Organizers have many different styles but the kind of organizer that Noel Marquez became is rare. As a young man he developed into an artist and then a muralist. No matter who hired Noel, his murals were about the people, la gente, their histories, their struggles and the dangers that confront them.
Also as a young man, he planted trees around his property near Lake Arthur, New Mexico and began building the adobe house that would eventually house his family, his wife and daughter. When you enter Noel's house, the first thing that attracts your attention is the mural on his living room wall. The mural is large and colorful: there are scenes of indigenous and Hispanic heritage and industrial and nuclear pollution. Almost overwhelming the scene is a truck of radioactive waste coming toward the viewer; the truck is carrying nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant or WIPP, a repository for mid level military radioactive waste. WIPP trucks travel route 285, a few miles from Noel's home.
In the early 2,000's, Noel and his closest cohort, Rose Gardner form Eunice, NM, formed the organization, the Alliance for Environmental Strategies (AFES) to help people in SE NM deal with the many dangerous projects extant and proposed for the region. In 2018, AFES called together community members and activists state wide concerned about the increasing number of nuclear projects coming to New Mexico, including the proposal to bring the nation's high level nuclear waste to a site not far from the WIPP site. The individuals and group leaders who met at Noels farm on that hot summer afternoon formed the Southwest Alliance to Save our Future (swalliance.org); this group that today is comprised of ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, community leaders and people of faith has successfully persuaded the majority of New Mexico's state and federal representatives to oppose bringing high level waste to New Mexico.
The political legacy that Noel leaves goes beyond his accomplishments: he left an example of a certain style of leadership that is not common. He loved everyone and everyone who met him felt that quality in him. It didn't matter what culture you came from or what level of commitment you had; you were an important, worthwhile person; you were a brother or sister. That love has been an inspiration to all who have come into the movement he began and it lingers after his passing, an unassailable weapon with which to fight for a better future.
by Janet Greenwald
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