Photo displays from years gone by, children running around tables, colorful displays of sunflowers, memories of loved ones who have passed on, a video about family, and speeches reminiscing about sports and the family farm — these were some of the highlights of the 37th Annual Heritage Dinner held last week to honor a well-known local family and raise funds for the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico.
The dinner, silent auction and tribute to the Merced and Francisca González family was held at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds Tuesday night. The venue was close to “maximum capacity” with somewhere between 150 and 200 people attending, according to Amy McVay-Davis, executive director of the Historical Society.
Xcel Energy served as the corporate sponsors of the evening, with 15 other local companies and organizations purchasing table sponsorships. The Historical Society is still collecting donations as well, McVay-Davis said.
It was “a wonderful night of wonderful people, family, amazing food and taking a trip down memory lane,” added John LeMay, president of the group’s board of directors, “and a reflection of the family from beginning to end of the event with the help of the González family and their many talents and treasures.”
Members of the González family served as ushers, led the pledge, sang the national anthem, gave the invocation, emceed the event, delivered speeches and displayed their artistic talent through photos, videos and art.
Each year since 1981, the Historical Society has recognized the contributions of people or organizations that have made significant contributions to the area. The González family was chosen this year after a book project completed by a member of the family was featured at a Historical Society’s Sunday Funday event in January and was highly attended, said McVay-Davis.
She also said the family has long been a supporter of the organization. In fact, one of the members of the fourth generation of the family, Prudence Salinas, the great-granddaughter who lead the national anthem, is the youngest tour guide ever at the Historical Society’s museum on North Lea Ave.
The book that prompted the tribute, “Never Forget Where You Came From,” is drawn from interviews done by family members, especially Isidro González, one of Merced and Francisca’s 12 children, 10 of whom are still living. Granddaughter Danielle González started the design and publishing of the book in 2017 as a project for one of her classes at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, continuing to tweak it for about another year before presenting it to family members.
The book chronicles the lives of Merced and Francisca and their family before and after they arrived here from Mexico in 1954 with five children. The family has now grown to more than 60 people, including about 24 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren, and the family members have had a far-reaching impact in the region as volunteers, athletes for school and church teams, educators, news media representatives, city employees, and lawyers, to name a few of their endeavors.