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Abe M. Peña papers

Identifier: Ms-0434

Scope and Content

The Abe M. Peña papers contain materials relating to the many personal, professional and civic activities of Abe M. Peña. The collection is divided into ten series: Personal papers, Pablo and Pablita Peña papers (the parents of Abe M. Peña), Ranching papers, Political papers, Foreign service papers, American Association of Retired Persons, Research and writings, Photographs, Video tapes, and Artifacts. The primary language is English, but some Spanish language materials are also included.

The collection is particularly important for the information it provides on sheep ranching in New Mexico and life in a small, hispanic New Mexico village. Also of interest is information on the economies and politics of several Latin American countries in the 1970s and 1980s, seen from the perspective of American Foreign Service operations (Peace Corps and U.S.A.I.D.) in which Peña served. Both his professional papers and his personal diaries from his foreign service years are included in the collections. Peña’s writings focus on rural life in western New Mexico, including Hispanic traditions, ranching, communities and individuals. The photographs contain images of Hispanic village life in San Mateo, New Mexico, its ranching activities, and documentation of Peña’s years in the Foreign Service. Video tapes contain segments from Peña’a public access television program, Enchanting New Mexico, which focuses on events, people and culture of the Cibola County area.


  • 1894-2004
  • Majority of material found in Placeholder Unit Date Text

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open. All materials in this collection are available for research under supervised conditions in the Research Room.

Copy Restrictions

Copyrights associated with materials in this collection have not been transferred to New Mexico State University.

Biography / History

Abelicio (Abe) Marquez Peña was born November 8, 1926 in San Mateo, New Mexico to Pablo and Pablita Peña. A sheep and cattle ranching family, the Peñas lived and worked in the small Hispanic village of San Mateo, near Mt. Taylor and the Cibola National Forest. Abe Peña and his six brothers and sisters spoke Spanish at home and didn’t begin to learn English until they entered school. Peña attended elementary school in San Mateo and high school in nearby Grants, graduating from Grants Union High School in 1944. He attended New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now New Mexico State University) in Las Cruces, graduating with a B.S. in animal husbandry in 1949. After graduation he became foreman of sheep operations at the Hartsell Ranch, Hartsell, Colorado. Peña joined the U.S. Army in 1950, during the Korean War, and became part of the Meat Inspection Service in the Veterinary Corps, inspecting meat, eggs and poultry in Chicago and Kansas City. In 1953 he received a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia where he spent one year studying sheep and wool production. Upon his return to New Mexico in 1954, Peña became foreman of the Frank A. Hubbell Co. ranch, then the largest sheep ranch in the state, at Quemado, New Mexico.

In 1955, Peña married Viola Ruth Cisneros of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a music teacher and a graduate of the College of Mt. St. Joseph on the Ohio. The couple started a family that would grow to three daughters and one son. Peña returned to his family’s ranch in San Mateo and became part owner and operator in 1957 and his family remained there until 1972. During these years he became involved in several civic and professional organizations, such as the Western Valencia Stockman Association, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, Grants-West Valencia County Chamber of Commerce, New Mexico Wool Growers Association, Uranium City Toastmasters Club, Los Lunas Hospital and Training School, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, New Mexico Livestock Board, and Valencia County Farm Bureau, among others. He held executive and board positions in most of these organizations.

Beginning in the late 1950s Peña became an active member of the Republican Party of New Mexico and served as vice-chairman of the state party from 1969 to 1972. He ran for the State Legislature as Representative from Valencia County in 1962 and 1964 and for the State Senate in 1966, although he was narrowly defeated in all races. He remained an active supporter of the Republican Party throughout his career.

Peña accepted an appointment as country director of the Peace Corps in Honduras in 1972, beginning a 12-year career in the United States Foreign Service. After serving two years in Honduras he became country director for the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. In these positions he supervised all Peace Corps-related activities, managing resources, volunteers, staff, and budgets to assist in the agricultural and economic development of the countries. In 1976 he accepted a position as mission director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Paraguay. In 1979 he was offered and accepted the position of mission director for USAID in politically troubled Bolivia. After a violent military coup in 1980, the U.S. government withdrew its ambassador from Bolivia and recalled Peña to Washington, D.C. as well, in order to demonstrate displeasure with the turn of events in that country. After spending nearly a year traveling across the U.S. recruiting for the Foreign Service, Peña once again was assigned the post of mission director in Paraguay, this time to phase out the mission because Paraguay’s status had changed from developing to developed country. He held this position from 1981 until his retirement from the Foreign Service in 1984.

Peña returned to Grants, New Mexico in 1984 where he once again became involved in the family’s ranching business, now incorporated as the P. & P. Peña Ranch, Inc. He continued to play a role in local, state and national affairs, serving as race director for the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon 1987-1989, instructor in the Elder Hostel program 1987-2000, chairman of the Rio Grande Historical Collections, New Mexico State University Library 1994-1995, and board member of the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico 1998-2001. In 1987 Peña began writing a column for the Grants Beacon (now the Cibola County Beacon) in which he concentrated on local history, traditions and people. The popular columns were collected and expanded into the book Memories of Cibola, published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1997. Peña also hosted a locally-produced public access television program throughout the 1990s called “Enchanting New Mexico,” in which he interviewed local personalities and highlighted local history and cultural attractions. In 2004 he started a history program with KDSK-FM radio in Grants called “Memories of Cibola” to provide historical information and encourage economic development in the area.

Peña co-founded the Grants chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons in 1987. He served the AARP as State Legislative Committee Chairman 1992-1993, National Legislative Council Member 1993-1996, and Secretary/Historian of the National Board of Directors 1996-1998. During this time he advocated issues of importance to all senior citizens as well as championing the cause of Hispanic seniors.

Among Peña’s many awards and honors are Citizen of the Year (shared with his wife, Viola), Grants/Cibola County Chamber of Commerce, 1995; Outstanding Centennial Alumnus, New Mexico State University, 1987; Honorary Doctorate, New Mexico State University, 1978; Superior Honor Award, United State Department of State, 1977; and Conservationist of the Year, 1968.


19.5 linear feet.


Business, professional and personal papers of Abelicio Marquez Peña, New Mexico sheep rancher, politician, foreign diplomat, writer and alumnus of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (New Mexico State University).


  1. RG89-150 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  2. RG90-006 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  3. RG92-164 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  4. RG94-070 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  5. RG94-152 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  6. RG95-109 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  7. RG96-021 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  8. RG98-110 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  9. RG2002-124 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  10. RG2003-127 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  11. RG2004-056 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  12. RG2004-074 Gift of Abe M. Peña
  13. RG2005-075 Gift of Abe M. Peña

Related Material

New Mexico Wool Growers Association records. Ms 0178. New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections Department.

Armer-Reid papers. Ms 0461. New Mexico State University Library, Archives and Special Collections Department

Processing Information

Dennis Daily, Bill Boehm, Jackie Duncan and Allison Galey, 2004-2005
Guide to the Abe M. Peña papers, 1894-2004
Edited Full Draft
Dennis Daily and Bill Boehm
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA