Class of 1894, 1905, 1972<
Born in 1871 in Chihuahua, Mexico, Fabian Garcia became an orphan early in his life. His grandmother, Doña Jacoba, brought him to the Mimbres Valley at the age of two. The hardships he suffered early in life didn’t hinder his ability to succeed.
In 1894, Fabian graduated from the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NMSU) as a member of the very first graduating class. During his years as a student, he served as president of the Columbian Literary Society and also played on the first football team. After graduation Fabian studied briefly at Cornell University before returning to NMSU, where he earned his master’s degree in 1905.
In 1907, this son of humble origins married Julieta Amador, daughter of one of the valley’s oldest and most prominent families. Their courtship, as suggested by their correspondence, followed tradition, but was also romantic. Julieta’s letters-written in Spanish-to Fabian are preserved in the Rio Grande Historical Collections. They wrote to one another frequently, at times daily, during their engagement. Fabian’s long life, however, was not to be shared by Julieta. She died in 1920 and he never remarried, preferring the close company of family and friends and the environment of his beloved university.
In 1914, Fabian was named the first director of the state Agricultural Experiment Station as well as horticulturalist. His accomplishments in the field include his chile work, producing the first reliable chile pod, the beginnings of the hot “Sandia” pepper and the introduction of the Grano onion. He was instrumental in planting some of the first pecan trees-some of which still stand today-in the Mesilla Valley around 1913.
Fabian Garcia’s work as a horticulturalist and director of NMSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station changed the face of New Mexico agriculture. As one of only two people in the world experimenting with chile peppers during the early 20th century, he developed the first modern chile variety. His work in chile cultivation continues to be consulted today.
His commitment to the young college was apparent early. In 1903, when the land for the present horticulture farm was purchased, Fabian personally signed the note for the loan, paying it off by planting watermelons. Because of his background, he tried to help poor Mexican-American students, providing them rooms at the farm while they attended school. In his later years, “Old Director, ” as he came to be called, would say: “Don’t be ashamed to say you’re Mexican. I came from Mexico and I’m proud of it.”