Proposal seeks memorial for US Civil War site in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A lawmaker wants the New Mexico to give Hispanic Civil War Union soldiers their due for helping the Union Army win a key battle in a northern part of the state.
Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat, is pushing a proposal that could create a plan to eventually erect a memorial at the Battle of Glorieta Pass — the site where Union soldiers in 1862 beat back the advancing Confederate Army.
Hispanic soldiers from what was then the New Mexico Territory played a key role in the battle that historians say allowed the Union to keep control of the West during the Civil War.
Under the proposal, the state would convene a task force of historians, state officials, and civil rights leaders to develop a plan to design a memorial.
Currently, the site around 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Santa Fe only contains a makeshift memorial built by retired District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez. It has wooden saints and crude signs explaining a battle that has been called “the Gettysburg of the West.”
The Pecos National Historical Park officials give tours of the battlefield but reservations often have to be made weeks in advance.
The move to create a memorial comes after years of pressure from activists seeking recognition of the Latino soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
“It’s about time New Mexico did something and I’m glad it’s going to happen,” said Ralph Arellanes, Sr., whose great-great-grandparents served as trail guides for the Union Army and fought in the battle.
He called the current memorial “an embarrassment” and said the state should have done something better years ago.
Across the U.S, many sites historically connected to key moments in Latino civil rights like the Battle of Glorieta Pass lie forgotten, decaying or in danger of quietly dissolving into the past without acknowledgment, historians say.
Scholars and advocates have said a lack of preservation, resistance to recognition and even natural disasters make it hard for sites to gain traction.
Associated Press Writer Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras