WASHINGTON, D.C. –The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) passed a resolution at its 84th annual national convention this past weekend thanking President Barack Obama for designating two new national monuments that preserve the legacy of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States. The resolution passed unanimously, with over 1,600 assembly delegates voting.
In the resolution, LULAC also calls for more action to ensure that our nation’s federal network of national monuments, parks, and conservation lands recognizes the cultural heritage of American Latinos as part of our nation’s heritage. The resolution points to one particular area where this opportunity is ripe: the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.
In the fall of 2012, President Obama created the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, California. The monument recognizes the significant role that Chávez played in American history by preserving Chávez’s home and gravesite, as well as the headquarters of United Farm Workers of America, also known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz.
“We are very pleased that President Obama has acknowledged the role that Hispanics have played in shaping our nation,” said Margaret Moran, the National President of LULAC. “César Chávez, in particular, helped prove that Hispanics have a strong voice and are important to the American story. It is only fitting for his work and memory to be federally recognized with a national monument.”
Then, in March of 2013, the President designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, protecting 242,555 acres of public lands near Taos, New Mexico. Hispanics have explored and lived in the region since the early 1500s, contributing mightily to the creation of a unique New Mexican culture that exists to this day. The national monument designation guarantees that traditional uses of the land will be preserved – an achievement celebrated by New Mexico policymakers and diverse land users.
“Rio Grande del Norte is a special place, boasting a diversity of wildlife and rare scenic beauty,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). “To top it off, the region is rich in Hispanic and Native American traditions. It is fitting that President Obama was willing to give it a national monument designation, preserving this unique culture and the lands that sustain it for all time.”
“I join LULAC and the communities of southern New Mexico in seeking protection for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as well,” Udall added. “This unique piece of southern New Mexico has abundant natural and economic value, and it celebrates diversity and the rich Hispanic culture of the region.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) echoed Udall’s statements: “Rio Grande del Norte means so much to the people of northern New Mexico, culturally and economically. It is a wonderful place to visit and, thankfully, this national monument designation will allow future generations to enjoy all it has to offer.”
The resolution passed by LULAC comes on the heels of the New Mexico chapter of the organization passing a similar resolution in May, also calling for protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
This area is marked by majestic craggy peaks and has served as a crucial crossroads of the Camino Real – the historic migration route that for centuries linked Colonial Mexico City and settlements in the north.
“While we are thrilled about the Cesar Chavez and Rio Grande del Norte monuments, more work is needed to preserve our cultural heritage,” said Ralph Arellanes, Director of the New Mexico LULAC chapter. “We look forward to working closely with President Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, our Senators, and Congress to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and tell the story of Latinos in America.”