Urban or rural, New Mexicans are united in push for progress

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I’m a 12th generation Nuevo Mexicana (give or take a few generations). My family can trace their presence in this region from time immemorial to well before the time this land was Mexico, a U.S. territory and eventually the 47th state. I’m as New Mexican as they get. My blood type is red or green. I will argue the virtue of the New Mexico blue sky with anyone, any day. The Sandia Mountains take my breath away every time I see them. 

Andrea Serrano, Executive Director of OLÉ

While my five sisters and I were born in Albuquerque, our family comes from rural New Mexico. My mom was born in the small town of Cedar Grove, nestled in the east side of the Sandia Mountains, near Golden. My dad was from Youngsville, a town in northern New Mexico so small they no longer have a post office. My mom and grandma moved to Albuquerque in 1958 and my dad moved there in 1959. They met years later in Old Town and eventually settled in the neighborhood of Duranes, where I was born and raised. I often refer to myself as “city with rancho roots.” 

I have family that still live in the small towns my parents left over 50 years ago. I have family who live in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. My parents may have left their homelands but the homelands never left them, and my sisters and I were raised with the traditions of our families mixed in with the realities of living in the city. Many families who migrated from rural New Mexico moved into neighborhoods that were similar to the communities they left. Neighbors looked out for one another, shared stories from their towns and found familiarity amongst each other. 

I never thought of my family in Albuquerque and my family in rural parts of New Mexico as being separate. That which bonds us is stronger than the geography of where we live, which is why the false narrative of an “urban/rural divide” being pushed by some lawmakers is laughable at best, and dangerous at worst. The idea that people who live in urban cities care less about our neighbors and families in rural New Mexico is a pathetic attempt to divide New Mexicans for political gain. 

The idea that there is a nefarious plot by some legislators to oppress rural New Mexicans is baseless – and it’s a claim being made by other legislators! I am always bewildered by people who are elected who degenerate elected officials or politics, as if they are somehow outside the very system they willingly joined. 

The primary saw the end of an era in the state senate – gatekeepers who blocked progress for decades were defeated in the primaries because voters had had enough. Out-of-state corporations like Chevron poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into these primaries as an attempt to protect the incumbents, but the will of voters was stronger than their dollars. Time and time again, lawmakers like John Arthur Smith and Clemente Sanchez gave tax breaks to the wealthy and deprived hard working New Mexicans of any sort of opportunity for advancement- and they served rural districts! 

The reality is that some lawmakers have spent years growing their own power on the backs of their constituents, much to the detriment of our entire state. The issue isn’t that lawmakers from urban centers want to do harm to rural New Mexicans; the issue is that there are lawmakers who will sell out New Mexicans – rural and urban alike – because their corporate donors want yet another tax cut; the wealthy need more wealth while New Mexicans barely get by; greedy corporations want welfare while New Mexican children go hungry. The true enemy of the people of our state are not “urban progressives” but rather lawmakers who would rather keep our state in last place than climb out of the pockets of their wealthy donors. 

Last year, in this very publication, I wrote “those who wish to obstruct progress must concede their notions of absolute power, or they can concede their seats in 2020.” Let the loss of some of the most powerful senators in the state be a lesson to current lawmakers: act on behalf of the people – all New Mexicans, regardless of geography, or voters will find someone who will. 

I’m proud of my rancho roots, and I’m a proud Burqueña. I am New Mexican, and I look forward to the big changes our Legislature can achieve this session.  

Andrea J. Serrano is executive director of OLÉ in Albuquerque. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not represent or reflect those of OLÉ, its board, staff or New Mexico In Depth. This column first appeared in New Mexico In Depth’s 2021 Legislative Special Edition.

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