Inside the Capitol

Friday, April 15, 2011

FRI, 4-22-11
SANTA FE – I was disappointed to see Gov. Susana Martinez's veto of $200,000 from the New Mexico Centennial celebration. January 6, 2012 is less than a year away.
From secondhand sources, I understand a committee has been working on it for a few years and that it has held meetings around the state. The only reason I know about that is communications I receive from various parts of New Mexico. Evidently many communities are getting excited about the celebration.
I got to visit with former state Rep. Dave Townsend, of Alamogordo, about that area's plans about a year ago and they were very excited. Townsend says Otero County has one of the few 47-star United States flags in existence. Imagine how brief a time that flag was in use. Arizona was admitted to the Union a month later.
For a state in which tourism is the largest private employer, New Mexico never has seemed to celebrate its history the way some other states do. The nation put on a huge bash for its 200th anniversary. Jamestown put on a big one for its 400th anniversary and it wasn't even sure where the original town site was.
In comparison, Santa Fe's 400th anniversary didn't make much of a wave. It was celebrated at least three years late, according to historians.
None of New Mexico's major anniversaries in the recent past have made much of a bang. In 1980, the Pueblos had some fun celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first and only native uprising against the invading Europeans.
In Santa Fe, the Hispanics have an annual celebration of their reconquest 12 years later, in 1692. It's not a statewide celebration but it comes off with a bang.
In 1998, there was little mention of the 400th anniversary of the Spanish colonization of New Spain, as they called the area that then encompassed what now is New Mexico, Arizona and the southern parts of Colorado, Utah and Nevada. That settlement was north of the present town of Espanola.
Then in 1996, was the 150th anniversary of New Mexico becoming part of the United States. That's when Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny marched his troops through New Mexico, without firing a shot, while claiming what is now the American Southwest as U.S. territory.
One would have thought that might have been because for some celebration but not a word was heard. There was no 100th celebration either because in 1946 we were much more engrossed in a World War we had just won.
The last big historical celebration New Mexico ever observed was the 400th anniversary of Coronado's expedition through New Mexico in 1940. That was organized by the University of New Mexico history department. The state put some good sized money into that one.
New Mexico's biggest historical celebration ever was held in 1883. It was called New Mexico's Tertio-Millennial celebration. Don't start counting on your fingers. The name was catchy but the date was only approximate.
It really was a celebration of railroads coming to New Mexico in the early 1880s and they were
anxious to get Easterners riding the railroads out here. Railroad companies paid for the whole shebang. Which lasted for weeks. And New Mexico, especially Santa Fe, received daily publicity throughout the nation via the wire services.
Why can't New Mexico throw parties like it once did? Are there too many other forms of entertainment in competition? Is history too dull a subject? Are we only interested in what's happening now?
Or does it depend on who is in charge? Are we waiting for the railroads or Virgin Galactic? Does the UNM history department need to get into the act again?
Or maybe it's the governor. Bill Richardson knew he wouldn't be around in 2012. Susana Martinez is from out of state and may not be interested. In fact, our last three governors have been from out of state.
Oh, well. It's only a centennial that 46 other states already have celebrated. It wouldn't have gotten us much notoriety anyway.


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