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Historical New Mexican women to be represented in mural

New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment for its culture and artwork. Recently, Young Women United has joined together with various female artists to create a historically focused mural.

Isabel Fernandez de Williams, mural organizer and contributing artist, has created multiple murals before in Las Cruces. This time the focus will be on women in New Mexican history.

“In Albuquerque, all sorts of murals are up, but they are missing the female part — no murals representing female culture,” she said.

Fernandez de Williams said artists have been working on the project for three years, and will depict women from diverse cultures — Native American, Spanish and Mexican included.

Alicia Chavez, a community building program assistant at Young Women United, said she organizes youths and finds adults that are willing to support their cause.

In response, Young Women United hosts cookouts every Friday night and works on painting on Saturday mornings in the Barelas area.

“All ages will be able to paint and get involved,” she said. “It’s important that both genders be involved and encourage unity.”

Colleen Gorman, a contributing artist and UNM alum, said she has been painting since she was four and was trained by her grandfather, Harrison Begay. She received the lifetime achievement award for Begay in August.

The women to be depicted by the mural include Native American potter Maria Martinez and African-American soldier Cathay Williams.

“These women have contributed to New Mexican history, but are left out of history,” Gorman said.

“We researched these women and looked at photographs. We shared what we found,” she said. “Women such as Cathay Williams are not recognized.”

Williams was a buffalo soldier stationed in New Mexico in 1866. After being freed, she joined the 38th U.S. infantry.

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“She hid her gender and called herself William Cathay,” Gorman said. “Williams fought the Apaches.”

She added, “Maria Martinez, a skilled potter who specialized in black on black native pottery, will (be) pouring water out of one of her pots as a symbol of Mother Earth.”

Along with the historical context, the artists are also focusing on the culture of New Mexico, she said.

“We are incorporating a hummingbird that will be the first thing the viewer will see,” Gorman said. “The hummingbird will represent protection from the Aztec culture.”

A few of the historical figures will also represent cultural/fictional characters.

Native deities such as Spider Woman and Changing Woman will also be represented in the mural.

The mural will be located at Arrow Super Market on Fourth Street, and painting will begin in late July.

Imani Lambert is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.

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