One of the once truly powerful, national-class labor activists from New Mexico during the past half century, Chano Merino was honored by the Democratic Party of Dona Ana County this morning in Labor Day festivities at the Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces.
The large annual gathering of Democrats was attended by various statewide candidates and party officials, including Congressman Harry Teague, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, State Treasurer James Lewis, PRC Commissioner Sandy Jones, state party chair designee Javier Gonzalez, and candidates for Lt. Governor Rep. Jose Campos, former party chair Brian Colon, and Sen. Linda Lopez. All factions of the local party were represented, including many of the get-out-the vote specialists from various parts of the county, such as Guadalupe Valdivia, Bobby Rodriguez, Don Kurtz, and Arturo Uribe.
Merino recounted some of the battles he and his labor allies fought over his long career, beginning with the labor disputes in the copper mines in Grant County and continuing to campaigns for statewide candidates and national struggles over civil rights. But, modestly, he failed to mention that in his prime he was one of the half dozen or so go-to persons the national AFL-CIO office counted on to trouble shoot problem areas in the Western states during tough elections.
In recent years Merino has been active in local party affairs, highly respected not only because of his strong loyalty to the Democratic Party but also because he was never hesitant to criticize tendencies within the party that he thought were detrimental to the long run strength of the nation. The honor was long overdue.