New Mexico’s picturesque landscape hides many stories, but none as inspiring as Althea and Alphonzo Yazzie’s. Their journey is a powerful narrative of strength, resilience, and love’s unwavering power. Beyond that, it’s a stark reminder of the urgent need for Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) in New Mexico, a policy shift that could transform countless lives. Their story unfolds like a tapestry, each thread revealing the experiences that shape their lives.

Althea and Alphonzo’s love story began in the vibrant 1980s, a time when life was simpler, and dreams were grander. It was high school when they first crossed paths. “We just kept seeing each other,” recalls Alphonzo with a nostalgic smile. As fate would have it, their chance encounters blossomed into a lifelong love story that defied the test of time.

Their life together was filled with laughter, joy, and the pitter-patter of little feet as they raised four children and later welcomed eight grandchildren. However, in 2007, their world crumbled when Althea’s health took a dire turn. A once-active and vibrant woman found herself mired in the relentless grip of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. “My hands were so swollen I couldn’t even pick up a paper,” she recalls, her voice trembling.

We need your support in making sure our NM legislators get PFML over the finish line during the 2024 Legislature:

Althea Yazzzie & Alphonzo Yazzie from Twin Lakes, NM.

Althea’s health crisis was nothing short of devastating. It forced her to leave her job, and the simplest tasks became insurmountable mountains. Alphonzo, without hesitation, became her primary caregiver. He reflects on those trying times, “I couldn’t really just take off and leave because we needed the money.”

In their darkest hour, Alphonzo’s dedication to Althea became a beacon of hope. He balanced his work commitments with caregiving responsibilities, picking up odd jobs to make ends meet. But they weren’t alone in this battle. Their children rallied around them. Their daughter, who had been working in Albuquerque, returned home, making the painful decision to leave her job to provide care for her ailing mother. The entire family joined forces to support their parents during this trying period.

“My children were really supportive, and they still are to this day,” says Althea, her voice brimming with gratitude. The Yazzie family’s unity during these challenging times underscored the profound importance of strong family bonds, especially when faced with adversity.

Althea and Alphonzo’s story is a stark reminder of a critical issue plaguing New Mexico – the absence of Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). They epitomize the families forced to make agonizing choices between caregiving and employment. Alphonzo, in an attempt to care for Althea, had to quit his job, only to later return – a testament to the heart-wrenching decisions countless families are forced to make.

What Althea’s daughter did, quitting her job to take care of her mother, highlights the pressing need for a robust support system that lessens the burden on caregivers. New Mexico is in dire need of PFML legislation that ensures families don’t have to choose between their loved ones’ well-being and financial stability.

Recognizing the pressing need for change, Althea and Alphonzo, supported by their dedicated family, embarked on an advocacy journey. They became vocal advocates for Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) in New Mexico. Althea remarks, “I think we should have started this a long time ago, this program. It’s going to benefit a lot of families.”

Their advocacy work went beyond mere words; they took action. They actively campaigned for better healthcare and volunteered to aid the elderly and those in need, especially during the tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their unwavering dedication to serving their community emphasized their commitment to making a positive impact.

Their tireless efforts bore fruit when New Mexico passed PFML legislation. Althea joyfully recollects, “Yeah, we see us move a mountain there, and now everybody. We have health care for all of New Mexico.” The passage of this legislation was a turning point, not just for the Yazzie family but for countless others who will now have access to the support they so desperately need.

Althea and Alphonzo’s story serves as a powerful testament to the significance of Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). It’s a clarion call for New Mexico to continue its progressive journey. 

The Yazzies’ incredible journey underscores the resilience of the human spirit and the profound love that binds families together. Their story is not merely about surviving adversity; it’s about transformation.

In 2024, let’s push for New Mexico to create history once more. Pass PFML and ensure that no family is forced to choose between caregiving and employment. Althea and Alphonzo’s journey is an inspiration, a reminder that positive change is possible, and it commences with the unwavering determination of individuals and families who refuse to give up on their loved ones and their dreams. Together, we can build a brighter, more compassionate future for New Mexico.

This story was produced and published thanks to the support of the American Heart Association.