Letters: Hispanos In New Mexico

Hispanos In New Mexico

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I write in reference to Joseph Baca’s article [Feature, "The Mexican Asks a New Mexican," March 11-17]. And while I realize his article is meant to be humorous, several of his comments simply deserve to be clarified. To begin with, Baca asserts that the Hispanos of New Mexico are "wannabe Europeans" who believe we are "descendants of the Spanish royal court." He also implies that we are really Mexicans pretending not to be Mexicans.

In order to address these myths, I will give a quick rundown of the history of the Hispano people of New Mexico so the reader can better understand and appreciate the modern-day Hispano culture. The history of the Hispanos in New Mexico began in 1598 when the Spanish, our ancestors, arrived here under the leadership of Don Juan de Oñate. This was the beginning of the Hispano society of New Mexico. From 1598 until 1821, New Mexico was part of Spain, except for 12 years from 1680 to 1692 during the Pueblo Revolt, when the Hispanos lived in exile in the El Paso area before returning. Santa Fe was established as our capital in 1610. New Mexico was part of Mexico for only 25 years, from 1821 to 1846. New Mexico has been part of the United States for the past 164 years, since 1846. We were part of Spain for 211 years.

The history of the Hispanos in New Mexico is well-documented, as the Spanish kept very good records that are still held in archives today by the state and by the Catholic church. Thus any armchair historian, such as Joseph Baca or Gustavo Arellano, can make whatever claims they want. What they cannot do is change history. The Hispanos of New Mexico today come from the old Spanish families who first settled here starting in 1598. We do not want to be Europeans, we are Europeans. We do not call ourselves Mexicans because we are not Mexicans (sorry Gustavo). And as for claiming to be part of the Spanish royal court, I agree that the vast majority of us are not. But nearly all real historians agree that the Hispanos of New Mexico are our own distinct society or subculture within the greater Latin culture.

The late Fray Angelico Chavez wrote a great book about the original Spanish families of New Mexico, with all the Spanish names you still see today in our state, and from which the modern day Hispanos trace our Spanish ancestry. Even the U.S. government, many Anglo historians and authors, and the Hispano people ourselves referred to us as “Spanish-Americans” until the Chicano movement of the ’70s made us all generic "Hispanics.” The modern-day Hispanos of New Mexico are a testament to our Spanish ancestors and we are proud of our culture, traditions, our Spanish language and our many contributions to our state.

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