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Margaret Aragon de Chavez
Albuquerque Journal, .
by Paula Hendricks

First Lady Margaret Aragon de Chavez believes people in general and women in particular underestimate their own power. "We are afraid to use that power." Women are often called names if they are aggressive or strong, when the same traits in men are seen as acceptable, even desirable.

"But, we are all given gifts. We shine in different ways. It's an exciting time to be a woman," says Aragon de Chavez. "I try to take chances ... It's a challenge."

A native of Albuquerque, Aragon de Chavez graduated from West Mesa High School, and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education and a Master's Degree in Educational Administration from UNM. She worked in the school system for many years as a teacher and principal.

Aragon de Chavez has been known as a children's advocate, a natural outgrowth of her educational background. Since becoming First Lady she is, more and more, a community leader at large. "Education and children are not my only interest. I'm involved, for example, in the walk against rape. My role is more active, like Alice King was more active this term. Some ask if I'm following in her footsteps. I admire Alice, but I believe in making my own footsteps. I march to my own drummer."

Her commitment to women's issues and issues of community in general are obvious from the long list of boards and committees she serves onófor example, she is President, Hispanic Women's Council; Co-Chairperson, The Mayor's Council on Gangs; Honorary Co-Chair, 1994 Aidswalk Albuquerque; Spokesperson, Take Back the Night 1994, 1995; Member, 1% for the Arts Artwork Planning Committee 1995.

Her speaking engagements cover the same wide range of interestsófrom children's issues to women's issues, to the arts and health concerns. She has been honored over and over by the Governor (Governors Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women) and individual organizations statewide.

Times are changingóslowly, but surely. "Until recently, we've [women] had to fight one another for the few positions available. Men had lots of room for professional growth. Years ago when women climbed the corporate ladder, they were alone. Now there are more women. We can be partners, role models. It is changing in a positive way. Women are supporting each other more. As opportunities increase, women are pulling together and fighting each other less. It is getting better," says Aragon de Chavez.

"What's most important, where so many people go wrong, both men and women... when they get power, they have the opportunity for positive or negative... We want to use our influence, Marty and me, in a positive way. I want to make a difference for my daughter, my son," says Aragon de Chavez.

Her family, her children, daughter Martinique and son Zeke, come first. "My kids are the breath of my life. Just looking at my daughter, hearing my son... is such joy. If I'm an advocate for children, women, the community... it starts at home."

"I was lucky. Martin has always encouraged my personal growth. Women have had it harder than men. They just do. [If there's a meeting] Marty doesn't have to worry about a baby-sitter."

"I believe women can have it all. For so many years, it was 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'. If you stayed home, you had guilt about not working, and if you worked, you had guilt about not doing the best for your children."

Her advice ó "Look in the mirror. Do the best for yourself. You can do whatever you want... If you find no support close in, look further afield. It is there."

"As women we need to support each other."

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©1998 paula hendricks. All rights reserved.