donates papers to library
represents Senator's lifetime of public service
Aragon and his daughter Angela look over the loaded boxes
about to travel to UNM's Political Archives. Photo by Carolyn
On a clear
and chilly November morning, a moving van arrived at the South
Valley office of Senator Manny M. Aragon. He wasnt moving,
his office wasnt moving, but the boxes holding the records
of his extensive years of public service were to UNM.
research historian for the UNM General Library, was on hand
to see that all materials were carefully collected and loaded
on the truck. Aragons archive shares shelf space at the
UNM Political Archives (UNMPA) with the collections of activist
Reies Lopez Tijerina, Senators Pete Domenici, Joseph Montoya,
and Jack Schmitt, Representatives Steve Schiff, and Cabinet
Secretary Manuel Lujan. When reviewed and inventoried, these
collections will be made available and join the completed collections
of Senators Thomas Catron and Dennis Chavez, Governors Jerry
Apodaca and Toney Anaya, and State Treasurer James Lewis and
others at the Center for Southwest Research in Zimmerman Library.
worked with Aragon over the last three years processing his
archival collections from the 1998 and 1999 legislative sessions.
was interested in seeing what the end product looked like. I
showed him how the material was classified and arranged. That
information is then inventoried and documented in finding aids
so that researchers will know exactly which file to request
when looking for specific information, said Díaz,
adding that it will make the collection more accessible to Aragon
and his staffers, as well.
spent long hours spreading out documents on the floor in front
of the fireplace in Aragons office. Other times she created
piles on the glass-topped conference table, and when weather
permitted, she worked on the collection outside on the upstairs
balcony. After conversations about various legislative sessions
and reviewing Díazs work, Aragon agreed to donate
the collection to the library.
whose family has resided in New Mexico for more than 300 years,
grew up in Albuquerques Barelas neighborhood. His father,
Mel, was a self-employed barber. The elder Aragon served as
a city councilor and was a community activist for most of his
collection provides a nuts-and-bolts view of
state government and a cornerstone to our political archives."
Aragon attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and then St. Marys
High School where he graduated in 1965. He went on to St. Josephs
College, later the University of Albuquerque, on a baseball
scholarship. He transferred to UNM and graduated in 1970 with
a degree in political science. He has two children, Gregory
born in 1968 and Angela, born in 1970.
political career began at the age of 21. He was elected president
of the Young Democrats of Bernalillo County in 1968 and within
the year was president of the New Mexico Young Democrats.
he was one of 12 Hispanics to enter law school at UNM, the largest
minority group ever admitted to that point. Aragon points to
Law School Dean Fred Hart as a key influence in his early years
as an attorney.
year, Governor Bruce King appointed Aragon to the State Personnel
Board. He continued to work with Young Democrats and in local
campaigns. Experience with the UNM Clinical Law Program prepared
him to prosecute felony cases while still a law student. Upon
passing the state bar exam he became assistant district attorney.
By 1974, he was well grounded in state politics and was establishing
himself as a local attorney.
elections in 1974 were a pinnacle in Aragons career. His
first campaign cost less than $1,000 and gave him the opportunity
to campaign with and among the many people hed met through
and the concerns of his constituency in District 14 included
issues of senior citizens, womens rights, education, health,
campaign reform, open meetings and the environment. Over the
years, other issues emerged that included human rights, economic
development and international relations.
won his first election by a significant majority when he defeated
former Lieutenant Governor Ed Mead, a senate veteran. Early
in his career in state politics he proposed to do away with
the seniority system and lowered the minimum age for both Senate
and House members. He went head-to-head with colleagues who
wanted to rescind ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment,
and he was an early advocate of repealing the death penalty.
election placed him on the Senate Finance Committee where he
gained a reputation for being a good listener, fast learner,
hard worker, sound arbitrator and negotiator. Those skills were
tested during the Santa Fe Prison Riot of 1980 and left Aragon
with an abiding interest in corrections and penal reform. From
the beginning, Aragon has not sidestepped controversial issues
when he thought it necessary and his constituents returned him
to office in every election since 1974. From 1988 until 2000,
he served as President Pro-Tempore in the New Mexico State Senate,
the first Hispanic in the country to hold the position.
of New Mexicos most recognized public figures, his influence
doesnt end at the state line. He is engaged in leadership
positions regionally, nationally and internationally.
Aragon has long supported UNMGL initiatives and historical research
through the Center for Regional Studies, said UNM Dean
of Library Services Camila Alire. His collection provides a
nuts-and-bolts view of state government and a cornerstone
to our political archives. We are thrilled that Senator Aragon
has chosen us as his repository.
Aragon prepares to take his seat in the 2002 legislative session,
he begins his 28th year in the New Mexico State Legislature.