Remembering Millie THANKSGIVING TIMELINE VIDEO Robert Himmerich y Valen Cocina recipts Education Award

Remembering Millie

Millie & Granddaughter modeled for Betty Sabo

Our Millie Santillanes isn't a person one is likely to forget.  Her passion for her culture and history was an inspiration to us all.  We all know that she wasn't one to give up easily.  Please join us in sharing memories of Millie.  Send your thoughts and pictures to Pátryka Durán y Chaves at and join us in honoring this extraordinary champion of the Hispanic culture.



Doña "Millie"- a Visionary and Educator


Doña Emilia "Millie" Urrea Santillanes - some have said she was controversial but those who worked with her realized she was a visionary with Orgullo of our Spanish Ancestors. She wanted to erase the hate and felt education would bring understanding. Yes this may have made some people uncomfortable because she refused ignore injustice. Realizing that the city of Alburquerque did not have visible historic information about the early settlers Millie set in motion La Fiesta de Alburquerque Founders Day but that was not enough. When the Cuarto-centenairo approached excitement of finally getting a chance to educate the public about the agriculture, livestock, horno, wheat and crafts brought by early Settlers showing how they enriched the United States. Millie ideas, guidance and spirit gave birth to the New Mexican Hispanic Culture Preservation League ten years ago for the purpose of education.  The fruits of her labor are the beautiful La Jornada monument. Wouldn't it be fitting that it be dedicated to Millie?

I remember seeing her there with tears in her eyes saying "al fin". This monument would not have been possible if Millie and those of like sentiments had not stood up to view point discrimination and those in the community who were disruptive by trying to stop the acknowledgment of the achievements of our ancestors. I don't feel Millie created controversy but she would not walk away from it, she felt we owed it to our Spanish heritage, and was not looking to be popular at any price. Doña Millie was a lady of conviction and realized most people do not know the true history of our ancestors. She set out to unmask the Leyenda Negra starting with the school text books.


It was a blessing to have Doña Millie as a mentor who believed we would have to stand up and tell the silenced side of Spanish history for our ancestors. Millie will be MISSED! SHE TAUGHT ME NOT TO TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER BUT ASK WHY? Good manners have often been mistaken for cowardice and when Hispanic tax dollars are not proportionally spent on culture programs, when boards are not reflective of the population it is time to hold those in charge accountable. The spirit and tenacity of Millie is inherited and should be demonstrated con Verdad y Orgullo.


Once again don't you feel it is fitting that La Jornada monument be dedicated to Millie with some nice circular benches and some roses in the grass area over looking the monument? [Conchita Lucero]

"She is responsible for much of what modern-day Old Town is," Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez said.  "Today we have thousands of people visiting for Salsa Fiesta, and Millie would have been there because it was her life to make it possible."   Chavez said Santillanes was the guiding spirit behind Albuquerque's tricentennial celebration, which culminated April 20-23, 2006.   "She was one of those cantankerous, tough, old Republicans,'' Chavez said. "She just gave everyone the dickens when she disagreed with them, and her life spirit will be missed.''    "She is one of the very unique personalities that make a community a better place,'' Chavez said.

October 18, 1999 ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - A Hispanic festival poster showing an Indian man cradling the limp body of an Indian woman suggests the woman was raped and killed by Spaniards, says a Hispanic group.  "We want people to know it's an insult," Millie Santillanes, who heads the Albuquerque Founder's Group, said Friday.  The poster, titled "Southwest Pieta," is on the program cover for the seventh annual Hispanic Culture Festival. The poster was created by artist Luis Jiménez of Hondo. Jiménez is originally from El Paso, Texas.  [Hispanic European American Forum]

One “El Jefe” section, profiling the state’s leaders, featured “La Jefa” Millie Santillanes, at that time a 17-year business veteran of Albuquerque’s Old Town, president of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Albuquerque Old Town Merchants Association. Santillanes had by then already convinced the city and Mayor Harry Kinney to locate a city museum in old town and had raised “…half of the $500,000 needed to buy land on Central Avenue for the ( Old Town public parking) lot.”   [New Mexico Business Journal]


When a traumatic experience such as Millie's passing occurs , all kinds of
thoughts go through our minds. Millie was a great gal---a mover and shaker
(no se dejava)--lets take a breather, let's contemplate her llife, one that
she lived with dignity and honor, lets honor and respect her family and her
faith in God. And then  we can think about how we will manifest her memory
to the people of Alburquerque, a city that she so loved.  [Pauline Chávez Bent]

My condolence to every one whose heart and mind Millie touched. I first met Millie at a Copa de Vino at the late Ambassador Frank Ortiz's house, during the Cuartocentenario celebration. I sensed right then Millie was all you have mentioned. [Samuel Delgado]

My sympathy and prayers for you, the NMHCPL Board, and all members. 
Through her wisdom, leaving behind memories in all that she accomplished,  MILLIE SANTILLANES will never be forgotten. 
Jill Montoya

What a gift it was to have known and loved an individual such as Millie.  She crossed my path and taught me so much! She created meaningful and lasting change in my life and heart. Millie had profound effect on the people and places in her life. I consider myself so fortunate to be one of those people and to have experienced so much time, laughter and learning in her sphere. I will remember the wonder that she was and continue to follow her example of what we should all aspire to be in life.--  Isabelle Zamora

Being a Fine Arts Artist and Educator, a women with roots from native Spanish New Mexico Culture, found it a challenge to succeed in my professional fields here in New Mexico.    As anyone can observe, Fine Artists who move from elsewhere into New Mexico, have a network that nurtures and supports them here, and many become well known and prosper.  That kind of sponsorship had not being my experience.  I have worked quietly on my Art over the years, but my first important opportunity of significant support came through Millie Santillanes.  Due to her work and sponsorship with the City of Albuquerque, she initiated a forum for Hispanic Women Artists to show their work.  It was long in coming, and through here efforts Hispanic Women Artists (like myself) were acknowledged and supported for our unique qualities and differences.  I will always be grateful for the opening opportunities Mrs. Santillanes provided.    Mrs. Maria A. Rutkowsky

City Responds... with a day dedicated to Millie !
Mayor Martin J. Chavez inaugurates the
Millie Santillanes Founders Day
  April 19, 2008

The celebration started at 9:00 AM with a blessing at the Cuervo y Valdes statue and opening ceremonies followed by a procession of family banners to the Gazebo in the Old town Plaza where our mayor  delived the citiy of Albuquerque's proclamation.

Founders Day Proclamation PDF  


Shortly after Millie Santillanes’ death on August 11, 2007, Conchita Lucero, Special Events Chair for the New Mexican Hispanic Culture Preservation League, called various offices in city hall including the Mayor’s office referencing a memorial for Millie Santillanes. We are asking the City of Alburquerque to take the lead acknowledging Millie’s efforts to help make Alburquerque a better place to live. She worked to acknowledge the history of our city and felt it was important that the founders be acknowledged annually.   As you know Millie helped to establish the New Mexican Hispanic Culture Preservation League, the purpose of the league is to accurately present the history of our ancestors, so that they will not be forgotten, that Hispanics will be judged by accomplishments and to expose the Black Legend. Our members have worked hard to help celebrate these truths and feel Millie’s work to teach history accurately should be acknowledged.  


If we do not honor our champions who will? We are asking for contributions for a plaque on marble with some biographic information and bas- relief which would cost approximately six thousand dollars.  If we have funds to stimulate the discussion I am sure we will be better able to make an impact. I guess it is time to contact the city councilors to get their support. Let’s not be shy about this project.


Debbie O'Malley, President District 2 (Millie’s district, Conchita had talked to her at the funeral)
Contact Councilor O'Malley

Kelly Sanchez-Pare, Staff Assistant phone (505) 768-3159

Ken Sanchez District 1
Elaine Romero, Staff Assistant  Phone (505) 768-3183


Other Councilors can be contacted at Phone (505) 768-3100 or write to them at Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center One Civic Plaza NW 9th Floor Albuquerque NM 87102, NM 87102

Councilors:    Isaac Benton, Councilor Brad Winter, Councilor Michael J. Cadigan, Councilor Martin Heinrich, Councilor Sally Mayer, Councilor Craig Loy, and Councilor Don Harris

Please send your $100 contributions to help with this project as soon as possible. 

Vidal & Millie Santillanes

SANTILLANES-Emilia Santillanes "Millie" died Saturday, August 11, 2007, after a sudden illness. She is deeply mourned by Vidal, her hus­band of 57 years, her family, and the countless people she befriended in her lifetime. Despite our sorrow, we are very grateful for her life, particularly the gift of the past two-and-a-half ­years, a much hoped for and much appreciated blessing. In January of 2005, Millie had compli­cations from heart surgery and was hospitalized for six weeks, much of it in a coma. Despite sometimes-bleak prospects, her family kept vigil and advocated for her as she fought her way back to life. Some two months after leaving the hospital, she returned to her full-time jobs as the Albuquerque Director of Cultural Services and the family matriarch. She managed, organized, cooked, counseled, oversaw, delegated, loved, and labored as hard as ever. Just two weeks ago, Millie and Vidal took three of their grandchil­dren to Disneyland, and it would be difficult to say who had the most fun watching the fire­works, riding the rides, and seeing the sights. These past two-and-a-half years, Millie loved and lived as though she knew her time with us was short and she wanted everyone to enjoy their days as much as she did. Millie had a wonderful life with an adoring husband, a devoted family, and work she enjoyed. Nevertheless, we think we were the lucky ones to have known and been loved by her. She will be missed by her husband, Vidal; her eldest son, Abraham and his wife, Janet Santillanes and their children; Genevieve San­tillanes, MD, Olivia Neidhardt, and her husband, Peter Niedhardt, and Alexander Santillanes; her son, James Santillanes; her daughter, Valerie Santillanes and her children, Gabriel Sciarrotta, Cassandra Sciarrotta, and Giana Santillanes; her son, Eugene and his wife, Cindy Santillanes, and their children, Pablo and Cisco; her daughter, Francine Santillanes and her husband, Patrick Lopez, and their children, Vidal, Rosalia, and Miguel Angel; her daughter, Renee Santillanes and her husband, Rudy Garcia and their chil­dren, Bianca and Zachary; her son, Dominic San­tillanes and his wife, Victoria Vivian and their children, Jacob and Sophia; her daughter, Mari­na and her husband, Paul Rudolph and their chil­dren, Joseph and Jonathon; her brother, Fran­cisco Urrea; her sisters, Isabel Mondragon, Car­men Christian, and Cynthia Hoover and their families; and innumerable friends. Her beloved sister, Maria Teresa Chamberlin preceded her in death. Cremation has taken place. A Rosary will be recited Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 7:00 p.m., at San Felipe Church in Old Town, 2005 Pla­za NW. Mass of the Resurrection will be cele­brated Thursday, August 16, 2007, 10:00 a.m., at San Felipe Church, followed immediately by a reception at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, 2000 Mountain Rd NW.

French Mortuary

1111 University Blvd. NE



Millie Santillanes

September 9, 1932 – August 11, 2007

"With The ConquerIing Spirit of Old"

1910: Francisco Urrea from the province of Huesca in Spain arrives in N.M. because of a sheep contract in Vaughn, N.M.

1927: Francisco marries Rosalía Duràn (of the Duràn and Montoya branches of New Mexico families who were in on the 1706 founding of Alburquerque). In time the couple is involved in business, Francisco in sheep husbandry and Rosalie as a shop owner in Old Town.

September 9, 1932: Emilia Duràn Urrea (Millie Santillanes) is born to Francisco Urrea and Rosalie Duràn Urrea in Old Town, Albuquerque.

1941: Millie is struck with a severe case of scarlet fever it results in the affliction of narcolepsy [which affects the sleep center of the brain] this isn't properly diagnosed until she is in her 30s.

1938-1946: Millie attends San Felipe School in Old Town. 1950: Millie graduates from St. Mary's High School.

December 1950: Millie marries Vidal Santillanes who works in the family plastering contractor business.

1951-1966: Eight children are born to Vidal and Millie: Abe, James, Valerie, Eugene, Francine, Renee, Dominic, Marina.

1956: The Santillanes family relocates to Midland, Texas, for economic reasons. They encounter entrenched discrimination against Hispanics in housing, church, and school. When Millie is ready to give birth (to Valerie) she is refused a bed in the hospital so Valerie is born in a bed placed in a hallway at Midland Memorial Hospital.

1957: The Santillanes return to Albuquerque but now, because of her experiences in Texas, Millie recognizes the subtle discrimination that exists in her own town and State.

1964: Millie opens her first Old Town shop, Candles Unlimited, with $800 borrowed from her life insurance policy. She is fascinated by the business career of Conrad Hilton, who becomes one of her favorite role models.

1970: Millie opens her Potpourri shop in Old Town, the first complete gourmet cookware shop in Albuquerque.

1972: Millie opens Wickery and Cookery at Winrock Center.

[Over the years Millie becomes involved in politics in order to improve the business climate in Old Town. She lobbies the City Council for public parking lots, the purchase of land for the Albuquerque Museum, placement of the Natural History Museum in Old Town, promotes the creation of honors programs at Albuquerque High School, etc. Through the years she receives more than 30 awards, certificates of appreciation and/or recognition plaques, etc.]

1982: Millie serves as the first president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. An article in the New Mexico Business journal refers to her affectionately as "La Jefa."

She attends the University of Albuquerque.

1983: Millie is the first woman to serve on the board of the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (Over the years she serves on dozens of bureaus, chambers, boards, etc.)

1985: Millie runs for the office of Mayor in an effort to effect needed reforms. She isn't successful but the experience provides her with many insights into the political process.

1985-1989: Millie is an Administrative Assistant to Mayor Ken Schultz. 1987: Millie studies at the University of Phoenix.

1989: Millie is a founding member and first president of the Hispanic Women's Council. 1992 - 1994: Millie is a freelance writer and Junior Stringer for the Albuquerque journal. 1993-1994: Millie works as a real estate agent.

1994-1997: Mayor Martin Chavez appoints Millie to the post of Albuquerque City Clerk. He also appoints her Director of the Cuarto Centenario Project intended to celebrate the founding of Hispanic New Mexico and the four centuries of Hispanic presence in the State.

1998: Millie and Vidal continue their commitment to community affairs, now focusing on Cuarto Centenario projects, Millie as spokesperson and Vidal as "spear carrier." When asked about the greatest influences in her life she declares that her mother Rosalie continues to be her greatest inspiration because of her faith in God and belief that one must use God-given talents for the benefit of community. She considers Conrad Hilton to be her business role model and the writings of Dr. Wayne Dyer have helped her cope with the demands of community involvement as well as her responsibilities as human being, woman, wife, and mother.

from: NEW MEXICO A BRIEF MULTI-HISTORY by Rubén Sálaz Márquez

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