Home > Uncategorized > SE New Mexico: The Drunk Uncle Who Is Never Invited To New Mexican Family Dinners

SE New Mexico: The Drunk Uncle Who Is Never Invited To New Mexican Family Dinners

Image Source: Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

What story can I use from my own life experiences to apply to my organizing in hopes of connecting with the community that I’m trying to serve?

For the last 15 months, that’s a question I’ve been asking myself on a daily basis.  I’ve been working on my story of self and it’s been a major challenge.  As an organizer, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to work on because it’s a story I want my community to relate to and this is critical.

After months of thinking about my own story, it finally came to me a couple of weeks ago during my first class with Emerge New Mexico in Albuquerque.  I won’t elaborate on the specifics because I don’t want to give too much away, but the focal point of my story is me, sitting in front of the television at the age of nine years old, watching George H. W. Bush give his State of Union address and me translating what he’s saying to my monolingual, Spanish-speaking parents.  As a nine year old, translating the English language to my Spanish-speaking parents isn’t unprecedented.  Many families, who come from immigrant ancestry, either generations ago or just recently, experience this all the time.  It’s not a unique situation.  It does happen and in some places, it really pisses a lot of people off.

Roswell, New Mexico is one of those places.

As much as I love southeastern New Mexico, I can’t help but become overwhelmed with frustration knowing that a small fringe, help to define who we are as a community to the rest of the state.  Although more than half of Roswell’s population is Latino, according to the 2010 United States Census, and many of which speak Spanish, there is also a zero-tolerance attitude for diversity among a very small group of people living along the the Pecos Valley.

Today, my friend approached me and told me that his mother had an appointment at a doctor’s office here in Roswell.  His mother was shocked to find some questionable propaganda hanging from the door and walls of this particular doctor’s office, mostly geared to our Black President (shocker) but also a range of questionable English-only paraphernalia   Neither one of us was exactly sure how bad things were, so we decided to take a drive this afternoon, down to 1600 SE Main Street in Roswell.  Here, in Suite 3, is the office of Dr. Jackie Graham, MD and at the entrance of the office is this sign, which states,


We do not speak Spanish in this office.  If you do not speak English or have a qualified translator to help you, we have some requirements you must meet before being seen:

–  find a translator that speaks English well and will come to your appointment.

–  learn the language

If you cannot do either of these

– see another physician.

My apologies for the picture and its poor quality.  I took the picture with nervous hands, scared that someone from the office would come out with a loaded gun.  Because you know? We liberals are all out to get your guns.

On the right hand side of the flier is a very poor Spanish translation of what is stated on the left in English.

Dr. Graham, if you or your staff need any help with that translation, please feel free to contact me and I can help you out with that, ok?

Which brings me to my point.  Although I truly believe that my community has great potential because it is represented by a very diverse and wonderful group of citizenry who embrace the diversity that exists within our great state of New Mexico, we, unfortunately, also have some racists.  While some will be pretty blatant about it, others will go in the direction of Brad Paisely’s “Accidental Racist” mumbo jumbo and attempt to “defend” their racism and make excuses for it.

Bottom line is that racism exists in our community and people should be called out for it.

Let’s take Alaska Republican Congressman Don Young, for example.  Just a few weeks ago, he described workers at his father’s farm by saying, “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatos.”  He later apologized for using the slur, but defended it by saying, “it’s a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California.”

By the way, if you’re sitting there not sure which word Congressman Young used as the “slur,” then you’re part of the problem.

Listen, I would love to live on the planet you’re living in if you think that racism died back in the 1960s.

It didn’t.

What I am writing to you today is real and it’s happening in our own community. A small minority of people in Roswell, wish to have things the way they were back in the day…when people of color and women were suppressed and old, white men made all the decisions.

This country is diverse and will continue to evolve into a more diverse nation as more immigrants come into this great nation.  There are tens, if not hundreds of languages being spoken in this country each and everyday because every nation on earth is represented in our communities, and that is a beautiful thing. But while I think this is incredibly awesome, we have the Dr. Graham’s of the world who are frightened by this idea of an “invasion of foreigners,” who will trounce on the greatness that is “Americuh” and turn it into the third world country they left behind.

This is false.

Because it’s the Dr. Graham’s of the world, who remind me every day, that while they spew their hate, intolerance and ignorance, it’s also a dying fad.  There will be a time when our children and grandchildren will never understand or comprehend how any of this could have even been possible because they will not define a person based on their race, color, gender, language, sexual orientation or creed.  Instead, they will define a person on the content of their character.  A philosophy that may not hold true today in Dr. Graham’s office, but does in the hearts and minds of countless others in our community, which will hopefully sustain our humanity for generations to come.

  1. April 16, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Great insight. I grew up in Cortez, CO, so I have seen this type of inequality not only in the Hispanic community, but also with the Ute and Navajo tribes. I currently live in Mobile, AL, and It is a horribly racist place. The Jim Crow laws may have been repealed, but that spirit lives on in the deep South. Your work is indispensable. Thank you.

    • April 16, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      Thank you, Johnny! I appreciate you taking the time to read, comment and share. Ill definitely be following up on this issue. Thank you again!

  2. Gracie Apodaca Salcido
    April 16, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I am from Roswell and find this all true and it is sad but true. For shame on Dr. Graham though she might not have been Roswell ,she would have know that this area is filled with Spanish speaking people and Should have learned OUR Language to better help her patients.

    • April 16, 2013 at 6:28 PM

      Thank you for commenting, Gracie! I appreciate you taking the time to read what is happening in our communities. It is unfortunate that this is occurring ESPECIALLY because we are such a diverse community. We just need to be vigilante and continue to voice our concerns and defend those who can’t fight for themselves against a small constituency that is afraid of who we are.

  3. Corina
    April 16, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    Great article

  4. charlotte roybal
    April 18, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    I lived in Dexter in 1968 and was shocked to know that in that year they had just “integrated” the schools in Roswell.

  5. April 18, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    What the doctor is doing is outright illegal in NM. NM adopted the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that says we will not discriminate on the basis of Mexican nationality, especially in language. Moreoever, he is ignoring the history that New Mexico was originally a part of Mexico which predominantly spoke Spanish; and as we have not adopted a national language by law, maybe he should be learning Spanish. But the biggest travesty is that he is missing out on an opportunity to get paying clients who pay in cash. Many people don’t realize that multiculturalism and multilinguism is about new opportunities. As we move into a World Economy, we must not be fearful of those who can potentially be our partners in survival.

  6. T Jennings
    April 18, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Just read the Rubio Dispatch and thought what a ‘soplo de aire fresco’!

    Fortunate are those who have progressive minds working to change things for the better in Roswell, the valley, New Mexico, the USA and the World! TJ

  7. Tim Jennings
    April 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Great dialog! It should make people think! Why don’t teach languages in elementary school I’ll never understand. This article should make people think and be sensitive about the people they deal with. New Mexico is culturally attached to more cultures than any other state. Had our Native Americans not been in captivity and oppressed by the European cultures that dominated their land our State Constitution would have required teacher to be fluent in more than just English and Spanish languages. Like with a good political cartoon we should look at, think about it, laugh about it ….. and then go about and make the world a better place. The people that are racist, regardless of their color, we will never change, but, it is humorous that they don’t even know what
    they are missing.
    On a lighter side, If that Doctor provided an interpreter the Doctor would then be liable for anything that was misunderstood. Ask any trial lawyer!
    Can you believe all this was started by an insensitive sign author. I’m glad I didn’t teach this author in English, Spanish, Mexican, Spanglish or any other language.
    Tim Jennings
    PS. You were supposed to call. Tim

  8. Magil Duran
    April 18, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Great article! I also remember instances of racism in my early years in Roswell. Born on 11th St. and my parents were hard working, honest and devoted to whatever they were doing. While on leave before I went overseas, I took my mother to a “fancy” dress shop to get her a nice dress. We went in and three ladies were talking. We stood there and waited. I motioned a woman to come over and give us some service. I asked her to let my mother see some dresses and she retorted, “do you think you can afford the dresses?” Me, in the uniform of the US Army with my mom and this fishy old lady is saying that to me. I asked her to get the manager and she retorted “I am the manager!” I told her that it was a sorry way to treat paying customers. She asked me, where are you from. I replied, Los Angeles for the last 12 years and she said, “I thought so, one of OUR Mexicans would know their place”. I was angry and my mom was mad at me for getting the white lady mad at us. When I left, I vowed never to return to Roswell and I kept that promise for 23 years. I think Roswell still has the “good ol boys” but they are very careful. Shame on this Dr. If she does not want Spanish spoken, MOVE to where she can never hear Spanish spoken, or Polish or another other language but English. Good luck and Roswell will be a better place without her practice in Roswell. God blessed America and we are a melting pot of everything.

  9. Lisa Nigro
    June 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Awesome Article. Thank you

  10. Lorena Blanco-Silva
    June 6, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Wow Angelica. Spot-on discussion about the realities of SE New Mexico. It makes me sad that in this day and age people are perpetuating the things they fear and further marginalizing a community that has so much to offer. It is amazing how far we still have to go but I am inspired to know there are people stepping up to that responsibility and am proud of you and the work you are doing to make things better. Mil gracias for shining a light on the issues that affect our community.

    • June 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      Thank you, Lorena! It’s definitely frustrating, but it’s the sort of thing that we need to continue to call people out on. We also need to work to empower our community so they know that things like this are not cool and they should not be complacent nor assimilate to this disgust.

      Thanks for taking the time to read!

  1. April 16, 2013 at 10:38 AM

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