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Creating a visual history of Las Vegas

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On entering the West Las Vegas art studio, I am struck by the industry of the students hard at work completing the various aspects, perspectives and tasks of the daunting project before them.

The project is one of completing nine large panels commissioned by Casa De Cultura, under the supervision of Miguel Angel, Georgina Ortega, and Rock Ulibarri.

The nine panels will form the composite of a large mural to be erected at the old Safeway parking lot under the auspices of the City f Las Vegas.  The mural depicts the history of Northern New Mexico, from the pre-colonial period and Spanish Conquest, to the various revolts and insurrections undertaken by area peoples to stop invasions, probes and intolerant impositions.

At various times throughout history, these humble inhabitants took on the role of insurgents, while attempting to maintain their meager holdings. These humble farmers, while building a great network of acequias to bring the available water to their crops; feeding their families; and surviving through the vagaries of the weather; managed to put-down various incursions and assaults to their culture and lifestyle- —certainly not a conquered people — incursions against resources, lands and lifestyle of and from the jewel that is New Mexico.

In observing the students at work, I can see their total immersion, and I feel a pride well up within, as I see them absorbing and imparting the great historical lessons they are channeling onto their metal “canvas” — at once, students and history teachers.

Miguel Angel, executive director of Casa De Cultura, is producer, mentor and hands-on producer of the historical panels. He definitely teaches the true history — el oro del barrio of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and its surrounds. One is quickly reminded that the history of Las Vegas is older and more complex than simply the “coming of the railroad.”

A quick review of the panels reminds me of the history lessons I learned from my grandfather Liberato Aragon; the historical tales of Judge Luis Encinias; the living history of Judge Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez; the research and writings of Anselmo Arellano; the historic/pictorial history by Cruz Flores and his daughter; and the survivor mentality of our fellow citizens through the years — the legacy and benefits now enjoyed by natives and newcomers alike.

Miguel Angel has truly captured the salient events of the courageous, epic and spiritually exultant history of our brave little community.

La Casa De Cultura, its board of directors, executive director, volunteers, “prime warrior” Rock Ulibarri, West Las Vegas Principal Gene Parson and staff, have rendered an invaluable service. Our local media will do good to showcase and profile this project, its mentors, and perhaps more comprehensively, the students involved.

Emilio Aragon
Las Vegas