Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Octaviano Larrazolo was the first Hispanic to serve in the United States Senate. He was born on December 7, 1859 in Allende in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where he lived until he was eleven years old. In 1870 J.B. Salpoint, a French-born Bishop of Arizona, took Octaviano to Arizona and instructed him in theology. In 1875, when Reverend Salpoint moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Octaviano accompanied him, and completed his studies at St. Michael's College in Santa Fe in 1877. That same year Larrazolo began a career as an educator, teaching in Tucson for a year before moving to San Elizaro, Texas, where he worked as a principal for seven years.
Larrazolo's interests in politics led him to become active in the Democratic Party. As a result, in 1885 Larrazolo was appointed clerk of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts at El Paso. In 1886 he was elected clerk of the 34th District Court at El Paso and he was reelected in 1888. While he worked as a court clerk, he studied law with one of the judges and he was admitted to the Texas bar in 1888. Two years later he was elected state attorney for Texas' Western District; he subsequently was reelected for one more term.
In 1895 Larrazolo moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico and opened a law office. From 1900 to 1908 he ran three times as the Democratic Party candidate for the position of Territorial Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, but was defeated each time.
In 1910, when the New Mexican Constitutional Convention met, Larrazolo was not present, but was influential in helping write into the Constitution strong provisions that guaranteed protection of the Spanish-speaking voters from disfranchisement and discrimination on account of language or racial descent.
In 1911 Larrazolo resigned from the Democratic Party and joined the Republican Party because the State Convention of the Democratic Party had denied his request that one-half of all statewide nominees be Hispanic to represent the sixty percent of the population of New Mexico that was Hispanic.
In 1918 Larrazolo was elected Governor of New Mexico. While in office he enacted laws that created the Girls' Welfare Home, the Child Welfare Board, and the State Health Board. A point of contention between the Republican Party and Larrazolo was his position on the income tax bill. In his effort to strengthen the income tax law, he lost support from Republicans. He also supported the women's suffrage amendment. This alienated both Republicans and some of his Hispanic supporters. In 1922 the Republican Party did not renominate him for governor.
In 1924 Larrazolo was nominated for the New Mexico Supreme Court, but he was defeated in the general election. In 1927 and 1928 he served in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
In 1928 Larrazolo was elected to fill the unexpired term of Democratic Senator Andieus A. Jones, who had died in office. While in the Senate, Larrazolo served on the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, Public Surveying Committee, and the Territories and Insular Affairs Committees. He fell ill and served only six months before he returned to Albuquerque where he died on April 7, 1930.
For further reading:
Chacón, José A. "Octaviano Larrazolo: New Mexico's Greatest Governor." La Luz 1:7 (November 1972).
Córdova, Alfred C. and Judah, Charles B. Octaviano Larrazolo, A Political Portrait. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, Department of Government, 1952.
Walter, Paul A. "Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo." New Mexico Historical Review 7:2 (April 1932): p. 101.