Adela Martinez/1997

Adela Martinez/1997
Fighting For Her Land

Widow Should Have Been A Fish

June 17, 1997





“If Martinez were anything but an elderly woman trying to protect her land, the full force of the federal government would be on her side.”







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Almost No One Helps Adela Martinez Fight For Her Property


     It’s too bad for Adela Martinez that she wasn’t born a fish. If she were a snail darter or some other animal or insect on the federal government’s endangered species list, she would be free from the headaches, heartaches and misery that she’s currently in.

     Martinez, as most of us know by now, is the 76-year-old Barelas widow who is being kicked of the land she has lived on for 72 years by Democratic state Sen. Manny Aragon and others who want to build a Hispanic cultural center in Barelas.

     Martinez, who fought the urban renewal bulldozers of the 1960s when they leveled her neighborhood in the 400 block of Manuel Avenue Southwest, has vowed to fight the culturalists and stay on her land until the bitter end. And so far, almost no one has come to her defense.

     But the lack of people coming to Martinez’s defense isn’t a sign that this community is full of hypocrites who don’t value human life, a home and individual rights. It’s just that Martinez has botched the battle.

     If this gentle woman could turn herself into a spotted owl or a snail darter or a butterfly or a rock with some old but bad drawings on it, every tree-hugging environmentalist in the Southwest would be racing to her aid. Her home would be turned into a sacred sanctuary. Supporters would ring her property with a human chain. The EPA would order massive environmental studies. Federal judges would be issuing injunctions preventing the destruction of her home.

     If Martinez were anything but an elderly woman trying to protect her land, the full force of the federal government would be on her side. But because Martinez is a lone human battling for individual rights, there will be no environmental studies, no human chains, no injunctions, no sympathy, no concern and no protection for her from the government she’s paid all of these years to support. In this day and age, snakes, trees and rocks get more sympathy and protection than a woman fighting for her property.

     If Martinez, instead of being a polite woman who believes in God and who prays every day, were a liquor peddler with a bag full of campaign contributions, even Aragon would give up his dream of grabbing her land to create a monument to greed and himself.

     Instead of making her case to TV and newspaper reporters, Martinez should toss away her walker (it makes her look 76), get a business suit and dress up as a lobbyist for the gambling industry. If she did that she’d have support in a second. In this state, powerful politicians listen to money and lobbyists, not to elderly widows.

     If Martinez were dead, you can bet that somebody would march down to the City Council chambers to demand that her property be saved.

     After all, bold union members marched and chanted with a revolutionary fervor when they wanted to name a street after Cesar Chavez, a dead guy who had limited impact in this state.

     In New Mexico, being true to one’s culture means working oneself into a frenzy over a dead guy while refusing to support those who are alive.

     But there is hope for Martinez. The EPA might yet protect her. She believes that individual property rights are more important than government land grabs, that monuments to culture are cheap compared to the sacredness of home, and that no person should be run off their land by the government.

     Now there’s an endangered species.


© Copyright 2003 Dennis Domrzalski All rights reserved