#TBT: The first Hispanic senator was an immigrant

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Story highlights

  • Octaviano Larrazolo was the first Hispanic in the US Senate
  • Larrazolo was born in Mexico and became a US citizen
  • He also served as the governor of New Mexico

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, CNN Politics is taking a look back at some of the most influential Hispanics in US political history.

Washington (CNN)While the immigration debate continues, sometimes it's nice to stop and think about the accomplishments and contributions of immigrants from the past. Case in point: Octaviano Larrazolo, the first Hispanic to serve in the US Senate.

Larrazolo was born in Mexico in 1859 and came to the United States as a child for educational opportunities. He worked as an educator and became a US citizen in 1884 before turning his focus to law.
Before serving as a state attorney in Texas, Larrazolo worked as a court clerk and studied law at night. He moved to New Mexico to practice law.
    He began his political aspirations with the Democratic Party. Larrazolo ran three unsuccessful campaigns to serve as a territorial delegate to Congress. But it was his loyalty to New Mexico's Hispanic community that drove him to leave the party.
    Larrazolo felt that the Democrats weren't supporting or representing the Hispanic community during the state's constitutional convention. His government biography describes Larrazolo's concern for Hispanics and his desire to protect them from an environment like the Jim Crow South. He joined the Republicans in 1911.
    As a Republican, Larrazolo won the state's governorship in 1918 by a margin of about 1,300 votes. During his time in office, he supported child welfare and education as well as women's suffrage. The Republican Party did not renominate him.
    After his time as governor, Larrazolo served in the New Mexico House before making history in 1928. He was elected to go to Washington to serve out the term of a Democratic senator who had died in office, becoming the chamber's first Hispanic member.
    Larrazolo was only able to serve a few months before also falling ill. He died in New Mexico in 1930.