State celebrated history

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At the ripe old age of 100, New Mexico has survived its 100th year of official statehood. Celebration activities bloomed all across the state for the occasion. Fiestas, parties, book readings, exhibits and re-enactments cropped up in most counties from San Juan in the northwest corner to Eddy in the southeast corner.

Starting with New Mexico Statehood Day, Jan. 6, 2012, activities began in communities statewide to commemorate 100 years of union with the United States.

As soon as New Mexico officially became a territory in 1850, statehood bills were introduced in almost every U.S. legislative session, area historian Paul Harden wrote at the beginning of the year.

But, according to historian David Townsend, it took 63 years of effort for New Mexico to become a state, starting with the territorial days in 1849 until Jan. 6, 1912.

New Mexico had “a bad reputation,” Townsend said at an Alamogordo event.

“New Mexico was termed barren and uninteresting in the extreme,” he said, and incapable “of sustaining an agricultural population,” according to United States-Mexico Boundary Commission reports.

There were 54 attempts at statehood, Townsend said, quoting writer Eugene Manlove Rhodes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 54 times, shame on me.”

Harden said excuses for turning New Mexico down for statehood ranged from it being too Catholic or having too many “savage Indians,” to having too many Democrats.

But, finally, New Mexico was indeed officially welcomed as the 47th state in the Union on Jan. 6, 1912, when President William H. Taft signed the statehood legislation.

On Statehood Day 2012 alone many events took place. A commemorative postage stamp was issued; an opera — “Shoes for Santo Niño” — commissioned for the occasion was performed; the Grand Centennial Ball took place at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center; Silver City held a party; and Alamogordo raised a 47-star United States flag.

As New Mexico delved into its own history, the past lived again in presentations, events and museum displays that have featured the styles of the past. In Socorro a railroad room opened at the Hammell Museum, reminding residents of the part the railroads played in the spread of commerce in the state.

An interest in individual roots resurged as people started listening and learning about their forefathers and their place in today’s New Mexico.

Projects for the state’s children popped up, getting the newer generations pumped up about history with projects like the Connecting a Century of Dreams project, collecting children’s dreams for the future of New Mexico, along with their first name and age on commemorative bands.

Several Socorro County schools participated in a model rocket launch for the centennial on Oct. 11 when 100 schools across New Mexico launched 100 model rockets at 10:30 a.m. Zimmerly Elementary School, Socorro High School, Sarracino Middle School, Midway and San Antonio elementary schools, and Magdalena Schools participated in this project.

Socorro 4-H celebrated its centennial year in 2012 along with the state. Socorro County has about 200 members in 4-H, which, with 6.4 million total members, is the largest youth organization in the world.

On Sept. 29 and 30, the M Mountain Fly-In featured aircraft of all types including vintage, home-built and experimental airplanes as well as the authentic World War II B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey.”

The Fly-In was the last stop for the New Mexico Centennial Air Tour on Sept. 30, a tour by air highlighting historic aviators, aircraft and significant New Mexico aviation events.

Several poets contributed Socorro-related poems to “200 New Mexico Poems: 100 Poems Celebrating the Past, 100 More for the Future,” which can be found at www.200newmexicopoems.wordpress.com and will be published in book form.

Danny Bowman, who grew up in Lemitar and attended Socorro elementary and middle schools, has his poem “Bruce King’s Chickens” posted on the website. “Socorro Strewn with Pumpkins” was written by a woman who calls herself Kathamann. And journalist Sharon Niederman wrote one of the first submissions to the project, “Desert Shrine,” about the shrine seen from U.S. Highway 60 on the way to Magdalena.

It is not too late to catch some of the special centennial events still going on in New Mexico. “It’s About Time: 14,000 Years of Art in New Mexico” emphasizes the prime objects of artistic change in the state at the New Mexico Museum of Art. “Faces from the Past, Facing the Future: Albuquerque and the Turn of the 20th Century” is at the Albuquerque Museum. “Statehood: New Mexican Art from the Past 100 Years” is the exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art.

Hopefully the lessons of the past 100 years can carry us into the future of the state with the grace and vigor of history. There is so much rich history here, from the Native American, Hispanic, Anglo conflicts of the past to the inception of the space race and into the future of space travel.

The centennial year is one of transition and hope for New Mexicans.

Visit www.digitalnm.unm.edu and www.nmcentennial.org to get involved in the remarkable journey that is New Mexico history.