New Mexican Hispanic Culture Preservation League honors Belenite
An organization whose purpose is to preserve and protect Hispanic culture in New Mexico will be recognizing a local woman for her work in protecting Spanish culture.
Betty Chavez of Belen will be honored by the New Mexican Hispanic Culture Preservation League on Saturday for organizing the Oñate Cuartocentenario celebration in the fall of 1998. Chavez, who was the county organizer of the event, will be given the award at the organization’s fourth annual Thanksgiving Banquet, España en El Siglo de Oro.
The Oñate Cuartocentenario celebration was a month-long program commemorating Juan de Oñate’s journey into New Mexico. Chavez organized the display at the Harvey House that featured the descendants of the original families of the county.
“I had a great response, and it was a great success,” Chavez said. “We had 40 genealogy charts, and people had brought in some very interesting pictures and antique furniture that had been handed down to them.
“People even dressed in period clothes when we had the opening.”
Chavez became the county organizer of the event after being a docent at the Harvey House for several years. She says she hopes the work she does now will inspire others to read and learn about the Spanish culture.
“The reason why this organization was formed four years ago was to preserve, publicize and protect the Spanish culture,” Chavez said. “Their mission is to tell history as truthfully as they can and try to refute history that has been misrepresented.”
Chavez’s love of history dates back to when she was a young child growing up in Portales. She said it wasn’t until she moved to Santa Fe and met and married her late husband, Tibo Chavez, that she came to understand and cherish Spanish and New Mexican history. Tibo Chavez was a legislator, lieutenant governor and district court judge as well as the author of several books on New Mexico history and culture.
“My husband was a great enthusiast of New Mexican history,” Chavez said. “He was my inspiration because I didn’t realize it had so many different facets to it and the consequences of the Spaniards coming here.”
Chavez said she was very honored to receive the award from the New Mexican Culture Preservation League. She said she’s glad her work on the Oñate Cuartocentenario hadn’t been forgotten.
“I was always my husband’s helper, and he was the one people wanted to hear from,” Chavez said. “It’s nice to be recognized now for my own efforts.”
The banquet honoring Chavez will be held on Saturday, April 27, at the Albuquerque Country Club. The organization will also honor Edwardo Romero, the former ambassador to Spain.
The master of ceremonies is KOAT Sports Reporter John Salazar II, and the featured speaker will be Stewart L. Udall, a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Arizona Congress-man. Udall has also written several books about the history of the Southwest.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.