Pride Ignites in New Mexico

The Stonewall riots began in Greenwich Village after 1 am on June 28, 1969, and they continued with varied levels of intensity through July 3rd. For those who witnessed or heard about the events, the rebellion sparked a sense of urgency for change. Stonewall’s aftermath inspired new organizations and new tactics, in New York City and across the country.

This pressing desire for action resonated in New Mexico too; organizers in Albuquerque attempted to form a chapter of the Gay Liberation Front at UNM in 1970. By 1975, activist energy in Albuquerque coalesced around two organizations, a local group called Juniper and the Metropolitan Community Church, both of which focused on community, support, and self-acceptance in the face of mainstream prejudice. In 1976, these organizations co-hosted the first Pride march in Albuquerque with about 25 participants, no permit, and no media attention.

100+ marchers from the MCC, the Gay Co-op, and Lambdas de Santa Fe again celebrated “Christopher Street Resistance” in Albuquerque in 1977, chanting “Out of the closets, into the streets.” The featured speaker that year was Mattachine Society founder (and New Mexico resident) Harry Hay, who called for a “coalition among all scapegoat minorities—Indians, Chicanos, Blacks, women in the women’s movement, and gays.” The marchers’ cars were egged, they were booed and heckled (but also cheered), and a local church passed out “Gay No More” pamphlets. Undaunted, one woman told a reporter for the alternative newspaper Seers Rio Grande Weekly that “The homophobes and hatemongers will just have to look out ‘cause we’re coming out and we’re not going back.”

By 1981, when this Lesbian & Gay Pride Week program was created, Pride was organized by the Gay Co-op. Around that time, 1980 or 1981, one woman marched with a paper bag over her head, a compromise since she wanted to be a part of the public demonstration but was worried that being out could cause her to lose her job or her son.

These early parades might have been the first time that Albuquerque locals could see how many gay people, often talked about in the abstract or singly, were members of the community: neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, and teachers. But, it is important to note, these celebrations and demonstrations weren’t for the straights, they were for the gay community and for liberation.

Albuquerque Pride gave us permission to post their copy of this 1981 program, signed by the artist, Ray Sandoval.

1981 Albuquerque Lesbian & Gay Pride week event schedule. Published by Common Bond

Happy Pride! May we roller disco again soon!

On Juneteenth

Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, formerly enslaved, engraving by Barry Moser (Pennyroyal Press, 2020)

Slavery was formerly abolished (again) in New Mexico by a Congressional act on June 19, 1862, which prohibited slavery in current and future US territories. This was prior to the more famous Emancipation Proclamation (issued September 22, 1862, enacted January 1, 1863), which was supposed to free the enslaved in ten Confederate states. And it was three years to the day before the first Juneteenth, June 19, 1865, when news of the Proclamation reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.

While in theory the 13th Amendment of 1865 and the Anti-Peonage Act of 1867 (which names New Mexico specifically) effectively made slavery and servitude illegal in the US, social and legal systems of discrimination, such as the Jim Crow laws, continued to oppress African Americans (and many other historically marginalized people). These systems only began to shift in response to the successes of the Civil Rights movements and the Great Society legislation of the 1960s.

New Mexico’s antislavery history is complex and centuries long. As part of the Spanish colonial empire, slavery was abolished here in 1512 and again in 1543, although African and Indigenous people continued to be widely enslaved throughout the Americas. In 1829, Mexico abolished slavery in its states and territories, including New Mexico (but excluding Texas). American occupation reopened these debates.

Historic Emancipation Day and Juneteenth celebrations have taken place in Roswell, Clovis, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque since at least the 1890s and include music, food, games, sports, and pageantry with attendees dressed in their finest clothes. Juneteenth has been a New Mexico state holiday since 2006, and it helps make visible our African American communities while celebrating the end of one phase of a significant part of our national history.

For more on this holiday and African American history in New Mexico, check out this 2019 episode from KUNM’s “Let’s Talk New Mexico.”

Making History: Upcycle Old T-shirts into Tote Bags

Join New Mexico History Museum Educator, Melanie LaBorwit in upcycling an old t-shirt to make a brand new tote bag…with a bonus tip too.

This month’s Making History activity is a nod to the spirit of the exhibit “Voices of the Counterculture in the Southwest” which was hosted by the New Mexico History Museum in 2017 & 2018 and is now available to experience in an online experience. Making History is a Monthly series, which is held on the first Sunday of each month at the New Mexico History Museum. visit us online at: on facebook: @NewMexicoHistoryMuseum