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First Hispanic Delegate to the U.S. Congress,1853

Victory for Gallegos, 1853

On September 5, 1853, Padre José Manuel Gallegos, an Albuquerque priest, defeated Gov. William Carr Lane in a hotly contested congressional election. Padre Gallegos had been educated in Durango, Mexico, as many priests from New Mexico had.  During the late Mexican period, Gallegos had become increasingly anti-American and significantly more pro-Mexican is his allegiance.  Much like Padre Jose Antonio Martinez, Gallegos soon found himself at odds with new Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and became increasingly involved in local politics.

In 1853, Gallegos was nominated for the position of territorial delegate to the 33rd Congress of the United States of America. Gallegos was already popular among the people, serving on two occasions as Speaker of the House in the New Mexico Legislative Assembly. The election was wrought with controversy, including accusations of fraud that delayed the certification of the election results for more than two weeks. During this time, numerous New Mexican citizens who remained loyal to Mexico were brought into court for alleged illegal voting. Individuals representing Lane brought their complaints before the Governor, demanding the enforcement of strict voting standards.

When Governor David Merriweather reviewed the allegations, he decided to enforce these standards, but to the surprise of Lane and his supporters he did not discern between votes cast for Gallegos or Lane. Of the 9,497 votes cast in the 1853 election, only 5,073 were determined to be legally conducted, a rate of disenfranchisement that nearly reached 50%. When the votes were tallied, Gallegos' lead increased from 445 to 539. On September 20, 1853, Merriweather finally certified the results and named Gallegos as the first Hispanic delegate to the U.S. Congress from New Mexico.