Land grants represent a proud part of Spanish heritage in New Mexico, being made to both individuals and communities dating back to 1598. For many, our roots are traced to these lands, with multiple generations of families being raised on the land, along with our livestock and livelihoods.
Land grant representation, along with acequias and rural communities, must always be top of mind for New Mexico policymakers, especially at a point in time where rural equity must be addressed. They’re a critical part of our history and culture and cannot be relegated to second-class status if we are to continue progressing. Thanks to the tireless work of leaders in our communities, like former Speaker of the House Ben Lujan and Sen. Bobby Gonzales, land grant families of northern New Mexico have made incremental progress in receiving not only resolution but certainly recognition and dignity.
That’s why I’m deeply disappointed and disheartened that California-style progressives in New Mexico want to erase the history and progress we’ve made over the years on land grant issues. Rather than working with impacted communities on these issues that have played a critical part in the history of our state, progressives have erased one of the only venues that gave an official forum and voice to those who are impacted by policy decisions, thinking they know better than the generations of families who live on and work the land.
Progressive House Speaker Brian Egolf recently dissolved the Local Government, Land Grants & Cultural Affairs Committee, the most visible committee for land grant work that took years of grassroots work to establish. This committee gave voice to Hispanics and our heritage, protecting our ancestral lands. Without its dedicated leadership and work, land grant issues will fall by the wayside and these communities will once again be without a voice in our Legislature.
We have been silenced by someone who does not share our history, values and culture and wants to bring their vision of a progressive utopia to our state.
His progressive ideology clearly outweighs the needs and wants of our communities.
To make matters worse, our northern New Mexico progressive legislators and progressive Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez are nowhere to be found. For being people who claim to be fighting for our shared values and beliefs, they’ve been entirely too silent on this issue. They must stand up for what’s right and call on Egolf to reinstate this important committee.
Northern New Mexico is one of the oldest settled regions in the country. We should be proud that our heritage includes working through issues dating back some 500 years.
This lineage necessitates that state legislative committees continue to give voice to those who have struggled for generations to be recognized by our government institutions rather than disbanding official bodies that are designated to help.
Egolf should immediately reverse his decision and apologize to the impacted communities for his actions.
Joseph Sanchez is a former Democratic member of the New Mexico House of Representatives where he served as vice chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. He is a lifelong northern New Mexican and resides in Alcalde.