• February 29th, 2024
  • Thursday, 09:49:02 PM

Rep. Leger Fernández Introduces Resolution to Honor 50th Anniversary of Bilingual Multicultural Education Act

Photo: U.S. Rep. Leger Fernández U.S. Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández



Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández last week introduced a H.RES resolution recognizing the significance of the 1973 New Mexico Bilingual Multicultural Act on its 50th Anniversary. The resolution highlights the importance of cultivating education in both the mother tongue as well as English for the preservation of culture, identity, and indigenous knowledge.


“There is a saying in Spanish which reads, “No hay lengua sin cultura, ni cultura sin lengua.” without language we don’t have culture and there is no culture without language.”
Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández


New Mexico is a pioneer and the first state in the United States to have a bilingual multicultural education law with the Bilingual Multicultural Education Act of 1973. This law is the only state legislation that acknowledged culture as an important part of language acquisition. The Bilingual Multicultural Education Act of 1973 was later expanded in 2004 and is a national model for state legislation.


“Fifty years ago, my parents helped write and pass the Bilingual Multicultural Education Act so Keres, Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, Navajo, Apache, Zuñi, Spanish, and ASL would be taught in our schools. Today, I introduce this resolution in Congress to honor their work and recognize that language and culture are inseparable. Our students learn better if they take the language they speak in the living room, into their classroom,” said Rep. Leger Fernández.


“New Mexicans understand the importance of culturally relevant content. Today, 70% of our school districts have bilingual multicultural instruction. Nearly 22% of the U.S. speaks a language other than English at home and roughly 245 indigenous languages are spoken across the country. Bilingualism is a treasure. There is a saying in Spanish which reads, “No hay lengua sin cultura, ni cultura sin lengua.”  without language we don’t have culture and there is no culture without language.  The wisdom in that saying is visible in every corner of our state, with our strong ties to land and family.  Let’s honor our herencia, cultura, and our traditions and protect everything that we love and hold dear,” concluded Leger Fernández.


“The New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE) expresses its firm support of the proposed congressional Bilingual Multicultural Education Act Resolution to recognize the 50th anniversary of New Mexico’s 1973 Bilingual Multicultural Education Act (BMEA). NMABE has been an advocate for bilingual education in New Mexico for the past 52 years. We believe that Bilingual Education benefits all students—those learning English as well as those who are learning other languages. NMABE embraces the rich cultural and linguistic diversity within our state and promotes its inclusion in the education of all students. We stand on the shoulders of those bilingual educators/advocates that came before us, such as Mela Leger and Senator Ray Leger, Congresswomen Leger Fernández’s parents, who along with many other leaders helped inform the legislation that led to this historic act,” added Elisabeth Valenzuela, Executive Director of the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education.


Watch Rep. Leger Fernández’s floor speech honoring the New Mexico Bilingual Multicultural Education Act here.