Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 08, 2007

3-14 Get Centerrial On Track

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE � Lest you get the notion that New Mexico is becoming less the Land of Manana as progress parches on, think again.
New Mexico has the longest and most varied history of any state in the nation, but when it comes to celebrating that history, we become more complacent every year.
The latest example is the state Legislature's disinterest in beginning preparations for our state's centennial celebration in 1912. After the longest battle of any state to enter the union, it finally happened on January 6, 1912.
Sure, that's almost 5 years away, but centennials usually start a year early and involve a tremendous amount of bureaucracy and planning. Arizona's centennial is a month later, but it started planning two years ago with a $2.5 million legislative appropriation.
Rep. Rhonda King of Santa Fe has introduced House Bill 511 providing $250,000 to create a Centennial Commission and spelling out eight pages of powers and duties. It is a comprehensive piece of legislation, providing a good road map for how we get organized.
So far, the bill has made it through a grand total of one committee and now lies in the House Appropriations Committee with no money in it. Legislative fiscal wizards fret that similar appropriations may be required during the next five years and they might have more important projects than honoring our state.
Let it be noted that the state has been running surpluses of close to a billion dollars the past few years and that if $250,000 were appropriated for each of the next five years, it would only be half the amount Arizona already appropriated two years ago.
It might also be noted that the first 250 years of Arizona's history is New Mexico history. Arizona was merely the western half of New Mexico from 1598 to 1848. And there wasn't much in that half of our state other than saguaros and scorpions.
It is disheartening to see such disinterest in honoring our great state. We will miss a great opportunity to promote our state to the rest of the nation. Guess we can hope that some people will drop by on their way to Arizona. Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican predicts New Mexico's centennial celebration will be a pot-luck dinner and no-host bar.
It hasn't always been that way in New Mexico. Back in 1883, we threw a party that surely will never be equaled in our state. We called it a Tertio-Millennial Celebration.
Somehow 333 years didn't quite compute, but it was catchy and the railroads which just recently had reached out state were anxious to pay the bill in order to bring tourists from all over the nation to get a taste of the true West.
It was a smashing success. The length of the Tertio-Millennial kept being extended as trainloads of visitors poured in for weeks. The press came, too, from all over the nation. Indians danced. A race track was built two blocks north of the plaza and the huge center was filled with booths. The area now is Federal Place.
Another huge celebration occurred in 1940, the 400th anniversary of Coronado's expedition. It likely was New Mexico's second biggest celebration. In 1960. Santa Fe celebrated long and hard for its 350th anniversary.
And for nearly 300 years Santa Fe and the Catholic Church have celebrated an annual fiesta commemorating the reconquest of New Mexico in 1692.
But recent celebrations have fallen rather flat. The pueblos did a fairly good job of commemorating the 300th anniversary of their 1680 Revolt against Spanish settlers. And Albuquerque put on a year-long 300th birthday bash last year.
Very little happened, however, in 1992 to celebrate Columbus's encounter with the New World. Absolutely nothing took place in 1996 on the 150th anniversary of New Mexico becoming part of the United States.
And little happened in 1998 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States.
All of those had overtones of strife. This one doesn't. It's our chance to do it right.
WED, 3-14-07

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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