I appreciate this opportunity to respond to the recent interview published by the Alibi [Feature, “The Accidental Historian,” Aug. 19-25], which contained comments by me regarding identity. I understand that these issues are complex and a sensitive subject matter to address.
I wish to apologize for any misunderstandings and certainly any offense caused by my remarks in the Alibi interview. This was never my intention. In no way did I intend to deny the origins of our ancestry and certainly not that of Spain, from which a rich legacy flows in New Mexico. As excerpts, these answers were drawn from a much longer conversation.
I have dedicated my professional life to creating open dialogue, even about issues that are the most difficult to talk about, and I will continue to assume the responsibility of raising consciousness through discourse.
The published interview, however, was only a glimpse at a much longer conversation where I was able to more fully elaborate on years of in-depth research and my professional interpretations on identity and consciousness. I stand by that work. Beyond my inability to better contextualize the answers in the interview, the primary intention of my entire response to the question of identity was to recognize the beauty and complexity of who we have become, long after the first points of contact.
I recognize that identity is such a sensitive topic, but as a community we cannot shy away from engaging in open dialogue about race and ethnicity. Neither can we ignore the notion that identity is not static. My hope is that we can continue this especially important conversation and toward that end, I will do whatever I can to address any concerns or questions by the public in order to move the dialogue forward for the benefit of our community. My door is always open.
Sincerely and respectfully,
The Alibi’s interview with Estevan Rael-Gálvez, the executive director of the National Hispanic Culture Center [Feature, “The Accidental Historian,” Aug. 19-25], requires comment on many points, three of which we will note here.
First, the Alibi’s front page carries the title that states Rael-Gálvez is “the mind” behind the NHCC. This statement denigrates all the present and past staff at the NHCC. It also belittles the inspiration, determination and work of the many people and institutions that made the NHCC what it is today. Simply put, there is no single mind behind the NHCC but many minds.
Second, the interviewee was allowed to edit his answers via the Internet. The reader must assume that he chose his words with care, which gives rise to our third and most troubling concern.
Rael-Gálvez described Spanish identity in New Mexico as “somewhat of a fabrication” after “a mere two centuries of Spanish occupation.” “The Spanish heritage fantasy,” he continues, “is really about denial and not based on history.”
Really? Are not his very names Spanish? Is not Spanish still widely spoken here? Does he not direct the National Hispanic Cultural Center? Does he not live in Santa Fe and work in Albuquerque? Were not both cities founded under Spanish administrations? Didn’t Spain administer New Mexico longer than the United States has administered here? Is not our state constitution written in Spanish and English? Is all this (and more) fantasy, myth, denial and not based in history? Really?
Then, after claiming the myth, he talks about what it means to be “ ‘Hispanic’ in New Mexico” and that New Mexico Hispanics are part of a multicultural tapestry. How can they be a part of anything if they do not exist? This illogic is very troubling, embarrassing and sad when it comes from the executive director of the NHCC, as a self-described “accidental historian.”
Dear Alibi ,
In response to A. M. Martinez and Samuel Dominguez [ Letters regarding the “Accidental Historian,” Aug. 26-Sept. 1], I’d like to add a few comments on “being Spanish.”
I, too, grew up thinking I was “Spanish” and was very proud of my heritage. Boy, was it a shock when I found out the truth. I still remember the day my friend from Madrid, Spain, asked me why I referred to myself as Spanish when, in fact, I was not born in Spain and neither were my parents nor grandparents. Later on I studied New Mexican and Mexican history and learned that the políticos (both Anglos and New Mexicans, 1848 to 1912) revised our history and identity in order to gain statehood, after having been denied statehood for 64 years.
Spaniards did not arrive in New Mexico by parachute. One must keep in mind that the passengers on those ships, which arrived in the New World, were primarily men. They arrived in Mexico in 1510. Thus, the union between Spaniards and indigenous gave birth to the Mexican, or Mestizo. Juan de Oñate, born in Mexico, the first colonist, arrived in N.M. in 1598. The majority of the families who came with him and settled in San Gabriel, our first capital, were born in what the Spaniards named as Mexico.
The notion of mestizaje is also found in the traditional New Mexican Spanish, which arrived with Oñate. Although there are many archaic linguistic forms in the Spanish spoken in Northern New Mexico, dating back to 16th-century Spain (túnico, asina, trujo), many linguistic characteristics come from the Aztec language, Nahuatl (zacate, zoquete, atole, metate), as well.
I am a Nuevo Mexicana with a very rich history, culture and language. When I visit Spain I see my grandparent’s, my tíos and tías faces everywhere I go. When I’m in Mexico, it’s no different. And when I’m in New Mexico, my Native American roots surround me. I am proud of my heritage and I am so blessed.
[Re: Letters regarding the “Rainbow Warrior,” Aug. 19-25] I can understand the frustration of Darren White and his ilk: What to do when something that's actually kind of great and that average people genuinely love is still illegal?
Yes, someone has added paint to the surfaces of some buildings in the area, without the consent of the property owners. That said, most of the rainbows are discrete or are on abandoned buildings. That does make a big difference in how I look at this. This is NOT the same as painting someone's car; this is NOT the same as tagging someone's house. Most of the people that identify personally with the upper surfaces of the Anasazi are headed for federal prison right now for fraud and money laundering. Thanks for leaving an aborted behemoth right Downtown in my city, jerks.
So somebody lays down a rainbow on the thing, a piece of art (and yes, it is art, even if it is "free," and maybe especially so) that pokes fun at the mess, that makes me grin and say, "That's a little better!" As a lifelong citizen of Albuquerque, as someone who has had his very personal property damaged by genuinely malicious individuals: This isn't the same thing. Is it graffiti? Yeah. Is it the same as somebody tagging a vulgar word on the car my parents gave me when I went to college? No. The intention of the rainbows is perhaps mischievous, but it is definitely not malicious. The intention, and the execution, is a wink, a laugh, a little unexpected burst. Worth a slap on the wrist and a good talking to, nothing more.
Darren White and Those Guys will remain hysterical, not because they think they're actually protecting us from something but because they are in serious trouble if Average Joe is buying the "bad guy" a beer and telling the cops to scram.
[Re: Letters regarding the “Rainbow Warrior,” Aug. 19-25] With the nonstop body count tally we are served up in the name of news, not only do I think Albuquerque needs to get its priorities straight, I think far too much has been made about this cool free art.
[Re: Opinion, “Trail-a-Week: Kirtland,” Aug. 26-Sept. 1] Betty, dude, no seriously, we ran out of paths like so many bike lanes that dead-end before the intersection where they are needed the most. I'm sorry to say, but now that your assignment has ended, I will miss critiquing your bikes, your grammar and your lack of a helmet. Regarding the latter, most cyclists in New Mexico know that it is for protection from flying Bud Lite bottles.
Peace in the Middle East and we'll see you on the flip-flop. And, oh, by the way, flip-flops and flip-flop hubs go good together, too.