Diné teen featured in 'New Mexico True' campaign
By Noel Lyn Smith
WINDOW ROCK, April 9, 2013
T he image of a young man walking across large rocks with the blue sky behind him has recently been added to the images that appear on the New Mexico Department of Tourism's website.
Elijah Petty, 18, Diné, is the young man whose image is captured mid-stride and the photograph is part of the tourism department's "New Mexico True" campaign that was launched this week.
The tourism advertisements feature some of the state's landscape, recreation areas, restaurants and cultural events and will be displayed within the state as well as in Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
"I feel happy, like I accomplished something," Petty said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his home in Albuquerque.
The photo shoot took place last summer at City of Rocks State Park near Silver City, N.M. The image was taken by Santa Fe-based photographer Julien McRoberts.
"For me, it was just about having fun," Petty said.
He became involved with the campaign after his mother, Miranda Petty, saw the casting call posted on the New Mexico Film Office website.
Part of the campaign's mission is to highlight the diversity in New Mexico and "to show that we appreciate the people that are here," Miranda said.
Of the photographs submitted by McRoberts, the tourism department selected five images featuring Petty.
"It makes me excited and proud of him," Miranda said. "I knew he would make it."
Petty remembers feeling at ease climbing the rocks and exploring the desert landscape that composed the background.
As for the image that is now featured on the tourism department's website, Petty agrees with the choice.
"It was my favorite too," he said.
Veronica Valencia, tourism department spokesperson, said the photographs would mostly appear online, on television, in newspapers, and in other media to boost the department's summer promotion, "New Mexico True Stories."
The 14-week contest encourages people to travel the state this summer and share their "True" stories for a chance to be named the Ultimate New Mexico Insider and win a $5,000 cash prize.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez launched the promotion Monday at the 2013 Governor's Conference on Tourism in Albuquerque.
"We know New Mexicans are all very proud of the place we call home. So now is the time to share your insider's tips and great undiscovered treasures that make 'New Mexico True,'" Martinez said in a statement released by her office.
Petty, whose father is Joel Petty of Albuquerque, is a junior at Cibola High School, where he is also a varsity wrestler.
On his down time, he likes to go hiking with his aunt, Catherine Begaye, and visit with his grandmother, Maggie Murphy.
"His grandmother is very involved in his life," Miranda said, then added that Murphy practices speaking Navajo with Petty.
Petty's career goal is to become a spinal surgeon and he would like to attend medical school at the University of New Mexico, but he is open to applying at other universities.
This was the first time Petty has worked on such a project. Along with the honor of representing his home state, he was paid $800 for his modeling as well as a stipend for travel and accommodations, Miranda said.
"It was his very first paycheck," she said. "We took pictures of him holding up his check."
Petty is Honáagháahnii (One Walks Around Clan), born for Naahilii (African-American) and Bilagáana.
He would like to continue pursuing modeling but understands there is no guarantee of success. But this experience has taught him that it is possible.
In the meantime, Petty is busy completing the school year by studying for final examinations.
To view the photo, go to www.newmexico.org/.