‘I’m From Here’: Not All Hispanics Are Recent Arrivals
In 1978, Patricia Madrid became the first woman elected to serve as a district court judge in New Mexico. Ten years later, she was the first woman elected Attorney General in the state.
Like many others in the Southwest, her family’s presence in New Mexico goes back several centuries. Her mother can follow her roots back to settlers from a post-Civil War era, and like many Americans with a mosaic-like family history, she has a mix of Irish and German ancestry as well. Her father’s side dates back even further back, to the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.
Americans whose Spanish and/or Latin American ancestry date back generations say their family histories are not what people think about when they think of a U.S. Hispanic.
“American history is always told from the point of the English rather than these earlier settlements coming from Latin America or Mexico,” says Madrid, who identifies as culturally Hispanic.
University of New Mexico political scientist Gabriel Sanchez says many people are surprised to learn he can trace his family’s background in the U.S. to the 1500’s and he has no family in Mexico.
Settlements like San Gabriel and Santa Fe in New Mexico predate Jamestown, the first English settlement in the American colonies. Yet the lack of familiarity with the history of Latinos in the Southwest contributed to New Mexico’s rather late status in becoming an official state until 1912, argues Sanchez.
At the time, the majority of the population was not non-Hispanic white, but Hispanic and Native American. At play was “the role of race and the dynamic of what it is to be American,” he says.