By ERNESTO CISNEROS
Locals, family members, and dignitaries gathered on Memorial Day, May 31, to honor the late State Senator Carlos Cisneros by dedicating the Questa Veterans Memorial Park in his name. Among those in attendance were US Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, and State Auditor Brian Colón. All three, along with Questa Mayor Mark Gallegos, shared about Senator Cisneros’ legacy and his dedication to serving the people of northern New Mexico.
Mayor Gallegos opened the ceremony by highlighting the Senator’s years of service, through legislation in Santa Fe and his involvement back home. One of his best known accomplishments for the Questa area was funding for the Cabresto Dam Project, totaling nearly $7 million. He co-sponsored senate bills passed in 2019, before his death, which appropriated funds for rural libraries and acequia infrastructure.
“Our senator did so much for this community in 33 years; he put his hand on so many things that we’ve gotten to benefit from—the Little League Park, the library, the community center, the youth center…” Gallegos said.
State Auditor Colón recalled his own experiences with the late Senator. “The very first time I had a deep conversation with the good senator was at the Healing Field, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. I saw his heart and his incredible commitment to the veterans in our community… I couldn’t think of a better way to honor a lifetime legacy that is really the epitome of public service,” said Colón.
While the weather cooperated for most of the ceremony, Sen. Lujan was able to give a few words before a downpour blanketed the crowd. He spoke of Cisneros’ passion for advocacy and for standing up for what’s right, and how this encouraged Lujan throughout his years as a public servant. “…Senator Carlos Cisneros was my senator too, all the way to Nambé… he fought for us, he taught us the importance of speaking up… Carlos had that deep voice that would come from within and people would listen and unite,” Lujan said.
The Carlos R. Cisneros Veterans Memorial was a collaboration of efforts by former Taos County Commissioner Larry Sanchez, the Questa Village Council and others. Sanchez said the opportunity to rename the veterans park arose after Sen. Cisneros died in 2019. “He took care of our communities and his constituents…we couldn’t just forget him; we had to do something in Questa. He’s one of our own,” Sanchez said. “I went before the Questa Village Council and they voted 5-0 to get this on board—I was excited with that.”
Sanchez said the Senator had initially secured funds for purchasing this very property for a veterans memorial. Annual funds for the Vietnam Remembrance Wall and Bataan Death March plaque were also appropriated as part of the veterans memorial project. Sanchez said the park was expected to grow as more funds become available. With Senator Cisneros’ death, it was only right to take on this dedication project.
In the meantime, Sanchez said his goal is to get more veterans highlighted in the community. “I’m not done yet! We’ve got to get some more veterans’ names on the veterans memorial in Questa,” Sanchez said.
A celebratory reception was held after the ceremony at the El Monte Carlo where community members had the chance to catch up with their government officials.