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Web Exclusive: Documentary focuses on life of Dennis Ch†vez

The first film documentary about the legendary senator Dennis Ch†vez will have its Albuquerque premiere at the National Hispanic Cultural Center this weekend, and plans for a National Public Television broadcast are in the makings.

“El Senador” pays homage to the life and politics of Ch†vez, the first native-born Hispanic elected to the U.S. Senate, and gives him credit for serving his state with strength and grace.

The project was first proposed to independent filmmaker Paige Martinez by Tob°as Duran, the director of UNM’s Center for Regional Studies, who recognized the need for more attention to Ch†vez’s story.

“There were absolutely no books on Ch†vez,” Martinez said while addressing an audience at the Taos Talking Picture Festival last month, where the film made its world premiere. “There was one dissertation and a two-page chapter in a children’s book about him.”

Ch†vez began his life in the impoverished Barelas section of Albuquerque, adjacent to downtown, at the turn of the 20th century. Ch†vez dropped out of school in the seventh grade to get a job as a grocery deliverer, but he continued to educate himself at the public library and embraced Thomas Jefferson as his role model. His English and Spanish-speaking skills got him in the political front door.

He began working for the Democratic Party in a campaign to recruit Spanish-speaking voters at a time when most of New Mexico and its Hispanic population held Republican ideals. In 1917, he moved to Washington D.C., and put himself through law school at Georgetown University, where he graduated in 1932. He was elected to the Senate in 1935 and began his bid for the equal rights of Hispanic workers and an end to the discrimination he had experienced as a Hispanic American.

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Martinez’s film was still in the editing process when it debuted in Taos, but a statewide showing of the film has already been guaranteed by KNME and a National Public Television broadcast is currently being proposed.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center will hold four free showings of “El Senador” this weekend, two on Saturday at 12:35 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. and two on Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. All screenings will take place in the Cultural Center’s Lecture Hall. The Center is at 1701 4th Street N.W. Call 246-2261 for more information.

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