Statehood events begin

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Celebrations expected to stretch through next 12 months

By Jay Miller

Most New Mexicans likely are aware that New Mexico celebrates its 100th birthday on Jan. 6.
Few New Mexicans, at this point, seem aware that the centennial celebration already has started.
That’s the way it usually happens. To avoid a one-day celebration, start early and keep it going for a year or more.
New Mexico is no exception. Gov. Susana Martinez kicked off the festivities in Las Cruces back on Aug. 28.
That was followed by an executive order on Sept. 1 directing all state agencies to promote the centennial.
Union Pacific is adding to the celebration by sending one of its vintage locomotives steaming through New Mexico Nov. 4-9 from Tucumcari to Lordsburg.
We know that special ceremonies were planned in those communities and we’ve seen that Alamogordo also had a celebration last Sunday when the steam engine came through.
The train is scheduled to be in Lordsburg today, Nov. 9, before continuing on through Arizona, which is celebrating its centennial also. Arizona became a state Jan. 14, 1912.
Railroads reached New Mexico at Raton in 1878. By 1880, they had reached Santa Fe, ending commerce on the Santa Fe Trail.
Maybe I just missed it, but I have seen almost nothing about this in newspapers or on television. Of course, I’m stuck with living in northern New Mexico where I see Santa Fe and Albuquerque media, which thinks if it doesn’t happen here it isn’t happening.
And nothing much seems to be happening here yet. Albuquerque celebrated its 300th anniversary a few years ago with numerous activities and generous media coverage.
Santa Fe celebrated its 400th anniversary last year, hoping to make as big a splash as Jamestown, Va. a few years earlier.
Jamestown had fabulous coverage with large sections of major national magazines devoted to it.
Interestingly Jamestown didn’t have anywhere authentic to celebrate since the location of Jamestown is a mystery, covered under many feet of water now.
Santa Fe has its original plaza and Palace of the Governors but attracted no national attention.
Of course, any event has to attract its own publicity _ unless it is a disaster.
New Mexico didn’t do well with Santa Fe’s 400th or the state’s 400th in 1998 to celebrate Onate’s first encampment north of Espanola. The best publicity in the last 40 years went to the Pueblos 300th anniversary celebration of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.
It’s not that New Mexico doesn’t know how to attract attention. The 400th anniversary of Coronado’s 1540-41 trek through New Mexico searching for our fabled Cities of Gold attracted a large national audience back in 1940.
The University of New Mexico history department took charge of that effort and succeeded in getting a generous appropriation from the Legislature.
But the biggest New Mexico celebration ever took place in the summer of 1883, soon after railroads had spread through New Mexico.
The railroad companies wanted easterners to learn about our unique cultures and scenic beauty.
They slashed their rates, marketed to large clubs and gave free rides to travel writers.
There was no event to celebrate, so the railroads created one. It was the Tertio-Millennial celebration of the first European exploration of the West. No one bothered arguing with the dates or the title.
The event was supposed to last three weeks. It went on all summer. There were trips to the pueblos, Indian dances every afternoon. And the oval we call Federal Place was created as a horse track. It was a public-private partnership that worked quite well.
Word is slowly filtering up from the south about events down there.
A longhorn cattle drive from Hobbs to Carlsbad will be staged May 9-11, 2012.
The Roswell Museum and Art Center will feature a year long exhibit of accomplishments in the community. And Sierra County will feature tours of the Elephant Butte Dam Site all year long.
Throughout the next year, we’ll be talking about New Mexico’s difficult road to statehood and some major events of our past century.

Jay Miller