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Elmer Martinez Collection

Identifier: MSS-1004-BC

Scope and Content

Elmer Martinez donated his collection to the Center for Southwest Research in 2018. It contains correspondence, reports, recordings, photographs, maps, posters, and newspaper clippings related to his efforts to preserve and teach about the contributions of the Hispanic people to the country. There is also information about his insurance agency and his campaign for New Mexico State Representative. Other writings show his ideas about and defense of Spanish history. He corresponded and worked with state politicians and other Hispanic leaders. The collection shows a number of other educational activities in the local community, including at the University of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico.

There are papers about his marching color guard unit the Colonial Infantry of Albuquerque, its goals, equipment, members, and various photographs of its activities. For example, included is a script and recording of the Infantry’s Garfield school program and a recording of the Bicentennial tribute to Max Royal for his retablo in San Felipe Church, Old Town. Martinez worked with the Albuquerque Sociedad Hispanica Cultural, headed by Hugo Pena, and has material about their activities. Photographs and papers from his Columbus Day programs in Old Town Albuquerque show members of the Latin American and Italian organizations who celebrated the event with him.

While Martinez was Secretary of the Spanish Village Corporation, of the New Mexico State Fair, he saved some meeting notes and plans about the operations of the village and the Spanish Village queen’s pageant. When he was Director of the Spanish Village - Villa Hispana and hosted several Spanish Heritage shows, he retaining files about the programs, contracts with the performers, and his innovations to improve the village. There are photographs of the village and the three queens, as well as promotional materials and photographs for some of the performers. In addition, the comments by Rocio Vargas Brimhall, from Peru, part of his stage crew, about the village Latin American parade float and her own life are a good view of Hispanos in Albuquerque during that era. Included is a 1975 invitation to the Spanish Village queens to attend the crowning of Miss Indian New Mexico at the State Fair Indian Village.

There are papers about his Spanish History Museum, its goals, activities and some photographs. The exhibits featured the New Mexico Spanish pioneers, Spanish Aid to the American Revolution (1986), Hispanos and New Mexico Statehood, Spanish law in the West and early Hispanic law officers, and a Columbus tribute. Included are articles and recorded interviews about Martinez and the museum. Nancy Brown contributed a number of Southwestern maps, posters and additional educational material to the effort. Various organizations sent materials about the 1992 Columbus anniversary, with opinions from both the Hispanic and Native American sides. There were several conferences at the University of New Mexico focusing on Native American culture and protests. The National Park Service held conferences on how to deal with the Columbus anniversary from a New Mexico perspective. People also donated things to Martinez. Reies Lopez Tijerina gave him various pieces from the 1970s providing good insights into the land grant and Chicano movements. Dolores Sedillo-Brooks, too, met and entrusted Martinez with the religious keepsakes and newspapers of Juanita Rivera, a catechism teacher from the Las Cruces area. Fernando C. Gomez sent him his study on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Larry Lopez brought in his fiery poem about Chicanos, with Martinez, in turn, jotting down his thoughts on the same. Martinez donated additional historical and illustrated material from his museum in the Summer of 2023, which are in Box 5 A and Extra Oversize Folder 1 A. Two boxes of slides of historical and geographic images were added in the Fall fo 2023 - in Boxes 11 and 12.

Besides telling of the work of Martinez, the collection is also a window into the Albuquerque Hispanic community organizations, leaders, activities and views from the 1970s-1990s. Some in the Hispanic community called him the chispa or spark who awoke a new interest and pride in them to learn about and preserve their culture and history. For more than forty years Martinez has fought for the Hispanic people. His collection is now part of that on-going story.


  • 1959-2015

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Elmer Martinez (1933- ) is an Albuquerque Hispanic businessman, community spokesman, artist, musician, and lay historian. He is originally from San Pablo, Colorado, in the San Luis Valley. His grandfather, Jose Donaciano Martinez (1857-1944), taught him the history of the Spanish in the Southwest and showed him a map from the Colonial era. Elmer repeated this to his grade school teacher, who said American history started at Jamestown and there was nothing of importance in the Spanish Southwest. Martinez was stunned but determined someday to teach the history and contributions of his Spanish forbearers that others were denying.

After World War II, Martinez and his family moved to Denver. He was a deputy sheriff in the Denver area, later becoming a Santa Fe policeman, instructor and chief jailer. Upon coming to Albuquerque, he opened his own insurance agency and brokerage from 1963-1993. In 1974 he was a candidate for the North Valley New Mexico House of Representatives.

Seeing no Spanish representation in local events and schools, in 1970 Martinez founded the Colonial Infantry of Albuquerque, the first Spanish marching drill and educational unit in the city. He designed and his family helped him create their Spanish colonial armor, uniforms and flags. Martinez held educational programs in Albuquerque Old Town, the State Fair Spanish Village and at local schools, and participated in events around the city, and in Socorro, Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Pueblo and El Paso.

Meanwhile, Martinez became a member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Village and then Board Secretary in 1973. He also directed the Village Queen’s pageant. He and his family made Spanish colonial flags and banners for the buildings. The Colonial Infantry escorted the queens, maintained the village museum, and marched inside the village and at State Fair parades. He was also Director of the Spanish Village programs from 1979-1983 and Master of Ceremonies for several Spanish Heritage shows. He tried to carry out the original mandate of the Village founders to feature Spanish culture and made various program innovations during his time as director.

Martinez opened the Spanish History Museum in Albuquerque in 1986 to teach about the contributions of the Spanish and kindle a spirit of pride in the Hispanic people. After it closed, he continued showing his educational materials at regional events. He has received many awards and accolades over the decades but the most meaningful is the continued interest in his work by people across the country.


13 boxes (13 boxes and 3 extra - oversize folders)


The collection deals with the career of Elmer Martinez and his various activities to teach about the Hispanic heritage of New Mexico and the Southwest. It includes correspondence, articles, photographs, maps and posters. Among them are his papers about the Spanish Village at the State Fair, the Colonial Infantry of Albuquerque color guard unit, the Spanish History Museum, a run for New Mexico State Representative, and his views and commentaries. It also contains material from others, including Reies Lopez Tijerina, Larry Lopez, Fernando C. Gomez, and Juanita Rivera.

Related Archival Material

Emma Moya Collection on the History of Old Town Albuquerque and Related Communities, Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.

Carlos Espinosa Cansino Collection, Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.

Separated Material

Elmer Martinez gave a number of his items, or those donated to him, to the CSWR. The Herbert N. Rosenberg photographs (1923-1938), from Alan Rowen, are in the CSWR Pictorial Archive. Four New Mexico recordings (1963-1978) were added to the James S. Griffith New Mexican Popular Music Collection. Two New Mexico maps are in the CSWR map collection. Thirteen Spanish language books (1910-1960), a 1932 Highlands University yearbook, a 1963 Santa Fe telephone yellow pages, and various Santa Fe and Albuquerque newspapers were catalogued for the CSWR. Copy of CDs in Masters on B3.
Finding Aid of the Elmer Martinez Collection, 1959-2015
© 2018, 2023
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: 2023

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131