The Rudest People in the World: New Mexico’s Alcohol Problems

New Mexico bills itself as The Land of Enchantment.”  It is in Santa Fe and Taos where I love to come as often as possible.  This region is an island of civility and manners in a sea of high desert where,as one local put it on radio yesterday, “the state sport is driving drunk and throwing beer bottles at the rocks as you speed by.”  Drunk driving is New Mexico’s biggest problem outside a massive state budget problem.  They are talking about closing schools here and are already closing rest areas along the interstates.  Mind you this isn’t like home where you can exit anywhere and find services.  Here in the desert there’s NOTHING between the towns and you might drive 50-100 miles between towns.  Closing the rest areas means no where for tired motorists or truckers to get a respite.

Liquor stores abound and Las Vegas was filled with pawn shops, loan offices, payday lenders, cash advance places and the like.

They even have drive through package stores.  Just like McDonalds you can go to the drive up window and buy your booze.

The prevalence of alcohol permeates small towns like Las Vegas.  The liquor lobby is very powerful in New Mexico and taxes on booze are low.  Efforts to balance the state budget by increasing taxes on alcohol get nowhere.  The people here seem to think they have a divine right to drink, drive, be obnoxious and a danger to others.  The western attitude of “its all about me and screw you” is everywhere.  Only in Santa Fe and Taos do you escape this.  Here the folks are engagingly polite and they won’t even proceed through an intersection until pedestrians are safely across.  One of the things I truly love about Santa Fe is the great manners, civility and politeness of the locals.  Perhaps that is because many of the locals here are transplanted from everywhere else.  They come here for this atmosphere, for the climate, the arts, the beauty of this region.  Go outside the immediate area however and you’ll find places such as Las Vegas.  You’ll find the rudest people in the world.

The debate over alcohol in Pennsylvania is quite different.  The Keystone State is grounded in puritanical thinking that beer and booze should be difficult to buy and controlled by the Commonwealth.  The State Store system is, again, being reconsidered in Harrisburg to expand to privatized package stores.  The opponents keep pointing to the risk of underage sales, alcoholism and, basically, the problems in places such as New Mexico.  That. of course, doesn’t have to be the problem.  Our surrounding states limit the number of outlets, the amount sold at one time, etc.  It isn’t difficult to find a happy medium.  New Mexico has major problem and they must tackle it with more zeal or risk losing their tourism.  You simply cannot have horror stories like I posted below and expect tourists to come or return.  Civilized people won’t tolerate such rudeness and out of control behavior.  The worst part of my lost weekend, a time when I desperately needed some rest after a long journey, was that the children are being raised to think such behavior is acceptable.  The cycle continues.  This state is in desperate financial condition due to the Bush Recession and they cannot afford blogs like mine and radio shows like ours to send the message “don’t visit New Mexico.”

One of the results of the rampant alcoholism here is the prevalence of payday lenders, pawn shops, title loan businesses and the sort of trade which preys on the poor and the desperate.  You see them everywhere just as signs of abject poverty are everywhere.  In downtown Las Vegas I found locations that define the word blight:

Even in their central plaza you find blight: