Learn Your History Thursday (the Governor Says So)

It’s official: Governor Susana Martinez has declared Thursday, May 3, “New Mexico Statehood History Day.” Thursday, not so coincidentally, happens to be the day the New Mexico History Museum and the Historical Society of New Mexico kick off three days of learning about statehood.

In her proclamation, Governor Martinez said:

Whereas, the year 2012 marks the Centennial of New Mexico becoming the 47th state of the union on January 6, 1912; and

Whereas, New Mexico’s millennia of cultural traditions and centuries of recorded history, beginning with the first Spanish entrada in 1540 and continuing through Spanish Colonial, Mexican, Territorial, and statehood periods, are as rich and deep as any; and

Whereas, New Mexico’s long path to statehood, beginning with being named a territory of the United States in 1850, involved the perseverance oaf many dedicated citizens over many decades; and

Whereas, the study and understanding of our unique history provides a base for New Mexicans to better prepare for the future;

Now, therefore I, Susana Martinez, governor of the state of New Mexico, do hereby proclaim the 3rd day of May 2012 as “New Mexico Statehood History Day” throughout the state of New Mexico.

The best way to honor Statehood History Day, in our eyes, is by visiting the state History Museum. Admission is free to everyone on Thursday and you can pop into any or all of the lectures at our Centennial Symposium. On Friday and Saturday, the Historical Society holds its annual conference at the Santa Fe Convention Center, and this year, the discussions are focused on statehood. (Click on the link for details on how to register.)

Topics will range from traditional foods in Native American communities to land-grant studies, Western characters like Kit Carson and Wyatt Earp, and controversial New Mexico politicos such as Thomas Benton Catron, Bronson Cutting, and New Mexico’s first Territorial Governor (and possible U.S. spy) James S. Calhoun. The conference’s 24 sessions and nearly 70 presentations include:

  • “Juan Dominguez de Mendoza: Soldier and Frontiersman of 17th-Century New Mexico,” by historians Marc Simmons and José Antonio Esquibel.
  • “The Changing Character of New Mexico Statehood as Reflected by the Santa Fe Fiesta Celebration,” by Andrew Lovato, assistant professor of speech communications at Santa Fe Community College.
  • “Butch Cassidy in New Mexico: His Winning Ways, Dancing Feet, and Postmortem Return,” by free-lance writer Nancy Coggeshall.
  • “U.S. Army Nurses at Fort Bayard,” by Cecilia Jensen Bell, a researcher with the Fort Bayard Historical Preservation Society.
  • “La Matanza: Conserving Identity through Food in Los Lunas,” by Daniel Valverde, an anthropology student at New Mexico State University.

“The research that these scholars have accomplished is truly impressive,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the New Mexico History Museum. “Visitors can start their weekend history immersion by seeing the maps, paintings, photographs and artifacts that we use in our main exhibit, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now. If you’re not already a fan of history, the symposium and conference will make you one.”

Founded in 1859, the Historical Society of New Mexico is the oldest historical society in the West. Its collections were incorporated into the original Museum of New Mexico, created in 1909 in the Palace of the Governors, and today represent an important part of the New Mexico History Museum’s holdings. The society’s photographs, documents and books, collected from 1885 on, became the core of the museum’s Fray Angélico Chávez History Library and the Photo Archives at the Palace of the Governors. The Society began its annual conferences in 1974, and also publishes award-winning papers and news of history around the state in La Crónica de Nuevo México.

Image above: Dignitaries join U.S. President William H. Taft as he signs New Mexico into statehood in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 1912. Photo by Harris and Ewing. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives 89760.

Letters, We Get (New Mexico Centennial) Letters

When we launched the Centennial Letter Writing Project on Jan. 6, 2012 (the 100th anniversary of New Mexico statehood), some of us at the New Mexico History Museum wondered aloud whether we’d eke out even 200 letters over the next 12 months. Well, it’s early March, and we’re about to zoom past that total. The stack at left? That’s just today’s haul.

Students in the Upward Bound college-prep program in Roswell have written by the dozens. So did a class at St. Michael’s High School, members of a creative-writing group in Taos, and individuals of all ages in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and elsewhere.

(We sure could use some voices from western and southern New Mexico — hint, hint.)

Our request was simple enough (though it seemed a bit of a burden to the Twitter generation): Tell us about your life in the year 2012 so that historians in the year 2112 might have some first-person accounts told by rank-and-file residents. We want to hear what your neighborhoods are like, your houses, your career, what you worry about and what gives you hope. Think about what someone 100 years from now might want to know about you. The type of car you drive, its color, what it can and can’t do. The stores you shop at and what you buy there. Do you visit a farmer’s market? Describe the vendors and their produce. Tell us how you make your family’s favorite holiday food and where you get the ingredients. Do you work out? Where? Do you ride bikes or go hiking? Describe the route.

Over the next few months, we’ll post excerpts from some of those letters here on the blog. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have. And we hope that you, too, will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard; computer printouts are A-OK) and tell us about your life.

Where, pray tell, might you send your missives? Here:

(Isn’t that handwriting about the prettiest thing you’ve seen all week?)

Onto some samples from a few of our friends in Albuquerque. (We’ll only use first names and leave out writer’s addresses.)

Evelyn wrote:

“In this centennial year for New Mexico, I am 80 years old. I live in the Northeast Heights in a house purchased in 1958 for $10,500. It was built in 1954 … one block from Morris St. There were no buildings at that time from east of Morris St. to the mountains…just a dirt road named Juan Tabo. My house has 3 bedrooms, one bathroom and a one-car garage. Every home then had clotheslines and I still use mine. …As a single mother of four children, I taught sewing classes as my own business in fabric stores for 30 years. Most women work outside the home today so sewing is more of a hobby than a necessity. However, young people are becoming more interested in sewing because of a TV program called Project Runway. Sewing classes have been phased out in schools. …”

Joanne wrote:

“I am a native New Mexican, born in 1940 on North Fourth Street in Albuquerque. My father came to NM in 1907 from Kansas as a homesteader in Edgewood when he was 18 years old. His father and eight brothers each received 160 acres but later most of them lost their land because of drought and moved to Albuquerque. My mother came in 1912 when she was 12 years old because her father had TB. I was a teacher at Grant Jr. High and Manzano High School. …

“In 2010 I decided to remodel my house, the original part of which was built in 1947. it was cold in winter, hot in summer, a typical uninsulated, flat-roofed house. I decided to insulate it by wrapping the entire house with straw bales. With the stucco on the outside it looks like an adobe house. I also wanted to see the mountains so I added a second floor bedroom and bath with a deck. I remodeled the house to make the garage into an art studio and added a solar green house on the south side of the house. I added solar panels that produce more energy than I use, giving me great satisfaction, especially when I get a refund every month from the electric company. It makes me so happy to know that I am producing energy for someone else to use as well without polluting our beautiful earth. I am trying to have a garden for produce, fruit trees, flowers and foliage without using too much water so I installed rain-water collection tanks. I think of my house as a demonstration of what one can do with an old house to make it really energy efficient. …”

Suzanne, a 71-year-old Albuquerquean, included details of a friend’s upcoming surgery that, in 100 years, may seem like a commonplace procedure. Not today:

“Dear friend Emily … announced she will have deep brain surgery Mon. Jan. 9 to harness and correct hand tremors she’s suffered for several years. This is not experimental but cutting edge. She will be in intensive care two nights, then rehab after having a tiny computer implanted in her chest to maybe take the place of the part of her brain that is malfunctioning. She is frightened and excited. I think she is so brave but she needs to reclaim her life so she can paint and sew and make jewelry again.”

We’ll close out today (don’t worry, we’ll share plenty more in the weeks ahead) with Olivia, a fourth-grader from Hubert Humphrey Elementary School, whose optimism just may be catching:

“N.M makes me feel special because everyone is different and no one is mean or disappointed because this is the Land of Enchantment. Special things can happen, and that’s why I love New Mexico. What I worry about is people doing dangerous stuff. What gives me hope is seeing people happy and people encouraging me.”