WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to rename the U.S. Post Office facility 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.
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.
“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 to introduce this legislation to commemorate his service to New Mexico.”
“As the first Hispanic senator to serve in the U.S. Senate, Senator Dennis Chávez did not just break barriers—his commitment to justice, civil rights, and honoring New Mexico’s communities made a lasting difference for our state,” said Stansbury. “Known as ‘El Senador’ by his colleagues, Senator Chávez never backed down from defending what he knew to be right, whether it was championing organized labor and our communities or being the first to speak out against dangerous anti-democratic smear campaigns. I am proud to introduce this bill honoring his legacy—so that all who enter the Senator Dennis Chávez Post Office in Belen can honor and remember one of New Mexico’s finest public servants.”
Senator Heinrich and Representative Stansbury are joined by U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) and Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.).
“Senator Dennis Chávez's career stands as a shining example of a trailblazer who gave our communities hope as he fought tirelessly for civil rights and labor protections for hardworking families in New Mexico,” said Luján. “This legislation to rename the Belen Post Office in Senator Chávez’s honor is just a small token of gratitude for his long career of service to the people of New Mexico. I’m honored to follow in his footsteps as a Hispanic U.S. Senator, and I will continue to champion those same issues he did and be a voice for the voiceless.”
“I am glad we have the opportunity to honor America’s first Hispanic senator, Dennis Chavez,” said Herrell. “In Congress he fought for veterans, for hard-working American families, and for the people of the young state of New Mexico. May his legacy of public service inspire new generations of New Mexicans to help their fellow citizens and strengthen our great nation.”
“New Mexico selected Senator Chávez as one of our two commemorative statues in the Capitol for a reason,” said Leger Fernández. “His work ethic and philanthropy during his service between 1936 and 1962 represent a grand legacy that speaks of his love for service and his passion for working tirelessly for New Mexicans. I am honored to support the first Hispanic senator to serve in the U.S. Senate and rename the Belen Post Office in his honor.”
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.