Forty-Seventh Star: New Mexico's Struggle for Statehood

By Chavez, Thomas E. | The Historian, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Forty-Seventh Star: New Mexico's Struggle for Statehood


Chavez, Thomas E., The Historian


Forty-Seventh Star: New Mexico's Struggle for Statehood. By David V. Holtby. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. Pp. xix, 362. $29.95.)

This book is an important and necessary addition to the historiography of New Mexico for it gives new insight into New Mexico's over-six-decades-long quest to become a state.

New Mexico became a part of the United States in 1848 as a result of the Mexican War. The Compromise of 1850 fused together what are now New Mexico and Arizona to create the Territory of New Mexico. Eventually, the territory was split into two territories, and finally, in 1912, New Mexico and Arizona respectively became the forty-seventh and forty-eighth states. The story of why it took so long is complicated and difficult to comprehend.

Here is a book with a concise, clear, documented narrative. The author brings together his editorial experience and his formal education as a historian to craft an excellent, well-researched, and much-needed rendition of a confusing part of New Mexico's history. The story is engaging, and the author draws on new sources to offer thought-provoking insights. He creates some new and much-needed parameters within which to understand why New Mexico (and, in part, Arizona) took so long to be admitted into the Union.

National politics had an overwhelming role in the statehood debate. The Republicans in Congress, at the time long in power, did not want to lose their advantage by admitting more potentially democratic states. Other factors included New Mexico's well-known corruption. A number of statehood proponents sought the status to cash in on their land investments and influence. They were known in local history as the Santa Fe Ring, and the author insightfully labels these proponents of statehood the generation of 1890, although arguably the year should be 1880. …

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