Romualdo Pacheco was the first Hispanic governor of California
Pacheco also served in the US House and as a diplomat
He reportedly lassoed a grizzly bear, as one does
Editor’s Note: As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, CNN Politics is taking a look back at some of the most influential Hispanics in US political history.
Romualdo Pacheco was not only the first Hispanic governor of California, the 19th century politician was also the state’s only Hispanic governor to date. Not to be outdone by himself, Pacheco was also the first Hispanic member of the House with full voting rights.
Pacheco was born in Santa Barbara, California, when the land was still held by Mexico. He was born to a prominent family and – living his best life from a very young age – was sent to Hawaii for school and had to re-learn Spanish upon his return home.
He grew up to be the fierce gentleman you see in the Instagram photo above. You will not be surprised to hear that man worked as a sailor, a miner and a rancher. Multiple sources credit him – in an oddly specific way – as being the only California governor known to have lassoed a grizzly bear. That implies that other California governors have run around roping grizzlies and not told everyone they’ve ever met. Regardless, that’s pretty hardcore.
Pacheco became an American citizen in 1848 and got to work as a public servant. He began as a judge for San Luis Obispo Superior Court before serving as a state senator beginning in 1857. He did time in three parties, starting as a Democrat, then becoming a member of the Union Party before settling down as a Republican in 1863.
He continued checking off important state-level positions, serving as the state treasurer and lieutenant governor. When Gov. Newton Booth left to serve in the US Senate, Pacheco took over, serving as governor from February-December 1875.
Washington first called Pacheco’s name in 1876, when he appeared to have won his US House race by one vote – your quarterly reminder that every vote counts. His opponent contested the results, but with the help of Republican leader and future President James Garfield, Pacheco served in the House for a few months before he was unseated in February 1878.
He ran for the seat, winning and serving two terms. Pacheco’s House biography lauds him as “one of the first prominent Hispanic Americans to speak out against African-American slavery” during the Civil War era. During his House career, he supported stemming Chinese immigration, saying that Chinese immigrants were taking jobs from native Californians and causing the state’s degeneration.
After his House career, Pacheco was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison to serve as a diplomat in Central America. Pacheco died in his native California in 1899.