One-hundred-and-nine years ago today the citizens of New Mexico and Arizona voted on whether to join the Union as one state.
The Territory of New Mexico included Arizona from 1850 until 1863 when Arizona was split off. (The original boundary proposal for the separation would have divided the two north (New Mexico) and south (Arizona), not east and west as it turned out.)
In 1906, congress passed a bill stipulating one state for the two territories, but the act stated that the voters of either territory could veto joint statehood.
New Mexico was 50 percent Spanish-speaking; Arizona less than 20 percent. The Arizona legislature passed a resolution of protest; combining the territories in one state “would subject us to the domination of another commonwealth of different traditions, customs and aspirations.” A “Protest Against Union of Arizona with New Mexico” presented to Congress early in 1906 stated:
[T]he decided racial difference between the people of New Mexico, who are not only different in race and largely in language, but have entirely different customs, laws and ideals and would have but little prospect of successful amalgamation … [and] the objection of the people of Arizona, 95 percent of whom are Americans, to the probability of the control of public affairs by people of a different race, many of whom do not speak the English language, and who outnumber the people of Arizona two to one.
Joint statehood won in New Mexico, 26,195 to 14,735. It lost in Arizona, 16,265 to 3,141.
New Mexico entered the Union on January 6, 1912 (47th state), Arizona on February 14, 1912 (48th).