Centennial celebrations

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The sun shined bright and the sky was clear for two celebrations at local schools Friday to commemorate New Mexico’s 100th anniversary as a state.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Dennis Chavez Elementary students watch as heated air is pumped into a hot air balloon during a New Mexico centennial celebrations on Friday. Jr., the balloon’s name, is red with a yellow Zia symbol.

The state’s birthday was celebrated at both Dennis Chavez Elementary School in Los Chavez and H.T. Jaramillo Community School in Belen on a day that allowed residents to show off their red and yellow colors of the New Mexico Zia symbol.

Hundreds of area students gathered outside as local leaders and school officials alike spoke about how important it is to know about the state’s history.

“This is the (one) and only centennial of the state I will be able to attend,” said State Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Valencia). “There’s nothing better than spending it with the future of the state.”

Carla Martinez, principal at Jaramillo School, said officials came up with the idea to have a celebration just days before New Mexico’s anniversary on Jan. 6.

Officials passed out 500 balloons and New Mexico Zia pins to students at the school.

Students and teachers let their balloons fly into the sky after speeches from school officials and local leaders. Sanchez and Belen Mayor Rudy Jaramillo attended the event with members of the school district’s administration.

Each red and yellow balloon was filled with a greeting message that had the school’s address and phone number in case the balloons wind up in another area.

“We wanted to do something special,” Martinez said. “We just hope someone finds our message and contacts us.”

Breanna Maez, 12, a student at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Belen, said, “It’s cool. It’s New Mexico’s birthday!”

The symbol of the Zia is composed of a circle from which four points radiate. To the Zia Pueblo, the number four is sacred. It represents the Earth with its four main directions; the year, with its four seasons; the day, with sunrise, noon, evening and night; and life, with the four divisions ― childhood, youth, adulthood and old age.

Dennis Chavez Elementary students have worked on projects for the school-wide celebration since December, said educational assistant Kay Griffin.

These projects included learning New Mexico’s state song “Oh, Fair New Mexico,” creating the state flag out of red hand prints and creating a state map with what each county is known for.

“Students took ownership in the celebrations in everything they did,” said Lynn Sanchez, a fifth-grade teacher. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime engagement.”

Fifth-grader Sydney Baca said the celebrations brought about education on the state’s history.

“In the 100 years of being a state, we’ve progressed from adobe stoves to electricity,” she said.

Reina Tapia, fifth-grader, said it meant a lot to her to learn about the Land of Enchantment.

From preschool to sixth-grade, each student had hands-on experience in the state’s history, but students weren’t alone in sharing this celebration.

Parents got involved in school-wide projects and shared their ancestry’s history with students and other parents.

“Although they’re in Valencia County, they have roots in other counties. It brings out a real family connection in the school,” said special education teacher Evelyn Archuleta.