Doña Millie “El Jefe” 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.  “She is one of the very unique personalities that make a community a better place,” Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez
Ruben Salas- Marquez
Ruben Salas- Marquez

Rubén Darío Sálaz, Author- Historian (Posthumous Award)

When Rubén Darío Sálaz was born, his parents named him after a great Nicaraguan poet in the hopes that he would be a writer.  He is now the owner of seven copyrights for his published works including New Mexico A Brief Multi-History and EPIC of the Greater Southwest .

Salas heard both Spanish and English at home so he grew of bilingual and bicultural.  He was a conscientious student but the books were tempered with experience.  He labored in the fields so he understands the plight of migrant farm workers.  He sold newspapers on the streets and learned what the barrio and was really like.  After high school he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, Spanish and Education.  (He remembers that one English professor told him, “no one will ever hire you as a writer,” and one chairman of the History Department suggested that he not continue in the study of history.)

But Salas would not allow academic people to discourage him for long and he continued educating himself, searching of Hispanic American history which was never presented to him in high school or university studies. COSMIC-The La Raza Sketchbook is the result.  The book was received with enthusiasm and it continues to be the best single volume on Hispanic American contributions to the culture of the USA.  It is being used by students and the general reader throughout the southwest.  The information it contains is inspiring for it is about people who “… are our history, our heritage, and our pride.”

COSMIC received the Blue Feather Press Award for 1975.

Dr. Henry J. Casso
Antonio Tony Garcia

2011_Dr. Henry J. Casso has dedicated his public life to preparing young people, especially Hispanics, for the high technology era and has an active professional life in New Mexico since 1973. 

He is former Pastor, Vicar for Urban Affairs and Executive Secretary of the national Bishops Committee for the Spanish Speaking, Founder of the San Antonio Don Bosco youth Center,

Founding Board member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, He was its first Director of Education.  Under his watch 300 students were assisted and 34 became U.S. Lawyers, among which was New Mexico’s Speaker of the House and President Pro Temp.  He received a doctorate in Education at the University of Massachusetts, where he created the first Massachusetts Undergraduate Teacher Training,  Bilingual Program.

At UNM he headed a National Education Task Force as an Associate Professor.  For the NM Legislature he undertook a study of Higher Education for New Mexico. The Governor asked him to head a study of Juvenile Education in New Mexico, and served as a member of Governor Kings Information Superhighway Task Force.

As Founding President of the National Institute for Professional Development in Albuquerque and Project Uplift,  he prepared New Mexicans for High Technology Careers.  Project Uplift conducted Spring Institutes in  New Mexico, Texas and Colorado involving 90,000 middle and high school students.  He produced 325 statewide half hour television programs on the changing workplace covering such topics as the Space Port, Computerized manufacturing and medicine in Space. 

The Director General of UNESCO invited him to Paris, France; he offered a partnership to apply his state model to a developing Country.  The selected was Central America’s Costa Rica. After meeting with the country’s President and the advanced University Presidents, students and professors from these participated in specialized youth  institutes.  Later New Mexico students were invited to Costa Rica as guests of UNESCO and the university presidents.

Over 6000 New Mexico university students accepted  personal invitation to meet free of charge, with over 400 government and private sector employers to  participate in a one-o-a-kind Minority and Women Job Fair.

Dr. Casso hosted two 45 minutes WorldNet Interactive TV, in Washington D.C. and three times by Voice of America beamed to Europe and Latin America,  in ten languages.

Hispanic Times National Magazine, LA Based, allowed  Dr. Casso to design its cover and write a major article for each of thirteen years.  He held a singular record.

Dr. Casso is a volunteer Senior Advisor to the APS  First South Valley Reading Summit and is a Mentor to its founding doctoral candidate Ms. Mia Sosa-Provencio.

Luther Wilson
Robert Himmerich y Valencia,

2010 _ Luther Wilson “PUBLISHER”

  As a publisher, Luther Wilson distinguished himself by republishing Dr. Philip Wayne Powell’s book, “The Tree of Hate“. A book that revealed to the academic world the propaganda and prejudices affecting the United States relations with the Hispanic world. In this same book a report is cited mandating all academic institutions to teach Hispanic history truthfully. Wilson recognized this important void and elected to publish the book and the report referenced in the book.

Wilson’s university press experience spans four states and two continents. As Director of the UNM Press, Wilson has been in publishing for over 40 years, in both academic and commercial markets. He has published for over 2000 authors, and in 2002 was awarded the Cherokee Honor Society’s Medal of Honor for life time achievement for preserving the American Indian Culture.

Over the years Wilson continues as a frequent contributor to panels on publishing and offers his insights to the Taos Writer’s Conference, Latino Writer’s Conference, Southwest Writer’s and many others throughout our State and Region.

Wilson earned his B.A. degree in Russian Liturature and Math from Michigan State Univ. – Oakland. Wilson, served in the Peace Corp in the Dominican Republic. As a Kentucky native of Cherokee descent he lives with his wife Judy, here in Alburquerque, enjoying travel, fly-fishing and watching movies.

Wilson helps accomplish the NMHCPL mission for the need in accuracy of our history. Through his publishing, and many contributions, we are most appreciative!

Nick LaRue
Nick LaRue

2009_Nick LaRue, Teacher, Madison Middle School Albuquerque, NM 

Nick LaRue is a Summa cum laude graduate of the University of New Mexico. He is a mid-school New Mexico history teacher and describes himself as a political activist who once considered becoming a priest. He received a small Scholarship from the NASA space consortium and graduated with honors.

He became an Eagle Scout at age 15 and had backpacked much of the Gila Wilderness and still feels God put him on this earth to find every back road in New Mexico.

His first job was a tour guide for the Museo de San Elizario in Texas and it provoked an unending love of history. The area wonce home to Spanish garrisons and many forays to the northwere launched from the Presidio.

When he taught at Garfield Middle School in the North Valley he sponsored Wild Friends and with the help of his students and others Memorial 50, the Wildlife Violator Compact was read on the floor of the legislature. It resulted in a Western crackdown on poaching of big game. He and his students also built a wildlife habitat that is still part of the community.

Mr. LaRue came to our attention from a project at Madison Middle School when they studied the Rio Puerco Valley. He and his students were inspired by the writings of Nasario Garcia who has written extensively about New Mexico and the Rio Puerco.

He and his students traveled to the area and explored the ruins of the four old villages, fields and graveyards. They also studied Spanish history including escudos and the students drew and described their own from what they had learned. Their research was published in the Albuquerque Journal.

Each of his classes this year have finished creating five books on New Spain and the world as it existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Teacher in Action, by Conchita Lucero- Los Canzino.r program inspired by teacher Nick LaRue

Reaching students is a process of creativity and imagination. One can not expect to get children interested in a subject that does not inspire a passion in the teacher. Nick La Rue’s passion for New Mexico history was demonstrated during the program he sponsored entitled Los Caminos. John and I went to Madison Middle School February 13, 2009 to see the program and were pleasantly surprised at the projects and knowledge of the students. It was quite impressive and the students had a variety of projects using their talents to construct Santos, maps, tin work, churches and even a dress.

Comments by Joe Sabatini past director of Special Collections Library when told Nick had been selected for History Teacher of the Year. “Outstanding! I knew Nick when he taught at Garfield MS. He made a vacant lot in the schoolyard into an ecological habitat for hands-on science instruction. He also was helpful about after-school “mid-school initiative projects.”

Getting to know Nick I am sure he is the type of teacher that will be long remember by his students for inspiring a knowledge and understanding of others and history. Congratulations to Nick and students on their history project.

Dolores Valdez de Pong
Dolores Valdez de Pong

2008_Dolores Valdez de Pong   “TEACHER- AUTHOR” 

Dolores Valdez de Pong was born in Alamosa, Colorado to Bonifacio Valdez and Olivama Salazar de Valdez.  She is a descendant of the first Spanish settlers in Colorado, who moved to the San Luis Valley from Northern New Mexico in the late 1800’s.

      She was raised on a farm in La Jara, Colorado and tended to livestock and farming activities.  Of particular interest were orphan lambs, calves at the sale barn and harvesting medicinal herbs of the area.  Canning and freezing of garden and farming products was also a required activity.

      Dolores graduated from Centauri High School and earned a B.S. in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Colorado State University and a M.A. in Training and Learning Technologies from UNM.

    She has been a teacher for the Santa Fe Public Schools for 32 years.  As a children’s playwright she has written numerous bilingual school productions and over 70 Spanish children’s songs and lyrics that deal with NM history, culture and geography.

       Dolores received a Top Teach Award by Fox Television.  Two Quality of Education Awards were given to her by the NM Research and Study Council.  She was a finalist for the Golden Apple Award and has received the John Gaw Meem Award given by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation for an Historic Preservation Class Project.  In 2006 she was named Santa Fe Teacher of the Year.

     She has written articles for La Herencia magazine, and co-authored the book “Life in Los Sauces” with her mother.  Dolores is married to Ricardo Pong from Hong Kong.

      Dolores has at least three ancestors that came with Oñate in 1598 including Hernan Martin Serrano l, Bartolome de Montoya and Pedro Sanchez de Monroy.  Later arrivals include Juan Páez Hurtado a personal aid to don Diego de Vargas and Salvador Matias De Ribera who served in the Spanish Military at the Presidio in Santa Fe.  He was born in Puerto de Santa Maria in Southwest Spain near Cadiz.  Ribera, New Mexico is named after him.

      Other antepasados include Nicolás Ortiz who was married to a relative of don Diego de Vargas and a member of the prominent Ortiz family of Santa Fe.  Lucia de Montoya owned the land in Albuquerque now known as Old Town.

       Dolores has visited 15 foreign countries including the ancestral home of dón Juan de Oñate in Oñate,  Spain.