New Mexico Courts Spain as Both Sides Hope to Profit
MADRID -- Four hundred years after Spain conquered New Mexico, the state
this week sent
its first trade mission here, along with American Indian religious dancers, to show there are
no hard feelings.
In fact, ties
between New Mexico and Spain have been on the mend since last April, when
Spanish official visited the state and met with American Indians whose ancestors suffered during the
conquest by 500 Spaniards in 1598.
Both sides sensed
opportunity in the 400th anniversary, deciding it was time to set a new
between Spain and New Mexico, which belonged to the Spanish Crown until 1821 and which
gained statehood in 1912.
trade and cultural delegation, among the largest ever sent by any American
Spain, comes just months after the arrival of the new American Ambassador, Edward L. Romero, a
Democrat and a New Mexico businessman who traces his lineage back four centuries to a village
"If we're not
able to make inroads into Spain with him being Ambassador, I don't know
ever will," said New Mexico's Governor, Gary Johnson, a Republican.
Spain has rolled
out the red carpet for the New Mexico delegation, part of its plan to build
all of its former territories, whether in Latin America, which has long received Madrid's attention, or
in certain parts of the United States, where Spain is taking a closer look at the Hispanic traditions.
"Spain, at the
end of the 20th century, with a bigger presence in the world, and more
capacity and enthusiasm, wants to recuperate contact with those areas," said José Luis Solano, a
Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Spain has worked
hard since last spring to gain the confidence of New Mexico's Indians.
under discussion include assisting in the restoration of Pueblo Indian villages or exchanging teachers.
The effort seems to be paying off.
"We cannot teach
our children to hate. We have to establish a positive relationship for
the next 400
years," said Earl Salazar, Governor of the San Juan Pueblo, whose dancers will perform at a
ceremony this week in Madrid and in the village of Ambassador Romero's ancestors to bless the
new relationship with Spain.
would like to be involved in New Mexico's $45 million Hispanic Cultural
which is scheduled to open in Albuquerque in December 1999. It will showcase Hispanic fine arts,
literature and even cuisine.
stay out of an international Hispanic Cultural Center, could we?" said
María Bassols, a
Spanish diplomat. But she added, "We don't want big cooperation projects that will fall to nothing.
We want little things that will grow."
Romero said Spain
appeared to have a two-track approach with New Mexico, wooing the Indians
and also the Hispanic residents in the state -- like him and his wife -- who have long been proud of
their direct Spanish roots.
"I think they're
playing up to both cultures," Romero said. "But it's hard to separate Spanish
New Mexico from Native American history. A lot of Spaniards married Native Americans."
The state's population
of 1.75 million is 40 percent Hispanic and 10 percent American Indian,
many of the latter have Spanish surnames.
During the visit,
New Mexico's Indians, including 19 Pueblo tribes, hope to sell to Spain's
department store chain, El Corte Inglés, at least $600,000 of their hand-made jewelry, while also
courting other retailers.