the Native Pueblo Indians of the southwest were definitely growing chile peppers. (A Chile Pepper Institute publication, New Mexico State University © 2007)