By Maria Elena Alvarez

Albuquerque, New Mexico — The White House has put a bead on the Hispanic community, and if Albuquerque were a microcosm of what is happening across the country, the administration’s professionals are getting an earful.

First I want to say kudos to all the native born members of the administration for coming home, which is probably going on everywhere, but their presence was a good move and added depth to my experience. Adults like myself knew these people, or of them, and respected them as professionals and were glad to see them at the Hispanic Community Action Summit here.

The intent was to have the day be citizen-driven, within the context of what the White House wanted to get a pulse for: jobs/economic recovery; immigration; education and affordable healthcare. Within that, the 400-plus group of citizens set the afternoon Open Space Process (OSP). This process was citizen-directed and attended by the appropriate administration professional/s.

Speaking as an observer of people for over 35 years, what this allowed for was a process that was flexible. A good example was the OSP on economic opportunity “Land Grants: Access to Communal Lands for Traditional uses.” It was attended by Deanna Archuleta, Senior Advisor at Department of Interior and respected former county commissioner in Bernalillo County, an issue and history she knows well.

Education was big and there were plenty of teachers, students, a University of New Mexico provost, educators from public, private, charter, non-traditional schools and GED programs to make this a very meaningful experience for the over 100 people gathering in a tight circle. I have to say that the passion on this front left no stone unturned with a wide spectrum of great ideas and solutions.

These Hispanic Summits were developed to let people have their voices heard. As both, a 35-plus year journalist, newspaper publisher, now business owner, I immediately saw the merit. Because this day-long, 9 to 5 event, with a moderate-to-high level of attention brought people into a very sharp focus. One of my favorite was a groups of young girls who led an OSP on underage drinking, for example.

In small business, one knows that when these sessions are well orchestrated they can bring huge results. It is the creative process and good for those gathering the data and those who are a part of it. I myself know much more today than I did yesterday about what was is on the minds of people outside my cave.

A lot of what was said in Albuquerque is being heard across the country but in detail what was heard in New Mexico is unique to this state. A big issue here is the lack of good employment from the state’s two national laboratories: Los Alamos and Sandia National labs. Yolanda Garcia Olivarez, the Regional Administrator for the Small Business Administration, heard an important message delivered by one of the state’s most well-known and respected Hispanic activists, Ralph Arellanes, President of the local Hispanic Roundtable, with a big voice and a good rod he is comfortable wielding.

Citizens in Albuquerque spoke for many in the Hispanic mundo. They had an educated voice, a young voice, a very grassroots voice, a Spanish voice and they reflect our reality. While I cannot in good faith put my name on the line as to what boat the results of these meetings are going to float, the process was good. It caused what I consider a gathering of an important group of people focusing and talking to each other.

The White House developed the spectrum; economy, education, immigration and healthcare, but the citizens drove the conversation. If 300 citizens speak for at least 100 voices, journalist’s industry standard, at the end of the day the Summit was a roar in Albuquerque.

The Qué Bárbaro award goes to the politicians who got recognized in the morning and split like bananas without hearing the will of the people.

Maria Elena Alvarez has spent three decades in journalism with roots two generations back and one forward. Her experience includes bureau chief, beat reporter, national magazine editor, arts editor, editorial board writer/columnist, newspaper publisher and she continues telling the story. For more visit her website

[Photo By Maria Elena Alvarez]

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