New Mexico chile license plate wins national award

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - It's only been out for a few months, but the state's new red and green chile license plate has been a major success and brought a national award back to New Mexico.

State officials announced Monday the primarily black and yellow colored plate has been named the "Best Plate of 2017" award by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA).

The national group says New Mexico's plate commemorating the state as the "Chile Capital of the World" beat out 16 other plates for the top honor, winning "by a huge margin."

"The plate is simply stunning, with its unusual black background and embossed yellow letters and numbers accented by colorful red and green chile peppers," said ALPCA President Cyndi McCabe.

To win the 2017 award, New Mexico's chile plate beat out other top entries from Hawaii, Wyoming and Oklahoma, which placed second, third and fourth, respectively.

VIEW: ALPCA Best Plate of 2017 Entries »

The chile plate has also become popular with New Mexican drivers. According to the state's Motor Vehicle Division, around 140,000 drivers and motorcyclists have registered their vehicles with a "chile plate" since its launch last July.

An Albuquerque driver, Blanca, told KRQE News 13 Monday that she likes the plate because she says it represents New Mexico.

"That's the number one thing we're known for," said Blanca. "It's usually just a (hot air) balloon, but I think the chile represents the culture here."

The 2017 award is actually the second time the ALPCA has recognized New Mexico for its license plates.

In 2011, the state won the same ALPCA "Best Plate" award for the popular turquoise plate that honored New Mexico state's centennial anniversary.

That plate used to go "out of stock" at the MVD frequently, but now the state says the chile plate is a new favorite. 

Some drivers agree.

"New Mexico, it's all about chile," said Michael from Albuquerque. "You know, a chile license plate, green chile, red chile, I love chile."

Ironically, New Mexico's newly beloved chile plate may have never happened if it weren't for competition. 

In February 2017, Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill to recognize Pueblo-grown chile, nearly beating New Mexico to the punch.

In response, New Mexico lawmakers passed a bill to create a chile license plate. However, that bill was vetoed by Gov. Martinez, who shortly after directed MVD to begin circulating the black and yellow chile plate New Mexicans now see today.

Some drivers say they're glad to see that New Mexico beat out Colorado in the race for chile license plate fame.

"I think it's good that we're getting known for something," said John, an Albuquerque driver.

Drivers who are getting a plate for the first time can get the chile plate for free. Drivers who want to switch plates on a car that's already registered must pay to have their plate replaced. The fee for that is $7.25 online or $17 in person at an MVD office.


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