Recently I was elected board president of your Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico. It seems like only yesterday, in 2004, that Werner Gellert first asked me to serve on the board. It’s amazing to think how far the museum has come. I still recall the love and passion Werner and his wife, Frankie, had for their dream, a place where hate could be wiped out and tolerance taught. Because of Werner and his successor presidents, most recently Jennie Negin, our museum has survived and advanced. It has grown to the point that we must now start searching for a new space in order to provide for the needs of our community.
First, I feel it’s important for you to understand what has brought me this far in my history to feel obligated to lead this important institution.I was born in Colorado, a descendant of immigrants. My mother’s family emigrated to escape the Spanish Inquisition and settled in the Española Valley before moving to southern Colorado. My father’s parents were immigrants from Mexico. As a child, I was told stories of my father’s trips through Texas, where if they wanted to get something to eat, they had to go to the back door.In sixth grade, I was told that it was OK if I went to movies with a new group of friends from middle school because I was Spanish and not Mexican. In my elementary years, I had never heard such racial language. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a diverse neighborhood with a diverse elementary school. I always felt bad for being reluctant to say that I am part Mexican.
When I went off to medical school in the Midwest, I was told that I had been accepted because of the color of my skin, never mind the fact that I competed 200:1 for a seat as opposed to the in-state students who only had to compete 2:1.
During the first year of med school, one night in Denver, I was flagged down to help a stranded car. When I stopped and rolled down the window, I was punched in the face and called “faggot.” THAT WAS THE MOST LIB-ERATING PUNCH I EVER TOOK IN MY LIFE! I am reminded daily by the scar over my eye of the oppression and intolerance that people face every day. It is for these people that I look for-ward to carrying on Werner and Frankie’s dream.
It is my dream to raise funds that will give us more room to accommodate current exhibits, new exhibits, the research library, appropriate office space, and an auditorium for programs. I want us to have the best resource center on Route 66 where teaching tolerance and combating hate are the primary goals.
It is my desire to make our museum the voice of reason and tolerance in our state. We have a great board of directors and a cadre of dedicated volunteers, but we need more. All can be accomplished only with your help by being generous with your time and or money. I intend to reach out to all the communities we serve for guidance and resources.
The biggest hurdle is becoming well known. I promise that will happen. I intend to push a social media campaign and a media campaign to address all the issues past and present dealing with intolerances of all types. I plan to make us the go-to center for information and education. But, as stated before, this can be accomplished only with your help.
The first thing I ask you to do is please go to our Facebook page and “like us,” then share the page with all your friends and encourage them to like us. I always will encourage you to promote us by having speakers from our museum address your organization or encouraging your organizations and schools to come to the museum.
The order is tall. The task ahead is demanding but, together, we will make Werner and Frankie proud by changing one mind and heart at a time!