You will find the entire Narrativas program by clicking here.
In Narrativas de Nuevo Mexico, activists and the public come together in a dialogue that enhances the citizenry of the State of New Mexico. As a group, the activists, Vicente Ximenes, MariLuci Jaramillo, Ted Martinez, Graciela Olivarez, and Julian Samora, have extraordinary stories that exemplify the benefits of an education, hard work and persistence and answer the question of what it means to be a New Mexican. More importantly, their stories illuminate their insistence on giving back to their communities, thus serving the entire nation. They are pioneers, not only of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, but they stand as examples of what an individual can do despite obstacles in their paths. All five were raised in poverty, yet their stories are rich in experience and service. These stories fill gaps left by scholarship that have eclipsed the contributions of these activists. Most importantly, these stories illustrate how they broke through barriers set by mainstream society to effect policy at national and state levels. They surmounted barriers to gender, language, and culture that could have prevented them from contributing to their country’s good. All five worked in government at a time when it was rare for Latinos to hold these positions. Their efforts challenge new generations to explore the many ways public service is essential to full participation in the national debate.
The public event, Narrativas de Nuevo Mexico, began with viewing film clips, followed by a demonstration of the interactive website, and concluded with a public discussion. Each person’s story is told in a series of vignettes on the website, which coincide with a timeline of historical New Mexican and national events. The timelines are a way to demonstrate the activists’ engagement with cultural, political, and life events beginning in the early 1940s through the 1980s. While the stories are personal and address life-defining moments, the stories also tie into our national socio-cultural history. Two surviving activists gave a talk, and then the program was opened to questions from the audience. With Dr. Manuel Garcia y Griego as facilitator, the discussion was an opportunity for an open forum on bilingualism, generational differences in gender equity, political engagement, and paths to public service. The audience included the general public, school groups, and educators.
Below is a short cut to the biographies of the activists.
- Julian Samora
Julian Samora was born March 1, 1920 in the small town of Pagosa Springs in southwestern Colorado. Samora won a Frederick G. Bonfils Foundation scholarship enabling him to attend Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado, where he received his B.A. in History in 1942. He taught high school for one year and won fellowships enabling him to continue his education. In 1947 he earned an M.S. in Sociology from Colorado State University at Fort Collins. He had, by then, begun teaching at Adams State and continued for more than a decade (1944-1955). Samora earned a PhD from Washington University in St Louis, in Sociology and Anthropology in 1953 — the first Mexican American in this field. After two short-term teaching positions, the first of which was at Michigan State University, he accepted an associate professorship in Sociology at the University of Notre Dame in 1959. He was also a visiting professor at a number of universities, including the University of New Mexico. He conducted research on Mexican American public health issues in 1958-1959, long before there was an established field of Medical Sociology. His research, which resulted in two scholarly articles, studied the villagers in Northern New Mexico. In the spring of 1985, he retired from Notre Dame.Samora was a Mexican American renaissance scholar. Through leadership, mentorship, scholarly research, teaching, and boots-on-the-ground activism, Samora seeded the minds of a generation of Latino scholars and community leaders. Active from the early 1940s to the 1990s, Samora’s commitment to training Mexican American academics and professionals was responsible for the largest and most significant cadre of Latino scholars produced by any individual. Samora was the first Mexican American to earn a Ph.D. in sociology and the author of the first book-length study of Mexican Americans, La Raza: Forgotten Americans, published in 1966. However, Samora was most proud of the Mexican American Graduate Studies Program he founded at the University of Notre Dame. Begun in 1969, the program trained more than fifty academics and professionals before its demise at Samora’s retirement in 1985.Samora’s groundbreaking ideas opened the way for Latinos to understand and study themselves intellectually and politically, to analyze the complex relationships between Mexicans and Mexican Americans, to study Mexican immigration, and to ready the United States for the reality of Latinos as the fastest growing minority in the nation. In addition to his scholarly and pedagogical impact, his leadership in the struggle for civil rights was a testament to the power of community action and perseverance. Samora’s influence can be felt not only through the written word, but also through the many people he mentored and influenced. Samora’s impact is truly a living legacy.
He was not only a pioneer in Mexican-American studies, but he was also one of the National Council of La Raza co-founders. From the beginning of his academic career, Julian Samora was deeply interested in research and presented the results of his interest in nearly 30 journal articles and in several seminal books. Among his most important publications are “Mexican-Americans in a Midwest Metropolis” (1967), Los Mojados: The Wetback Story (1971), and Gunpowder Justice: A Reassessment of the Texas Rangers (1979). As a result of his experience and expertise, Dr. Samora was invited to serve on many national boards and commissions in both the governmental and private sectors. Among the most salient are the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the National Institute of Mental Health, and Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Commission on Rural Poverty. Samora retired to Albuquerque, New Mexico where he died February 2, 1996.
- Mari-Luci JaramilloMari-Luci Jaramillo, born in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1928, grew up working in her father’s shoemaker shop. She worked her way through college, eventually earning a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction in 1971. She has been an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, a Civil Rights advocate, a vice president of the University of New Mexico, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, and is now a highly sought public speaker. On April Fool’s Day in 1977, she was asked to consider becoming the United States Ambassador to Honduras by President Jimmy Carter. Jaramillo at first thought the offer was a prank by her students, but accepted once it became clear it was a legitimate offer. She served almost three years in that position. Since her ambassadorship, Jaramillo has worked for Educational Testing Service, and served several years at the Pentagon in the Clinton Administration. She has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Children’s Television Workshop, and is a member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. She also served on the Diversity External Advisory Council of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is presently retired and living in Albuquerque.
- Ted MartinezTed Martinez was born in 1936 in the depths of the Great Depression. He was born and raised in Martineztown, a part of Albuquerque formerly known as ‘Dog Town,’ because of the many dogs in the area. His father, Luis Martinez (1897-1986), had a long family history in New Mexico and his mother, Maria Jesus Flores Martinez (1904-1987), was from Mexican. They had thirteen children, six sons and seven daughters. Born into humble circumstances, his parents stressed education and Martinez has been able earn an advanced degree. His life work has ranged from Albuquerque Journal newspaper carrier to College President, taking him from ‘the barrio’ in Albuquerque to the offices of political power in Washington D.C. After earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Martinez devoted his career to education, first as a history teacher at Rio Grande High School, then as an administrator at UNM. Along the way, he served as the first Mexican American on the Albuquerque Public Schools’ Board of Education and was on the governing board of Albuquerque Technical and Vocational Institute (now Central New Mexico), including serving as the chair of each board. Following his retirement from the University of New Mexico, Martinez decided to volunteer for the Peace Corps, spending two years in Belize. Returning to New Mexico, Martinez served as the President of TVI for five years from 1989 to 1990. Active in politics all of his life, Martinez served as campaign manager for Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s 2008 bid for governor of the state of New Mexico.
- Vicente XimenesVicente Ximenes was born December 5, 1919 to a poor Mexican American family in Floresville, Texas. Out of 100 Mexican American children he began grade school with, Ximenes was only one of five to graduate from high school. Discrimination was part of their daily lives and the struggles for young Mexican American students to remain in school and to graduate were enormous. Through hard work, Ximenes saved enough money for college, where in order to stay in school, he worked a number of odd jobs just to keep his head above water. With the outbreak of WWII, Ximenes volunteers to protect the country in which he was considered a second-class citizen. After valiant service to his country, Ximenes was uneasy about the continued segregation and discrimination against Mexican Americans he saw and experienced upon his return. Ximenes became active in the Civil Rights Movement, starting the first branch of the GI Forum in New Mexico in the early 1950s. In 1961, Ximenes was selected by the Kennedy administration to serve as program officer and economist for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Quito, Ecuador, and in 1966, he was named deputy director of the Agency for International Development in Panama City, Panama. A year later, he was appointed by President Johnson as U.S. Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D. C., where he served for five years, the first Mexican American to be named to the position. President Johnson also chose Ximenes as the chairman of his new cabinet-level Committee on Mexican American Affairs. Ximenes later became the vice-president for field operations of the National Urban Coalition. Through a concerted effort, Ximenes was responsible for including Albuquerque, Austin, Santa Fe, El Paso and other cities with large Mexican American populations in President Johnson’s Model Cities Program, which jump-started affirmative action in all the federal agencies. Mr. Ximenes is retired and living in Albuquerque.
- Graciela Gil OlivarezGraciela Gil Olivarez was born on March 9, 1928 in Phoenix, Arizona to a Spanish father and Mexican-American mother. Olivarez grew up in the small mining towns of Arizona populated by Mexican American miners and their families. As a high school drop out she worked at a number of jobs at a Spanish-language radio station from 1952 to 1963, including as a disk jockey, eventually becoming the director of women’s programming. As a high-profile radio announcer, Olivarez used her local fame to help Mexican Americans in Phoenix. In 1962, when the U.S. Civil Rights Commission held hearings in Phoenix, Olivarez addressed the panel, leading her work in social justice to a national arena. From 1962 to1966, she worked for the Choate foundation as a staff specialist, and sought ways to lower juvenile delinquency among Mexican-American youth. In 1963, she organized a national conference on bilingual education. During the War on Poverty, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her to the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity. In 1965, Olivarez became the director of the Arizona branch of federal Office of Economic Opportunity. Invited by Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, chairman of the Civil Rights Commission and president of the University of Notre Dame, to attend law school, Olivarez became the first woman and first Latina to graduate from the Notre Dame Law School in 1970. Olivarez taught at the University of New Mexico Law School in the early 1970s and from 1975 to 1977, Olivarez served as Secretary of the New Mexico State Planning Office, the highest-ranking woman in New Mexico government. She then went to Washington and was the highest-ranking Latina in the Carter administration as director of the Community Service Administration. Olivarez returned to New Mexico where she founded Channels 41 and 48, affiliates of Spanish International network, the first Spanish-language television stations in the country. The stations were later sold to Univision. In September of 1987, Graciela Gil Olivarez lost her battle with cancer in Albuquerque, New Mexico.