The Hot Empire of Chile

Kent Ian Paterson


Winner of the Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association

Journalist Kent Paterson takes a fascinating journey into the heart of chile culture. He includes the history of the plant, the role of migrant farm labor, problems faced by farmworkers, research on chile breeding, pesticides, the salsa wars, changes in U.S. eating habits, and the impact of NAFTA.

"Drawing upon his previous investigative journalism articles and radio stories on this subject, Paterson explores the roots and rise of New Mexico's chile industry. The author not only details the major players in New Mexico's chile game, such as Roy Nakama and other researchers from New Mexico State University, he also devotes considerable text to the plight of the migrant farmers who pick the chiles. He covers the clashes between various corporations in the "salsa wars" as well as the disputes between organized labor and chile farmers. [An] in-depth look at the chile trade in the New Mexico." —Library Journal

"Journalist Paterson has written a history of New Mexico's dominant cash crop, the chile pepper. Tracing the chile's cultivation throughout the region from earliest times, Paterson notes the invaluable contribution of horticulturist Fabian Garcia at New Mexico State University, who developed high-yield, pest-resistant cultivars that made pepper culture profitable. Paterson describes the hard, backbreaking work of the pepper pickers, who gather in great numbers along the banks of the Rio Grande as harvest season approaches. Efforts to improve housing and education for these migrant workers have led to social conflict. Paterson depicts in detail the hard life of Dona Lincha, a single mother struggling to support her family through pepper picking. He also explains some of the competition among the big corporations to market chiles nationwide. Along the way one learns the depth of contempt genuine New Mexicans hold for Texans' chile con carne and Californians' too-mild chiles that 'taste like grass.' " —Booklist

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