Aailyay Gustamantes and the Folklorico Dancers wait to perform during the 83rd New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens State Convention at the Best Western Sally Port Inn, Saturday evening. Mark Wilson Photo
New Mexico LULAC held its State Director’s Awards Banquet on Saturday night at Best Western Sally Port Inn, capping off a busy day for the organization’s annual state convention.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, District Judge M. Monica Zamora and New Mexico State Worker’s Compensation Judge Victor S. Lopez were each awarded LULAC’s Medal of Valor and Excellence, while civil rights leader Reies Lopez Tijerina earned the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“These are people who have contributed to our community in so many different ways, in education and in employment, in cultural celebration and in economic development,” said Ralph Arellanes, New Mexico LULAC state director. “… These people are key figures in moving not only our community forward but our state forward.”
LULAC’s decision to honor Tijerina received national attention last week. Tijerina, who was unable to attend the gala, once led an armed raid of a courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, an incident that had some questioning whether or not LULAC should recognize the controversial figure.
Arellanes said LULAC’s decision to honor Tijerina was not a difficult one.
“Tijerina did a lot for creating awareness about the validity of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that was signed between the United States and Mexico in 1848 at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War,” he said. “That treaty called for honoring land grants and water rights. So Tijerina did a lot to bring attention to the treaty in saying they have to respect it. …
“Too many get focused on the raid and the shooting, and I think they’re missing the whole vision of that time and that movement, and the meaning of it.”
Saturday’s candidates forum featured several speakers running for public office, including candidates for United States Senator, House of Representatives and New Mexico Court of Appeals.
“We had an amazing lineup of speakers; everyone is looking to work with the Hispanic community these days,” Arellanes said. “Primarily, I think, because Hispanics are now the majority in New Mexico; Hispanics make up over 47 percent of our population, and realistically speaking, considering that some counties were so undercounted, really Hispanics make up over 50 percent of the population in New Mexico. …
“So people are realizing that the Hispanic community is much more vocal now, much more educated, and very capable of engaging in politics and in education, technology, economic development.”
LULAC will pass seven resolutions at the convention’s conclusion today. One of those resolutions calls for a Department of Justice investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department regarding the shootings of young Hispanic males.
Arellanes said that of all the issues addressed during the convention, the discussions about police brutality were the most productive.
“We brought this issue to the forefront, to the public at large and to our community,” he said. “We emphasized it to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and to the Department of Justice and to the FBI. So it’s really put a lot of strength behind what we’re trying to achieve.”