‘‘Neath the Star Spangled Banner’’:
Multiculturalism and the
Taxonomic State
New Mexico finally shed its official colonial-territorial status to become
the forty-seventh state in 1912, making it the second-to-last of the con-
tiguous states to be admitted (before Arizona later the same year). By
then, appeals to a unified sense of region had apparently reconciled
conflicting notions of race and nation. This historic solution occasioned
the first instance in which a territory was incorporated into the Union
with a majority of voters who were not Euro-American. Considering how
rigidly race structured notions of nationalism and belonging in the
United States, it is perhaps not astonishing that it had taken almost
seventy years to achieve this resolution of the New Mexico ‘‘problem.’’
After 1912 the new state would provide other firsts for Mexican Ameri-
cans in the United States: the first elected Mexican American governor
(Ezequiel Cabeza de Baca in 1917); the first Mexican American elected to
serve in the U.S. Senate (Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo) in 1928; and the
first Mexican American senator elected to serve multiple terms (Dennis
Chávez) from 1935 to 1962.∞ The apparent settlement of divergent no-
tions of race and nation through appeals to region was itself less than
stable, however, and remains fraught with unresolved internal contradic-
tions to this day. With statehood (male) Mexican Americans did indeed
attain greater access to locally defined political positions, but statehood
by no means transformed the region into the promised utopia of interra-
cial harmony. Nor could statehood really mean an end to U.S. imperial-
ism in New Mexico, even if the ‘‘natives’’ could now be seen as marginally
white-Spanish. Before scrutinizing these ideological fault lines, however,
it will be useful to review the central narrative of this book, which has
examined in some detail how a particular discourse around region
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