At about 11:25am on Monday, March 4, 2019, the Speaker of the House announced that enough representatives had arrived in the New Mexico House of Representatives’ chambers: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a quorum.”
All rose for the opening prayer, an inclusive invocation read by a young woman in a clerical collar. When she concluded, many of the representatives and staff members on the floor promptly crossed themselves in the Catholic tradition.
Everyone gathered was then prompted to place their hand over their heart and face the American flag for the pledge of allegiance. I could hear a chorus of young voices behind me—a tour group of young students was still in the House gallery. “…indivisble, with liberty and justice for all. Yo prometo lealtad a la bandera de los estados…”
I smiled to myself. The dozens of adults in the chambers fell quiet at the end of the English-language pledge, but the children must be in the habit of reciting both the English and Spanish versions in school each morning. They quickly trailed off into silence when they realized things were different in the House of Representatives.
A moment later, however, the House caught up to them—the Speaker invited all of us to repeat ourselves in Spanish after all.
Lastly, the Speaker announced that we would all recite the New Mexico pledge of allegiance. We shifted from facing left with hands over hearts to facing right with hands outstretched, palms up as if in offering to the red sun symbol on the yellow field. I didn’t know the words to this pledge—I didn’t grow up here—so I simply listened along and looked up the words later. “I salute the flag of the state of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”
It wasn’t until we were all invited to take our seats again that I scanned the chamber and realized I recognized one of the men below.