La Sociedad: Guardians of Hispanic Culture Along the Rio Grande; Lecture and Booksigning
Jose A Rivera, a research scholar at the Center for Regional Studies and professor of planning at UNM, has written a book, “La Sociedad: Guardians of Hispanic Culture Along the Rio Grande.” Rivera will give a short lecture on the history of the S.P.M.D. T. U., Saturday, September 17, 2 p.m. at the Nambe Headstart Building. His book will also be available at that time.
In 1900, Sociedad Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos (SPMDTU) was started by Celedonio Mondragon and several other San Luis Valley residents to help prevent illegal seizure of Hispanic land ownership and to combat discrimination against wage laborers.
Alonzo Archuleta, whose father Eduardo moved to Nambe in 1940 from San Luis Valley, remembers his father telling him about the racism Hispanics faced in southern Colorado.
“My father told me Hispanics couldn’t use the sidewalks, had separate bathroom facilities and couldn’t get bank loans,” Archuleta said. “The SPMDTU began as a civil rights organization that Hispanics formed to protect themselves.
David Ortiz, secretary-treasurer of the Nambe SPMDTU lodge, said the society provided such services as financial aid, burial funding, low-cost insurance and fraternal support.
The Nambe council dates back to 1929. At that time an old barn was acquired on Highway 503 and converted into the lodge hall. The hall was recently leased to the Pojoaque Bible Church. But the lodge still has monthly meeting in the Pojoaque District Irrigation Building and the chapter remains active in community affairs.
On October 8, they will have a road clean up along Highway 503 and an anniversary celebration is slated for November 19 in the Nambe Headstart Building. The National Bi-Annual Convention is scheduled for September 2012 in either Antonito or Alamosa, Colorado.
At the present time, the Nambe lodge has 82 members. Jerry Romero, Nambe president, said there were 135 members 15 years ago. “The valley has changed enormously,” Romero said. “In the past, this was a rural community and people depended more on one another.
Ortiz said there were 62 councils nationwide, but now there are just six. Rivera’s book explores the core values that have bonded SPMDTU members across generations and have sustained the organization for more than a century and addresses the question of whether or no La Sociedad will survive in the 21st Century.
Up until about 10 years ago, dances were held at the lodge on Highway 503. Alonzo Archuleta remembers the dances with Spanish folk tunes and local musicians. “There were violins, guitars and accordions,” Archuleta, a life-long resident of Pojoaque Valley said. “And then there were singers who would improvise verses about the people. It was wonderful.”
The society’s heart and soul is represented by their logo of two hands clasped in unity and this brief verse from their official hymn: “At the sound of liberty we reach out our hands with love and cordiality. We swear to be liberated, and may the union always live with mutual protection.”