Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo

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Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo
Octaviano Larrazolo, bw photo portrait, 1919.jpg
United States Senator
from New Mexico
In office
December 7, 1928 – March 3, 1929
Preceded by Bronson M. Cutting
Succeeded by Bronson M. Cutting
4th Governor of New Mexico
In office
January 1, 1919 – January 1, 1921
Lieutenant Benjamin F. Pankey
Preceded by Washington Ellsworth Lindsey
Succeeded by Merritt C. Mechem
Personal details
Born (1859-12-07)December 7, 1859
Valle de Allende, Chihuahua, Mexico
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Political party Republican
Other political
Democratic (until 1911)
Residence Las Vegas
Profession Attorney
Religion Roman Catholicism

Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo (December 7, 1859 – April 7, 1930) was a Republican politician who served as the fourth Governor of New Mexico and a United States Senator. He was the first Hispanic and Mexican-American United States Senator.

Early life

Larrazolo was born in Valle de Allende in Chihuahua, Mexico, on December 7, 1859 to Don Octaviano, a wealthy landowner, and Doña Donaciana Corral de Larrazolo. Octaviano was taught to read and write in his home; he later briefly attended school in his town but left after his school teacher beat him. In 1863, French soldiers ransacked the Larrazolo home because the family supported Benito Juarez's revolt against the French.

In 1870 at the age of eleven, Octaviano left Mexico for Tucson, Arizona Territory,under the care of Jean Salpointe a French-born bishop of Arizona. Octaviano left with the bishop because he intended to study theology to become a priest and because his family had fallen into bankruptcy and could not support his schooling. After completing his primary studies with the bishop, Octaviano studied theology at the St. Michael's College at Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory,graduating in 1876 at the age of 18.He considered entering the priesthood right after his graduation but secured a teaching position instead; he later also taught in El Paso County, Texas. During this time, he started studying law; he taught in the day and studied law at night.[1] On December 11, 1884, Octaviano became a US citizen in order to prepare himself to become a lawyer. In this same year, he registered into the Texas State Democratic Party.


In 1886, he was appointed clerk of the district court at El Paso, and then clerk of the United States District and Circuit Courts for the Western District of Texas at El Paso. He won election as the city clerk for El Paso’s district court in 1886 and in 1888 won reelection. Octaviano was admitted to the Texas state bar in 1888. He was elected district attorney for the Western District of Texas in 1890, and reelected in 1892. He held the position until 1894.

Larrazolo moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, in 1895. He practiced law in that town and became involved in Democratic politics and focused on civil rights for Mexicans who comprised two thirds of New Mexico’s population. Larrazolo had difficulty finding success as a Democrat because most Latinos identified as Republicans. This difficulty is shown by the fact that he lost elections to become Territorial Delegate to the US Congress in 1900, 1906, and 1908.

In 1911, the New Mexican Territory held a constitutional convention in preparation for its entering the Union. Larrazolo was one of the Latino delegates chosen to attend the convention. To his displeasure, the State Convention of the Democratic Party denied his request that half of all statewide nominees be Hispanic to represent the 60 percent of the population of New Mexico that was Hispanic. Despite this, Larrazolo was able to have considerable success in implementing pro-Latino measures in the New Mexico Constitution. He and other people insisted that the Spanish-speaking population of New Mexico be protected by the new state constitution. The reason for this was that Larrazolo did not want the rights of the Spanish-speaking people to be stripped when New Mexico entered the Union because he was afraid that the Union's segregation policies applied to African Americans would be used to justify the infringement of Latinos' rights in New Mexico once it entered the Union.

Larrazolo and the other Latino delegates succeeded in implementing pro-Latino measures and language into the New Mexico State Constitution. The new Bill of Rights stated that(Article II Section V) “The rights, privileges and immunities, civil, political and religious, guaranteed to the people of New Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo shall be preserved inviolate.” The Education Article, (XII., Section 8), gave the legislature authority to provide training for teachers in public schools so that “they may become proficient in both the English and Spanish languages, to qualify them to teach Spanish-speaking pupils. . .”.[2] Section ten of the article assured the right of children of Spanish decent to attend public education institutions and prohibited the establishment of separate schools. To the dismay of Larrazolo, the state Democrats unsuccessfully tried to prevent the ratification of the state constitution because of these pro-Latino provisions and because of this he became a Republican and remained one for the rest of his life.

Because Larrazolo advocated so strongly for Latino rights, many New Mexican politicians considered him a race agitator. Even though many New Mexican politicians resented him for this, Larrazolo still managed to gain a lot of political credibility especially from Latinos who were glad for the work he had done for Latinos. His popularity throughout New Mexico caused the New Mexican Republican party to nominate him for governor of New Mexico.The campaign in 1918, though, was an intense one that exposed some fractions within the Hispanic community. His Democratic opponent, Félix García, claimed that Larrazolo's birth in Chihuahua precluded him from understanding the concerns of “native New Mexicans.”He was elected Governor of the State of New Mexico in 1918, becoming the first Mexican-born Latino to be governor of New Mexico. Larrazolo’s narrow victory, however, seemed to quiet most of the debate about whether he could authentically advocate on behalf of the Spanish-speaking population.[3] Throughout his time as governor, he had various controversies and successes. In the first year of his term, he declared martial law in the state to suppress a coal mining strike. In the time the fear of anarchism was rampant and this plus the gravity of the strike convinced Larrazolo to declare martial law. He was also criticized for pardoning Mexican troops who raided parts of New Mexico with Pancho Villa. He believed that since the Mexican troops were acting under orders from their superior that they should not be held accountable. He also supported and signed a new income tax law that angered his Republican party. The aspects that he won praise for was his support for the creation of the League of Nations. Larrazolo advocated for bilingual education and supported the civil rights of Mexican immigrants in the state.[4] He was also a supporter of the women's suffrage amendment to the United States constitution.[5]

Since he angered the Republican party of his state many times throughout his time as governor,the New Mexican Republican Party did not renominate Larrazolo to be governor of New Mexico. This caused him to briefly return to El Paso County, Texas to practice law. However, he did not stay out of politics for too long. In 1923, the state legislature of New Mexico nominated him to become governor of Puerto Rico. He lost this bid but he used the jolt of political popularity that he received by his consideration to be appointed governor of Puerto Rico to reenter politics in New Mexico. He ran and lost an election to become a justice on the New Mexico supreme court in 1924. However, he was elected in 1927 to the New Mexico State House of Representatives. But then in 1928, the Democratic Senator of New Mexico Andrieus Jones died and Larrazolo ran and won for his Jones' remaining term. This made Larrazolo the first Hispanic US senator in US history.[6] Unfortunately, he was by that time very old and suffered with many illnesses. Because of this he only was able to make it to one session of Congress and he was only able to introduce one legislative action. This actions called for the establishment of an industrial school in New Mexico for the Spanish-speaking youth to promote equal opportunity. Larrazolo died on April 7, 1930.


  1. "New Mexico Office of the State Historian | people". newmexicohistory.org. Retrieved 2015-12-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. (PDF) http://www.sos.state.nm.us/Public_Records_And_Publications/2013nmconst.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. John Chávez, The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), pp. 102-103.
  4. María Rosa García-Acevedo, "The Forgotten Diaspora: Mexican Immigration to New Mexico," in The Contested Homeland: A Chicano History of New Mexico, ed. Erlinda Gonzalez-Berry and David R. Maciel, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000), pp. 222-223.
  5. "Octaviano Larrazolo," Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995, http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/congress/larrazolo.html
  6. "New Mexico Office of the State Historian | people". newmexicohistory.org. Retrieved 2015-12-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Washington E. Lindsey
Governor of New Mexico
Succeeded by
Merritt C. Mechem
United States Senate
Preceded by
Bronson M. Cutting
United States Senator from New Mexico
Succeeded by
Bronson M. Cutting