New Mexico's Struggle for Statehood
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
384 Pages | 6 x 9 | 39 b&w illus., 1 map
New Mexico was ceded to the United States in 1848, at the end of the war with Mexico, but not until 1912 did President William Howard Taft sign the proclamation that promoted New Mexico from territory to state. Why did New Mexico’s push for statehood last sixty-four years? Conventional wisdom has it that racism was solely to blame. But this fresh look at the history finds a more complex set of obstacles, tied primarily to self-serving politicians. Forty-Seventh Star, published in New Mexico’s centennial year, is the first book on its quest for statehood in more than forty years.
David V. Holtby closely examines the final stretch of New Mexico’s tortuous road to statehood, beginning in the 1890s. His deeply researched narrative juxtaposes events in Washington, D.C., and in the territory to present the repeated collisions between New Mexicans seeking to control their destiny and politicians opposing them, including Republican U.S. senators Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana and Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island. Holtby places the quest for statehood in national perspective while examining the territory’s political, economic, and social development. He shows how a few powerful men brewed a concoction of racism, cronyism, corruption, and partisan politics that poisoned New Mexicans’ efforts to join the Union. Drawing on extensive Spanish-language and archival sources, the author also explores the consequences that the drive to become a state had for New Mexico’s Euro-American, Nuevomexicano, American Indian, African American, and Asian communities.
Holtby offers a compelling story that shows why and how home rule mattered—then and now—for New Mexicans and for all Americans.
“Forty-Seventh Star is the most complete, original, readable, and lively account of the sixty-year struggle between pro-statehood leaders and equally powerful anti-statehood forces, both in New Mexico and in Washington, D.C., that I have ever read. Equally significant is Holtby’s nonpartisan treatment, without prejudice, of Nuevomexicanos, Euro-Americans, and Indian Americans and their views. In short, this is the most important book about the New Mexican struggle for statehood to appear in a generation.”—Howard R. Lamar, Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University
“This thoroughly engaging narrative exposes the heroes and scoundrels who played important roles in New Mexico's hard-fought battles on the road to statehood. Although pitted against a Goliath of national political and economic interests, New Mexico survived. This is a drama that should be read by all New Mexicans. Forty-Seventh Star is sure to become the definitive history.”—Rudolfo Anaya
“In less able hands, the story of New Mexico’s final push to win statehood might well have become a stodgy recital of the political maneuverings of self-serving men with inflated egos. Instead, David V. Holtby offers a thoroughly engaging examination of key figures and major events leading to New Mexico’s statehood year of 1912. This beautifully written and meticulously researched narrative provides new insights on politics in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Southwest.”—Marc Simmons