Sharing NM history strengthens communities » Albuquerque Journal


After the Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol, we must recommit the nation to appreciate and understand our democratic form of government and our shared history as Americans. This effort should include the structures and artifacts of our past, which can positively inform the politics of generations to come.

We New Mexicans take pride in our cultural heritage. Our history of diverse cultures has given us many examples of both cooperation and conflict. Today we aspire to respect and understand our shared history and different views across many divides. New Mexico is fortunate to have prominent and successful organizations dedicated to preserving and teaching that history.

The New Mexico History Museum is a statewide educational resource and a landmark destination for anyone who wants to understand the diverse experiences of the people of New Mexico, the dynamics that have shaped our state, and the relationships that connect our region with the rest of the world.

Cornerstones Community Partnerships, largely focused on New Mexico, works in partnership with communities to restore historic structures, preserve cultural landscapes, encourage traditional building practices and conserve natural resources.

The Albuquerque Historical Society (AHS) is a nonprofit membership organization of residents promoting and preserving the history of Albuquerque and the surrounding communities. Thus, present and future generations may know and appreciate its history from settlement in 1706 to its incorporation as the City of Albuquerque, a cultural history that blends Indian, Hispanic and Anglo cultures.

The New Mexico Architectural Foundation promotes architectural excellence in New Mexico by stimulating public understanding and appreciation of architecture and our architectural traditions.

Each of these organizations, along with many others statewide, make significant contributions to our collective understanding and shared history.

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One current undertaking of Cornerstones, Community Partnerships assists Chimayósos to preserve the history of the Plaza del Cerro in Chimayó. This plaza, originally constructed by Spanish settlers in the mid-18th century, is located in a Tewa heritage area. When asked if Tewa people could participate in on-site preservation, the Tewa adoberos approved of this endeavor. The Chimayó Cultural Preservation Association was welcoming and enthusiastic.

Another Cornerstones example is the current Tapestry Preservation Project at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Villanueva. Created for the bicentennial by local women of the valley, this extraordinary assemblage of folk art depicts New Mexico history from pre-Columbian times to the modern era. The hand-sewn iconography of New Mexico’s cultural history emphasizes the lifeways of the valley over the centuries.

Lastly, Cornerstone’s solar initiative focuses on rural and tribal lands. In a Gallup partnership, grassroots solar helps Navajo families attain electrical service. In Laguna Pueblo, the initiative provides solar electricity for a community center. In Nambé Pueblo, hands-on “learn by doing” solar work centers around youth education. The survival of Native American cultures depends on sustainability. Preservation does not mean ignoring technology, rather innovations like renewable energy make preservation more relevant to current community needs while saving its past.

Respect for our shared history, demonstrated by these projects, lowers barriers and reduces polarization between our various cultures and perspectives. Appreciation for shared history will allow our country to strive to eliminate those barriers nationwide and strengthen our local and regional communities.