Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
As an editor and politician, Néstor Montoya dedicated himself to the inclusion of Hispanics in the political and social life of New Mexico, and to the campaign for New Mexico statehood. He was born in Old Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 14, 1862. He attended public schools, and in 1881 he graduated from St. Michael's College in Santa Fe. After graduation he worked as a postal clerk for the U.S. Post Office in Santa Fe, and later at the U.S. Treasury Office there.
Montoya's commitment to helping Spanish-speaking Hispanics in New Mexico was demonstrated in his work with the judicial system and as an editor. In 1889 Montoya founded the weekly Spanish-language newspaper, La Voz del Pueblo, which advocated statehood for New Mexico. In the 1890's he worked as an interpreter for the Second Judicial District Court. In this position he honed his fluency in both English and Spanish and developed the oratorial skills for which he would become well known. In 1900 he founded a second paper, La Bandera Americana, which also espoused the cause for statehood.
In 1892 Montoya was elected to the lower house of the Territorial legislature, where he served until 1903. By then he had risen to the post of Speaker of the House. In 1905 he was elected to the Territorial council, the upper house of New Mexico, where he served until 1906.
In 1910 Montoya was elected as a delegate to the New Mexico Constitutional Convention, and two years later New Mexico became a state. He helped write provisions into the Constitution of New Mexico to protect the rights of Hispanics in the areas of education, voting, and civil liberties. For the next ten years he served in various appointed positions: Regent of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, chairman of the Bernalillo County draft board during World War I, and member of the Council of National Defense. In 1918 he was elected Bernalillo County clerk and served until 1921 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. While in Congress, Montoya served on the Indian Affairs Committee, and the Committee on Public Lands. The Republican Party did not renominate him for a second term; instead they nominated a woman, Adelina Otero-Warren. Montoya died in office on January 13, 1923, two months before his term expired.
For further reading:
Vigil, Maurilio. Los Patrones: Profiles of Hispanic Political Leaders in New Mexico History, Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980.