It’s great being back in the Land of Enchantment. Mi tierra encantada. Mi linda Nuevo Mejico.
While some people may refer to our fair state as the Land of Entrapment, it’s been home to me most of my life. And after 2 1/2 years in the Lone Star State, it’s nice to be back in a land flowing with red and green chile.
Texas is bigger but it’s how hot a state’s chile is that really counts. I love a lot of things about Texas, but Tex-Mex cuisine does not set your taste buds on fire like Hatch greens. Musically, however, Texas easily outswings New Mexico. In fact, Texas has two of its own music categories: Texas country, as in Pat Green and Cooder Graw, and my favorite, Tejano, as in Michael Salgado and the Kumbia Kings.
But it’s not only the famous New Mexico chile that has brought this native New Mexican and Portalesano home — even if only for a while. And it certainly wasn’t the three or four old grouches in Portales, nor was it our state flower, that desert weed, the yucca. Aaah! Another area where Texas outranks New Mexico, with it’s state flower, the bluebonnet. Bluebonnets almost got me in trouble with the law, but that’s another column and that’s enough pitting New Mexico against Texas — for now anyway.
My family in Portales had something to do with me coming home while I figure out what I want to do with my life, as did peanut butter milkshakes and numerous hours of soul searching and prayer.
I was born and raised in P-Ville, or Goober Gulch, as we call it. I moved away in 1995, spending five years at the Hobbs Daily News-Sun in Hobbs and two years with the Abilene Reporter-News in Abilene, Texas.
One reason I came back was to explore a career in education. I spent this past spring substitute teaching with the Portales Municipal Schools, and while it has been an eye-opener, my heart is torn between the newsroom and classroom.
While the days are longer in the newsroom, I feel that is probably my calling in life. After 13 years in the business, it’s not easy to let go. My former editor in Hobbs, Manny Marquez, was right when he told me, “Once the ink gets into your blood, you’re hooked!”
Still, there’s that dilemma of wanting to simplify my busy, deadline-oriented life and spend more time with my daughter, Laura, who will be an official teenager next month. And yet … there’s that constant little voice inside telling me not to give up on writing just yet. I’m sure many of you face similar dilemmas.
Either way, I don’t regret substitute teaching. Even if I stay in journalism, it’s a good idea to get out of my box once in a while. Sometimes we journalists live in our own “news” world and lose touch with “regular” people. We sometimes think of ourselves as the know-it-alls. The same can be said for teachers and other professionals.
All in all, this experience has been about much more than coming home. Sometimes, when you feel lost, it helps to go back to where you started to see where God will lead you next.
Helena Rodriguez is the lifestyles coordinator for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be contacted at