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Lujan Grisham apologizes for ‘tricultural’ reference

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has apologized to a leader of New Mexico’s black community for a reference to the state’s “tricultural heritage” in a state visitor guide that came out days after she took office in January.

In a letter sent this week to Harold Bailey, president of the NAACP’s Albuquerque branch, Lujan Grisham said she expects the word “multicultural” to be used in all official state correspondence instead of “tricultural,” which refers to the state’s Native American, Hispanic and Anglo communities.

“There is no excuse for that oversight. We can do a better job,” Lujan Grisham said. “No group should ever be minimized by failing to embrace that we are a multicultural state, and we should take every single opportunity to promote the benefits of multiculturalism.”

Bailey, former director of the state’s Office of African American Affairs, said Wednesday that he was satisfied with Lujan Grisham’s response.

“I’m glad the governor responded in the way she did,” Bailey told the Journal.

But he also pointed out that objections to the term “tricultural” are not new and that several governors – including the late Bruce King in 1979 – have issued official proclamations declaring New Mexico to be a “multicultural” state.

A Lujan Grisham spokesman said Wednesday that the error was made by a member of the Democratic governor’s transition team in December, before Lujan Grisham was sworn into office.

Governor’s Office spokesman Tripp Stelnicki also said Lujan Grisham was “mortified” when she found out about the wording, describing the former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as a champion of diversity.

“Our diversity is what makes us strong – it’s what makes New Mexico unique,” Stelnicki said.

He said the wording in question has been modified in online versions of the annual New Mexico True Adventure Guide, although the “tricultural heritage” terminology appeared in initial print versions of the guide.

The New Mexico True Adventure Guide is published by New Mexico Magazine, which is overseen by the state Tourism Department, and highlights attractions, events, festivals and restaurants statewide.

Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham’s response letter to Bailey was sent just days after he sent a letter expressing concern over the situation.

Bailey pointed out in his letter that New Mexico has a rich African American history, even though the state’s black population is smaller than the national average.

Black people made up about 2.6% of New Mexico’s 2 million-plus population in July 2018, compared with 13.4% of the national population, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

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