Orgullo del Norte -Statehood and the Spanish-American War

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“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
— Edward Abbey

When the American Revolution took place, a large group of people declared war on their home country, their own government, and their fellow countrymen. All those who took up arms against Britain were not called traitors or rebels; they were called “patriots.” This act set the historical bar for what it means to be a patriot.

In 1898, war between the U.S. and Spain broke out. By this time New Mexico had been a territory of the United States for 52 years. In contrast, California was never a territory and had been a state for 48 years. For some reason, New Mexico had been passed over for statehood.

The Spanish-American War was the opportunity New Mexicans were waiting for. Historically, the bar set on patriotism was fighting against one’s own bloodlines. Norteños lined up to volunteer in order to prove their patriotism. They were great horsemen, great warriors, and spoke the language of the enemy.

The 1st U.S. Cavalry came to be known as the “Rough Riders.” Originally, the Rough Riders served under Colonel Leonard Wood. Among the ranks were Pvt. John B. Alamia, Sergeant George W. Armijo, Pvt. G. W. Arringo, Pvt. Jose M. Baca, Pvt. Frank C. Brito, Pvt. Jose Brito, Pvt. Abel B. Duran, Pvt. Joseph L. Duran, Saddler Joe T. Sandoval, and the only Hispano officer, Capitan Maxmiliano Luna.

The Rough Riders landed in Cuba near Santiago without their horses. The first Calvary quickly became an infantry unit. The night before the attack on Kettle and San Juan Hill, Theodore Roosevelt took command.

After a victory for the United States, prior Spanish colonies were now in the hands of the U.S. Many Americans do not know that there are still American “colonies” even today. The island of Guam and Puerto Rico are modern day colonies left over from the Spanish-American War.

The entire war took 10 weeks. Battles were fought in the Caribbean and the Pacific. It was in the Pacific (Philippines) where Captain Maxmiliano Luna met his demise on Nov. 18, 1899. Los Norteños had showed the ultimate form of patriotism by fighting and dying for the United States during a war against Spain. Still, it would take an additional dozen years before New Mexico would receive statehood. Alaska and Hawaii had not been acquired yet, so this made Arizona and New Mexico dead last.

During the territorial period of New Mexico, any and all representatives in Washington were appointed and with limited power. Statehood guaranteed elected representation with the power to vote in both houses. So one might ask why it took until 1912 for New Mexico to become a state. There were two reasons. There were too many Mexicans and too many Catholics. The predominantly Anglo, Protestant houses were not about to have a Mexican or a Catholic serve in Washington D.C.  

Prior to the Mexican-American War, homestead acts were designed to raise money for the federal government. There was a fixed price per acreage that was due in at least four installments. After the Civil War, Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862. This Act was designed for a rapid migration into the west with no price fixed to it.

The lands that were to be given away were federal lands. Many lands were once community land grants. The population shift just took longer than Washington anticipated. By 1912, the numbers were reasonable. Just as planned, New Mexico’s first elected senator was Thomas B. Catron, suspected leader of the Santa Fe Ring and the largest land owner in New Mexico.

What was the privileged class afraid of? Were they afraid that Mexicanos or Catholics would stack the deck in order to serve their own interests? Perhaps they were afraid of an equitable system.

Nevertheless, the United States government was just putting off the inevitable. It would only take 23 years before New Mexico would have Hispano representation in D.C. Dennis Chavez was elected in 1935 to the U.S Senate.  

Guam and Puerto Rico have been territories of the United States for over 113 years. They have no representation in Washington and cannot vote for the office of President of these United States that create the policies that affect them.  

Rock Ulibarri is a local resident and educator. He may be reached at 505-440-9776.