WASHINGTON – The Omnibus Appropriations Agreement for Fiscal Year 2023 includes legislation
introduced by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) to rename the U.S. Post Office located at 400 North Main Street in Belen, New Mexico, in honor of former U.S. Senator Dennis Chávez. Senator Chávez, the first American-born Hispanic Senator, worked to further civil rights, education, conservation, and economic development in New Mexico and across the nation. Congress is expected to vote on the FY23 Appropriations Agreement this week.
“During his decades-long career in public service, Senator Chávez worked tirelessly to advance the interests of every New Mexican,” said Heinrich. “His legacy continues to impact and inspire my work in the Senate today. I am proud that this legislation is reaching the finish line to commemorate Senator Chávez’s service to New Mexico.”
“Senator Dennis Chávez is a New Mexico hero who fought for our communities. As the first Hispano/Latino senator to ever serve in the United States Senate, he is also an American icon, who fought tirelessly for justice and civil rights,” said Stansbury. “Known as ‘El Senador’ by his colleagues, Senator Chávez never backed down from defending what he saw as right—whether it was championing our communities and workers or being the first to speak out against anti-democratic smear campaigns on the House Floor. Today, we are deeply proud to advance legislation to designate the U.S. Post Office in Belen as the “Senator Dennis Chávez Post Office” to honor his legacy as one of New Mexico’s most important public servants.”
Senator Heinrich and Representative Stansbury introduced the legislation in July. U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) are original cosponsors.
“Senator Dennis Chávez left a remarkable legacy in New Mexico — always fighting for working families and advancing civil rights,” said Luján. “Renaming the Belen Post Office in Senator Chávez’s honor is a small token of appreciation for “El Senador” and his life in public service. Senator Chávez's legacy continues to live on in the lives of New Mexicans, and I am honored to follow in the footsteps of one of New Mexico’s greatest Senators.”
The legislation is supported by Senator Chávez’s family, the Belen City Council, New Mexico Chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, and the local Postmaster in Belen.
“The family of the late U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez deeply appreciates the effort and support of Sen. Martin Heinrich and his staff, the Mayor, the City Manager, and the City Council of Belen in naming the local post office after the late Senator. This ensures that the remarkable and important legacy of Senator Chavez will be remembered by generations to come and serve as an inspiration to many to enter public service,” statement from the family of Senator Chávez.
Senator Chávez dropped out of school at age of 13 in order to help support his family. However, he continued his education independently, and eventually gained admission to Georgetown University Law School.
Senator Chávez began his political career in 1922 when he was elected to the New Mexico State House of Representatives. In 1930, he was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he sat on the Public Lands and Indian Affairs Committees. Senator Chávez was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1936. In 1950, he was selected to be the Chairman the Senate Committee on Public Works. As Chairman, he oversaw critical advancements in our nation’s infrastructure, including expansion of the interstate highway system, improvements to water infrastructure, and construction of federal buildings, including post offices.
Senator Chávez passed away on November 18, 1962. In 1966, the State of New Mexico donated a bronze sculpture of Senator Chávez to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, which stands outside of the Old Senate Chamber today.