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1st Latino Governor of New Mexico on the Go : Controversial Policies Have Created Friends, Enemies Among Electorate

May 09, 1985|CHARLES HILLINGER | Times Staff Writer

SANTA FE, N.M. — As a boy he lived in a three-room adobe home with dirt floors, no electricity, no indoor plumbing. He was the third youngest of 10 children in the crowded house.

The beds for the large poor family were mattresses piled up against walls during the day, taken down and spread on the floors at night.

His father had a third-grade education, his mother never finished second grade. Both spoke little English.

"I learned the value of hard work at an early age," he recalls. "We kids carried buckets of water into the house from a well, chopped wood, fed the chickens and pigs, milked the cows before and after school.

"Although my parents had very little formal education, they insisted the two most important things for their children were to live up to a high standard of morality and the worth of an education."

Humble Beginnings

Toney Anaya, 44, the $60,000-a-year Democratic governor of New Mexico, the highest-ranking Latino elected official in the United States, was describing his humble beginnings in his home town, Moriarty, N.M., a small mountain hamlet.

Anaya's two years as governor has been a roller-coaster ride, exhilarating highs, depressing lows.

"It has been the most exciting, most frustrating two years of my life," sighs the governor in one of his conference rooms, the one with a cleaver nailed to a wall behind his desk.

("Three or four reporters are walking around without fingers. The boss didn't like their stories," laughs David Roybal, 33, for 10 years an Albuquerque and Santa Fe print and television newsman before becoming Anaya's press secretary.)

Anaya is a bundle of restless energy. He fidgets with a pencil. Gets up and pours himself a cup of coffee during a state Board of Finance meeting. He is a workaholic, always has been.

Two days earlier, on a sudden impulse, he decided to fly to New York to attend the American Museum of Natural History opening of the New Mexico-sponsored "Maya--Treasures of an Ancient Civilization" exhibit.

The exhibit of 272 priceless ancient artifacts brought together for the first time from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, represents an outstanding organizational achievement for the Albuquerque Museum. From New York the exhibit travels to Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto, Kansas City and finally to Albuquerque in late 1986.

Busy Schedule

Anaya had left the Governor's Mansion at 5:30 a.m. to drive to Albuquerque to catch a transcontinental flight. His house sits on a plateau overlooking Santa Fe, America's highest (7,000 feet) and oldest continuously used seat of government (since 1610.)

The governor flew to the East Coast to attend the exhibit opening, conduct other business in New York and was back home 22 hours after he left. He returned to the Governor's Mansion at 3:30 a.m. Five hours later he was chairing the Board of Finance meeting. After that he appeared before legislative committee hearings, munched on a hamburger during a noon staff meeting, did his regular weekly public TV interview show and worked straight through to 7 p.m.

"I'm glad I went to the opening of the Mayan art exhibit. It was spectacular," he told the Finance Board. "That exhibit will help put New Mexico on the cultural map nationally and internationally."

Anaya worked his way through grade school, high school, Georgetown University, American University Law School. He became a successful Santa Fe attorney, then served as New Mexico attorney general from 1975 to 1978.

He ran for governor and won on a wave of idealism in November 1982 with a majority larger than that of the four previous governors combined. He and Henry Cisneros, the popular San Antonio mayor, were being touted as the two best hopes among Latino politicians as possible future candidates for vice president and President. In his inaugural address in January 1983 Anaya pledged:

"To endeavor to cast away the clouds so the sun would shine equally upon us all--the Anglo, the Hispanic, the Native American and the black; the women, the poor, the middle class and the rich; the handicapped and the able-bodied; on private enterprise and the consumer; and upon our working men and women . . . "

The 'Round House'

As soon as he set foot in the 18-year-old adobe-colored Capitol, Anaya named minorities to chair and hold membership on nearly all boards and commissions. The Capitol is nicknamed the "round house" because of its unusual circular shape designed to represent the Zia Indian's sacred sun symbol.

"He wanted to shake new life into government, to remake New Mexico more representative of the population, more women, more Hispanics, more Indians, more blacks, meaningful lasting change," explains press secretary Roybal, adding:

"He dropped people in wholesale manner out of the boards and commissions and replaced them especially with women and Hispanics reflecting the gender and ethnic makeup of New Mexico, a state with a 37% Hispanic population."

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