They're just yellow words on a red T-shirt, plain, all caps. ¡SOY DE BURQUE!, or "I am from Burque." For the members of a cultural resistance movement that made those shirts, names are more than a collection of letters.
One letter in particular, "Q," has become the focal point of Mayor Chavez' branding effort. On March 23, he announced the city would adopt "The Q" moniker, as it was already part of some new business titles—Q Studios, The Q Bar, ABQ Uptown. The idea sprung from the brains at Rick Johnson & Co., who were working with the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau on ways to garner more tourism dollars. "I just like the heck out of it," Chavez said.
But Albuquerque doesn't need to be branded, and it's already got a nickname, say the nameless resisters behind the Soy de Burque movement, the leader of whom spoke with the Alibi about what's in a name.
How did you begin your revolution?
I heard that Martin Chavez had a press conference and announced that he was going to lead a branding effort to brand Albuquerque "The Q." So Soy de Burque from then became a response to that news conference. We heard that this was going on, put up a website (www.soydeburque.com) and began trying to promote "Burque."
What do you think the problem is with being branded "The Q"?
Well, I don’t think it’s really an issue of being called whatever. It’s more the fact that nobody was asked, "What do you identify with?" So Soy de Burque, again, is the response to being tired of being told who we are by government and big business, both in a local and global sense.
How many members do you have now?
Anybody who wants to support Soy de Burque can do that. Just in living in Albuquerque, I suppose you’re part of the revolution. Everybody is a part of it. Everybody that’s from Albuquerque is from Burque. We just celebrated our tricentennial, and Burque has been around for a long time. Now The Q just came up these past few months.
What do you think the branding is about?
I can't even speak to that. I don't even know what the motivations are. As far as I’ve been able to tell from their news conferences and their press releases, it's basically that it is a branding effort to modernize Albuquerque.
Do you think it’s more generic?
I absolutely think it's generic. Why become another N.Y.C. or another L.A.? People identify with the first city here. We’re modern, and better rooted because we don’t need some fancy moniker that promises to make us run faster and jump higher. The Q just seems so superficial from what I know Burque to be.
What has the reaction to your website been so far?
Very positive. A lot of people relate quite a bit to what we’re doing, not just even in Albuquerque, but from all over the country. We get contacted by people from Albuquerque that got relocated to another part of the world or the country. They say, "That’s great, what you guys are doing; Soy de Burque; I wanna join; I’m proud; I love that place." It’s been incredibly positive.
Have you gotten any response from the city administration?
No, not that I know of. For all I know they could be wearing the T-shirts in their office. It’s funny because we get contacted from better business bureaus from other towns and they love it. This sort of story, I guess, has happened before, like in Austin there was this movement to "Keep Austin Weird."
It's not that we’re against raising the profile of Burque, but we’d like to have a say in it, and when you’re developing something that’s supposed to be modern, I’d like to get more insight from people who are more connected to the community, rather than just having some politician wave his wand.
Do you feel that it is a form of gentrification?
It just seems so robotic. Anybody who goes to business school, they learn that they need to do some branding research. Culture branding for the argument of commercialism and modernism just seems dangerous. You look at the world as it is now with a variety of people, politicians saying, "This is how you’re gonna be," and not asking around them. And those people are responding, and it’s not positive.
So what in a name? What’s the difference between being Burque or The Q?
The Q, more than anything, represents not having a voice. Burque--it’s a name that has been given by the people over generations, and it’s always sort of existed. The Q, the fact that they’re trying to make it modern—who’s to say what’s modern? I think Burque’s modern.
As a Burqueño, I feel like I’m modern. I’m open to intellectual conversation.
What’s in a name? When a name’s given to you ... here’s an example: Playing sports, you’ve got a coach. If the coach starts calling youMichael Jordan, you’re not going to go out and start playing like Michael Jordan. You’re going to play like you play.
What’s in your future? What are the next steps in the revolution?
There’s a lot of things on the drawing board. The main thing is promoting Burque as best as we can, really trying to maintain contact with people from Burque and being a voice to these politicians, because I think it’s important we speak up. Even though we may be few now, the fact that we’re able to get our message out, that’s what it comes back to.
On the horizon, we definitely want to work with local business and promote local trade. Money spent locally is returned and invested locally again and that can add strength. It's a contrast to this big marketing plan, branding something The Q in an attempt to bring in outside investors and things of that nature.
Why do you choose to remain anonymous?
It’s not about me. I’m just from Burque. That’s primarily it. I’m just one voice. But there’s many behind what’s going on right now. It has nothing to do with me.
There are many people who work with you, is that what you're saying? Or many people who support you?
Has anyone figured out your secret identity?
I don’t know. I would like the message to be, “If you want New York, go to New York. It’s a great place. If you want L.A., go to L.A. If you want Burque, come to Burque, the place of a cultural revolution, the hub of a new renaissance."
The big thing is that we don’t want to be cookie-cutter, and by saying no to something like this, we could be the hub. That’s pretty modern—the cultural revolution, and being the hub of a new renaissance that said "no" to something like this.
"We're exploring using The Q," says Deborah James, the mayor's spokesperson. "It was tested and got some very favorable feedback." When asked what Chavez thinks about the Soy de Burque movement, she said, "The mayor's office is open to talking to everyone, and we appreciate everyone's input."
It costs $1,400 to put The Q decals on the sides of new alternative fuel city vehicles. The logo is only being put on brand-new vehicles. "The only thing we're doing is switching the logo as new cars come on," she says, and no money was spent to switch out the logo of older vehicles.