54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2019


Miguel P. Garcia










     SECTION 1. Section 12-5-2 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1969, Chapter 114, Section 1, as amended by Laws 1987, Chapter 3, Section 1 and also by Laws 1987, Chapter 309, Section 1) is amended to read:

     "12-5-2. LEGAL HOLIDAYS--DESIGNATION.--Legal public holidays in New Mexico are:

          A. New Year's day, January 1;

          B. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, third Monday in January;

          C. Washington's and Lincoln's birthday, President's day, third Monday in February;

          D. Dennis Chavez and Cesar Chavez day, first Friday in April;

          [D.] E. Memorial day, last Monday in May;

          [E.] F. Independence day, July 4;

          [F.] G. Labor day, first Monday in September;

          [G.] H. Columbus day, second Monday in October;

          [H.] I. Armistice day and Veterans' day, November 11;

          [I.] J. Thanksgiving day, fourth Thursday in November; and

          [J.] K. Christmas day, December 25."

     SECTION 2. A new section of Chapter 12, Article 5 NMSA 1978 is enacted to read:

     "[NEW MATERIAL] DENNIS CHAVEZ AND CESAR CHAVEZ DAY.--The first Friday of April of each year shall be set apart and be known as "Dennis Chavez and Cesar Chavez day", and in addition to its designation as a legal holiday pursuant to Section 12-5-2 NMSA 1978, shall be observed in recognition of the great integrity and many contributions of United States senator and civil rights leader Dennis Chavez and civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez to the civil, legal and economic heritage of all the residents of the United States. This day shall be observed by the people of New Mexico in those efforts and undertakings that shall be in harmony with the general character of Dennis Chavez and Cesar Chavez day."


          A. In recognition of United States Senator Dennis Chavez and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, the legislature finds that the specific histories and contributions of both leaders shall be recognized and provided in this section.

          B. United States Senator Dennis (Dionicio) Chavez was affectionately known as "El Senador" by his New Mexico constituents. He was born into a Spanish-speaking household on April 8, 1888 in the Hispano village of Los Chavez, located in the territory of New Mexico. When Dennis Chavez was seven, the Chavez family moved to the Barelas neighborhood directly south of downtown Albuquerque. In 1900, at the age of twelve, Dennis Chavez left school to help support his family.

     During his six-day-a-week job delivering groceries for the Highland grocery store, Dennis Chavez became concerned with inequities in class and race that he witnessed. Much of his time off was spent at the public library immersing himself in United States history. One day, his boss loaded up a wagonload of groceries for delivery to the Barelas railyards. Upon arriving at the railyards, he noticed that the workers were on strike. Dennis Chavez refused to cross the picket line and was fired as a result.

     In 1917, Dennis Chavez moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for United States Senator A. A. Jones as an assistant legislative clerk. In the evenings, he attended Georgetown university school of law, from which he graduated in 1920. That same year, Dennis Chavez returned to Albuquerque to set up a law practice, but his future was in politics. He was elected to the New Mexico house of representatives in 1922 and eight years later was elected to the United States house of representatives, where he was appointed chair of the Indian affairs committee. In 1935, Dennis Chavez became the only Hispanic in the United States senate, where he served until his death in 1962, having established himself as a vigorous advocate of civil and human rights.

     "El Senador" was a man ahead of the times. His 1944 fair employment practices commission bill, prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, did not pass, but twenty years later, these rights were protected in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dennis Chavez was an ardent critic of Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist campaign. In 1952, he co-sponsored the Federal Highway Act that led to the national highway system. He chaired the powerful United States senate subcommittee on defense spending that controlled the purse strings for New Mexico's military bases and national laboratories.

     Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson provided the eulogy at Dennis Chavez's funeral in 1962. Dennis Chavez is buried in Albuquerque's Mount Calvary cemetery. He conferred with every president from Hoover to Kennedy and ultimately became one of the most powerful members of congress. Yet, when he returned home to New Mexico, he always delighted in the opportunity to visit with his fellow New Mexicans. He never forgot his humble roots.

          C. Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, which, at one point in history, served as the western boundary of the territory of New Mexico. Members of the Chavez family were migrant farm workers. While living in California, they would pick peas and lettuce in the winter, cherries and beans in the spring, corn and grapes in the summer and cotton in the fall.

     In 1942, Cesar Chavez quit school in the seventh grade because he did not want his mother to have to work in the fields. It would be his final year of formal schooling. He dropped out to be a full-time migrant farm worker. Cesar Chavez joined the United States navy in 1944, and upon completing his service, he and his wife moved to San Jose, California, where the couple raised eight children.

     Cesar Chavez worked in the fields until 1952, when he became an organizer for the community service organization, a Latino civil rights group. In 1962, Cesar Chavez left the community service organization and, with New Mexico native Dolores Huerta, founded the united farm workers union. It was in his days as leader of the united farm workers that Cesar Chavez waged some of the most heroic civil and human rights struggles to bring better living and working conditions for the most marginalized of the American workforce, the farm worker.

     An American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez became the best known Hispanic civil rights activist in the annals of United States history. He has become an icon for organized labor symbolizing support for workers and for Hispanic empowerment based on grass roots organizing and nonviolent forms of civil disobedience. He is also famous for popularizing the slogan "¡Si, se puede!" (Spanish for "Yes, it can be done").

     In the spring of 1966, Cesar Chavez and the united farm workers led striking California grape pickers on the historic farm workers' march from Delano to the state capitol in Sacramento. The Delano march was the first step in the unprecedented five-year boycott of table grapes that activated millions of Americans from all four corners of the nation in supporting the demands of the united farm workers union for collective bargaining and improved living and working conditions for farm workers.

     The United States in the early 1970s was percolating with organized strikes and boycotts by the united farm workers, the most famous being the "Salad Bowl Strike". It was the largest farm worker strike in United States history. The strike protested for, and later won, higher wages for farm workers working for grape and lettuce growers. Influenced by the Catholic tradition of penance and by Indian activist Mohandas Gandhi's fasts and emphasis on nonviolence, Cesar Chavez undertook a number of spiritual fasts in 1968, 1970 and 1972.

     The last speaking engagement that Cesar Chavez made in New Mexico was in the early spring of 1993 at Rio Grande high school located in Atrisco. He spoke on the "no grapes" campaign banning the use of toxic pesticides on grapes. Cesar Chavez passed away eight weeks after the high school assembly. President Bill Clinton posthumously presented Cesar Chavez with the presidential medal of freedom.

     SECTION 4. DELAYED REPEAL.--Section 3 of this act is repealed effective December 31, 2020.

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