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NMSU alumna receives national fellowship for Latino heritage preservation

A New Mexico State University alumna was recently awarded a fellowship for a national organization dedicated to preserving Latino heritage throughout the United States.

Group of young people standing in a hallway
Norma Hartell, first on the left, recently received a fellowship with the Hispanic Access Foundation and is now among the advisers on the Latino Heritage Advisory Group. The group advocates for the preservation of sites that are important to the Latino narrative in the United States. (Photo courtesy of Norma Hartell)

Norma Hartell is a graduate of NMSU’s Department of Anthropology, having earned her master’s, and currently works at Las Cruces museums. She previously served as an intern for the Hispanic Access Foundation in 2016, working at Everglades National Park in south Florida archiving photographs.

Earlier this year she applied for a historic preservation fellowship with the foundation and was accepted. As a national Latino Heritage Scholar, she works with other scholars on the HAF’s Latino Heritage Advisory Group.

The group engages with people in all 50 U.S. states and its territories and advocates in state and federal legislatures for preservation of sites significant in Latino history in America.

“In 2015 I worked on writing the Chope’s Bar and Café (in La Mesa, N.M.) nominations, both of which are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” Hartell said.

The advisory group consists of three other Latino Heritage Scholars in addition to Hartell and together, the four reviewed 30 sites for which they would recommend preservation.

“These 30 sites are important to the Latino narrative in the history of the United States,” Hartell said.

The Pueblo of Tortugas, near South Main Street in Las Cruces, was included among these 30 sites and the 10 sites the advisory group put together in a formal recommendation viewable here: https://www.hispanicaccess.org/news/new-report-identifies-top-10-latino-historical-and-cultural-sites-need-protection/sep-2017

“It’s significant to the Latino community because it represents how diverse we are,” Hartell said. “It’s a pueblo of mestizos, which are Mexican and indigenous, which does represent what a Latino is.”

Currently only the pueblo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but Hartell hopes that support and inclusion of the Tortugas Trail and the Tortugas (“A”) Mountain are included in the nomination, and not only on the National Register but also as National Landmarks.

“That gives it an extra layer of protection against development, gentrification,” Hartell said.

The pueblo, home to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, attracts believers in the Virgin of Guadalupe, whom Hartell called “the mestizo version of the Virgin Mary,” and the trail and the mountain are scaled in a joint exercise of faith.

Also included among the recommendation packet was Castner Range in El Paso, where Latinos have lived since the 1500s, as well as the Trujillo Adobe in California, where Hispanic and Latino families from New Mexico migrated as part of the Westward Expansion of the United States.