Dr. Christina Greer (115266)
Dr. Christina Greer

I recently returned from a work trip to New Mexico and I just might be forever changed. For those of you who read my column often, you already know my thoughts on the matter: I think it is imperative for folks to drive across this country at least once in their lifetime. I am fascinated by the diversity of this large nation in all senses of the word: The geographic, racial and ethnic, topical, and cultural diversity is just the beginning conversation. 

While I was in New Mexico, I was fascinated by the rich history of this large, flat state. New Mexico has always had a history of incorporating indigenous, Mexican, and Spanish culture into the literal fabric and origins of the state. Although the population is only 3 percent African American, there are interesting and complicated questions about the inclusion and incorporation of all cultures in the state.

The state relies heavily on oil and gas production, but most people in New Mexico know that gravy train will not last forever. As the state seeks to diversify its major funding stream, it made me think of New York State and other states that rely on industries that may be dying out or phased out in the next decade or so. As New York moves away from its economic reliance on the prison industry and fracking, what will replace these industries and create a more equitable and safer New York?

I took some amazing photographs while I was driving through New Mexico. I wondered what the state looked like 50 or even 100 years ago. Since I am a trustee of the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side in New York City, I often think about what cities, and New York City in particular, looked like decades ago. I sometimes forget to think about other states with smaller populations and a lot more land mass. How has climate change affected their landscape or even migratory patterns of small groups of people? 

For context, New Mexico is a state of just over 2 million people. Yes, you read that correctly: The entire state has fewer people than the borough of Brooklyn. However, New Mexico is the fifth-largest state in land mass. Basically, New Mexico is almost roughly half the size of Texas. And in case you’re wondering, New York is the 27th-largest state in area. 

New Mexico was vast and the clouds hung in the sky like massive cotton balls waiting to be plucked. I’m not saying I’m ready to move west, but I would encourage folks to spend a little time exploring our massive and beautiful country. I learned so much about indigenous communities, complex economic circumstances, and divergent histories that bind us all.

Christina Greer, Ph.D. is an associate professor at Fordham University; author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.

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  1. Excuse me, you just described the state as flat? Where exactly did you go? We have mountains! Lots of them.

  2. New Mexico has strong tech and film industries.
    And the Rockies run down thru here, including the Sandias.
    You didn’t mention any places or towns in the state… we’re you even here?

  3. You should stay in NYC with your woke politics. You have not one clue about the history of NM. The cultures intertwine Spanish , Indian and Anglo folks. We have world class skiing, cuisine and art. Plus, we have the oldest vineyards. BTW, I’m sure your vehicle wasn’t running on solar panels. Stay in NYC with your victim mentality.

    1. Actually, Jamie, New Mexico has a rich culture of Black, African history. You don’t have a clue. I will correct this woman about New Mexico being flat. (She obviously saw a small part of the state, I’m guessing Las Cruces?) I have no clue. Check out: https://afrofrontier.com – you will learn about Blackdom, New Mexico.

  4. Also we have amazing gatherings like the balloon fiesta, burning of the zozobra. I love New Mexico with all the amazing natural beauty. There’s hot springs, mountains, and wonderful people

  5. As an African American woman (born in Chicago, raised in NYC) who recently settled in rural New Mexico after 20 years of living in Europe; I can only agree with your feelings of being changed by the state. I also agree with everyone in the comments who pointed out how mountainous the state is (though I don’t agree with how offensively some seemed to take it. I get it, you only visited once.) The mountains are what kept me here.
    After visiting New Mexico multiple times over years (and being increasingly drawn back; Land of Enchantment and all of that…) I decided to move back ‘home’ to The U.S again, but ultimately that was only because of this state and because of how special it is.
    I look forward to spending my days as a rural homesteader surrounded by my small local community which have been here for generations and have created an incredibly rich culture that I am only just beginning to know.
    I have been blessed within my lifetime to be able to travel and see a lot of our beautiful and mysterious planet; however I have never been anywhere even remotely similar to New Mexico.
    And I agree with you, more African Americans should strike out and see how stunning this country is. I myself feel as though I am following in a long line of black (and other) folks who also understood the freedom and beauty of the Wild West.

  6. Hello Dr. Christina Greer!

    I hope you will take a look at our website so you can dive into New Mexico Black History. You will find Dr. Timothy E. Nelson’s research about the only incorporated all-Black town of Blackdom, New Mexico and the Significance of the Afro-Frontier to give you a new perspective on Blacks in the West. https://afrofrontier.com
    Thank you for your time!
    Marissa R. Roybal

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