Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.

© 2019 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES   11/25/19
Mari-Luci Jaramillo blazed an extraordinary trail
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
            New Mexico lost one of its great women last week. Mari-Luci Jaramillo passed on at 91, a month after an event for her latest book. She will always be known as the first Hispanic woman to serve as an ambassador, but that post was one stop in a long career in diplomacy and education.
            Jaramillo did so much in her life that stories about her tend to sound like a resume. A 1987 interview with the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training reveals the woman behind the resume.
          We also learn that none of this might have happened without the help of a teacher.
          Jaramillo grew up poor in Las Vegas, the daughter of a shoemaker and musician. Because she excelling at school, teachers encouraged her, but her high school English teacher, Nell Dougherty, went above and beyond.
          “She thought that I was just going to set the world on fire. She just knew I was going to do something great; and she encouraged me right and left,” Jaramillo said in 1987.
          The night of her high school graduation – Jaramillo was valedictorian – her father, who had never attended other school events, was on hand and told her afterward, “You’ve got to go to college.” He promised to provide $100.  
          In the 1950s, before scholarships and financial aid, Jaramillo worked her way through New Mexico Highlands University.
          “I would work at a parachute factory in Las Vegas, and then they’d be in-between contracts, and I’d go to school a semester,” she said. “I’d work at night. I’d write other people’s term papers. I’d clean houses. I’d waitress. I did everything, and I went to school.”
          Jaramillo had one semester left before graduation. By then she was married with three children. She decided to drop out for a semester and work at the parachute factory. Miss Dougherty heard that her star student wasn’t in school and paid a visit. Why are you not in school? she asked.
          Jaramillo said she didn’t have the money. Miss Dougherty wouldn’t hear it. She reminded Jaramillo that she would do great things with her education, that even though she was married, she might need the degree some day. The teacher offered Jaramillo a $200 loan to be repaid when she could. “And if you can’t, some day through your education, you’ll help somebody else that needs help.”
          Jaramillo finished the semester, earned her degree, got a teaching job, and from her first paycheck repaid Miss Dougherty. She would later say that she, and not her husband, paid for her education. That included advanced degrees.
          In 1977, Jaramillo was on the faculty at NMHU when she got a call from the State Department. After shoeing students out of her office, she took the call and was stunned to hear Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher say that President Carter had reviewed her credentials, was very impressed, and wanted her to be his ambassador in Honduras. Hearing her shock and confusion, Christopher told her to think about it over the weekend.
          She called her husband, who was also a faculty member, and was so excited she could hardly speak. They sat in their car and talked. Finally, he reached the big question.
          “And what did you say?”
          “I said,‘No.’”
          “You said what?!”
          “I said ‘no’.”
          “I don’t understand you.”
          She was afraid he’d feel bad if she were the breadwinner. He said: “I know who I am. I’m a very secure person. I think it’s common courtesy for you to tell your president that you’d be delighted to be considered.”
          Ultimately, this and another marriage didn’t survive, and that’s a price some accomplished women must pay.
            Jaramillo served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1977 to 1980. She was the first Hispanic-American female ambassador and the first woman to head an embassy in the Western Hemisphere.  

Sherry Robinson photo

© 2019 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     11-25-19
New Mexico goes all out for the census
By Merilee Dannemann

Triple Spaced Again
Part of the planning for the 2020 U. S. census is identifying geographic locations that are hard to count. On a national map that identifies those areas by color, New Mexico is lit up like a Christmas tree.  
The map was shown recently at the state Data Users Conference, an annual gathering of professionals who use population data in their work. The presenter was Robert Rhatigan, a University of New Mexico demographer and state liaison to the Census Bureau.
“If you look at the United States and which demographic groups tends to get undercounted, it’s people of color, people who live in remote areas, people who don’t live in houses with standard addressing and rely on post office boxes, people who live in poverty, children zero to four, and renters,” Rhatigan said in a news release. “If you look at those groups nationwide, we have a higher concentration of each of them living here in New Mexico.”
The state is making an all-out effort to get a complete population count.
In 2017, local governments and state agencies cooperatively conducted an update of home addresses, which resulted in 64,000 updated addresses. This year, with about $3.5 million in state funding, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has created a Complete Count Commission, with representation from her administration, the Legislature, tribes, municipalities and community organizations. The administration has announced a plan to ask for $8 million more.
The program is attempting to partner with “trusted local voices,” including local governments and nonprofits, to persuade New Mexicans that everyone should respond to the census. Coupled with that message is the attempt to assure nervous New Mexicans that their personal data will be confidential for decades. Census Bureau staff take an oath that they will preserve that confidentiality for their life.
The questionnaire is limited to the “short form,” which asks only a few questions. Speakers at the conference said the response is much better for the simpler form than for the longer form that used to be sent to some respondents. The census questions must be answered for each person who is living in your home on April 1.
The infamous “citizenship question,” which would have asked respondents to state whether each individual was or was not a US citizen, is not on the form. That question does appear on other Census Bureau survey questionnaires that rely on population samples rather than the entire population.
Every household should receive a copy of the census form. Respondents can provide their answers online, by telephone, or by filling out the paper copy and mailing it. Online and telephone responses can be made in 12 languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.
If you don’t respond, a census worker will come to your door. New Mexico is expecting to need 4,000 census workers. Our “hard to count” status means there will be more census workers knocking on doors than in most states. Not surprisingly, that follow-up is regarded as one of the most expensive parts of the census process.
New Mexico is not expected to gain anything as dramatic as a new seat in Congress. The stakes involve money, several billion dollars spread across many federal programs over the next 10 years based upon the official census count. A study from George Washington University calculated that each New Mexican not counted equates to a loss of approximately $3,745 in funding per year.
With all that federal money at stake, New Mexico may be overcoming its usual inertia, getting its act together, and coordinating across agency and jurisdictional boundaries.
Lack of coordination among government agencies has been characteristic of New Mexico government for as long as I’ve been around. If this commission and its many hoped-for partners can achieve the result of a glorious successful census count, let’s hope they all remember how they did it so they can apply the strategy elsewhere.
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