Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Francisco Perea was born on January 9, 1830 in Las Padillas, Nuevo México, to Juan Perea and Josefa Chaves, both of whom came from politically prominent families. His great-grandfather, Don Pedro Ascención Perea, moved from Mexico City to New Mexico in 1780. His maternal grandfather, Francisco Xavier Chaves, was Governor of New Mexico following its independence from Spain in 1821. Two of Chaves' sons succeeded him in the position during the Mexican era.
From 1836 to 1839 Perea attended private schools in Bernalillo County and in Santa Fe. From 1843 to 1845 he continued his education at a jesuit college in St. Louis, Missouri. He trained at the Bank Street Academy in New York City from 1847 to 1849. For the next fifteen years he engaged in stock raising and commercial pursuits, including running mule trains from Missouri to Mexico. His business interests led him to politics.
In 1858 Perea was elected to the Territorial council. As a supporter of the Union cause, he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of a regiment and recruited volunteers to form a battalion named after him. Perea commanded the post at Albuquerque during the winter of 1861-62. He also participated in the Union victory at the battle of Apache Canyon.
His success in the military and in commercial ventures helped his election as Delegate to Congress in 1863. While in the U.S. House of Representatives, Perea devoted himself to upgrading the allocation of resources for the commercial development of New Mexico, such as the provision of mail facilities between Kansas City and Santa Fe and the construction and improvement of roads. Perea also introduced a number of bills regarding Native Americans in the territory of New Mexico. He petitioned for the appointment of Indian Agents, the examination of claims for Indian depredations against New Mexicans, and the authorization to make treaties with the Navajo, Apache, and Utah Indian tribes to define boundaries on their lands. Perea developed a friendship with President Lincoln, and was seated near the President the night he was assassinated.
Perea served as the New Mexico delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1864. He was defeated in his reelection bid for the position of U.S. Territorial Delegate to Congress by his first cousin, José Francisco Chaves.
After his defeat Perea returned to New Mexico, where he continued his business and political activities. In 1865, he was elected to the Territorial council, and served again in 1884. In 1881, he moved to Jemez Springs in northern New Mexico, where he owned and operated a resort hotel. There he served as postmaster from 1894 to 1905. He later moved to Albuquerque, where he died on May 31, 1913.
For further reading:
Meier, Matt S. Mexican American Biographies: A Historical Dictionary, 1836-1987. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.
Vigil, Maurilio. Los Patrones: Profiles of Hispanic Political Leaders in New Mexico History. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980.