politics

The first Hispanic US senator was an immigrant

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, CNN Politics looks at some of US political history's most influential Hispanics.

By Brenna Williams

Published October 4, 2018

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What do you know about the first Hispanic to serve in the US Senate?

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Octaviano 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.

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Before serving as a state attorney in Texas, Larrazolo worked as a court clerk and studied law at night. He later moved to New Mexico to practice law.

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He began as a Democrat, running three unsuccessful campaigns to serve as a territorial delegate to Congress. But his loyalty to New Mexico's Hispanic community led him to leave the party.

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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 desire to protect Hispanics from an environment like the Jim Crow South. He joined the Republicans in 1911.

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Larrazolo won the state's governorship in 1918 by a margin of about 1,300 votes. He supported child welfare, education and women's suffrage. His party did not renominate him.

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After his time as governor, Larrazolo served in the New Mexico House before making history in 1928.

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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.

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Larrazolo was only able to serve a few months before also falling ill. He died in New Mexico in 1930.

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