Tracing roots to Mexico

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By Harold Morgan

Some 2010 Census numbers report where New Mexico’s Hispanics trace their origin. That Hispanics are 46 percent of New Mexicans isn’t news. Add Native Americans (9.4 percent), African Americans and Asians, and New Mexico is a majority minority state by a fair margin.
Of our Hispanics, 62 percent in 2010 trace themselves to Mexico. The percentage was 43.1 in 2000. That’s news.
A mere 37 percent of Hispanics are those of the northern villages who provide the conventional image of New Mexico. These folks trace themselves to Spain or simply say they are “other.”
The census questions were: “Is this person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?” and “What is this person’s race?”
The origin choices were: “No, not of Hispanic, Latino of Spanish origin.” Then, there was an option for “Mexican, Mexican American, or Chicano,” separate options for Puerto Rican, Cuban, and for “another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.” For this last category, respondents wrote the answer in a box.
Race choices were the usual White; “Black, African American, or Negro”; or “American Indian or Alaska Native”; plus a variety of Asian options.
Bernalillo County’s large numbers are worth a look. Bernalillo County had a total population in 2000 of 556,678, of whom 233,565, or 42 percent, were Hispanics. Of the Hispanics, 38 percent (88,826) said they were of Mexican origin and 59.5 percent were of “all other” origins, meaning northern New Mexico and, ultimately, Spain. The two percentages don’t quite add to 100. The difference is a few people from the Dominican Republic and Central and South America.
In 2010, Bernalillo County had a population of 662,564, of whom 317,089 (47.9 percent) were Hispanic. That’s nearly a 6 percentage point jump from 2000. The origin proportion has flipped in ten years. For 2010, of Bernalillo County’s Hispanics, 182,806 (57.7 percent) said they were of Mexican origin and 122,726 (38.7 percent) were “other.”
The Bernalillo County population increased 105,886 over the ten years while the Mexican origin population grew 93,980. That means nearly all of Bernalillo County’s population growth came from Hispanics of Mexican origin. Amazing. Other origin Hispanics in Bernalillo County declined by 16,000 in the decade.
A dozen of our 33 counties have a Hispanic majority – five southern, seven northern. Of all counties, 20 have a majority of the Hispanic population of Mexican origin. Fifteen are southern. Five are northern. The remaining 13 with a majority of “other” origin are all northern.
Six counties have a Hispanic majority, and a majority of that Hispanic population is of Mexican origin. One, Valencia, is northern. The others are Chaves, Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Lea and Luna.
For six counties, the Hispanic population is more than 80 percent of Mexican origin. They are Chaves, Doña Ana (no surprise), Hidalgo, Lea, Luna, and Otero. Eddy County is right behind at 79.4 percent.
At 89.1 percent, surprisingly Lea County leads in Hispanics of Mexican origin. Hidalgo is just behind at 88.9 percent. The conventional wisdom says the East Side is overwhelmingly Anglo.
Oilfield opportunities may be the explanation. Lea County has been desperate for people and housing for several years.
I’m not prepared to speculate on meanings here, except to note the obvious: Change. Our rich socio-cultural tapestry has grown. We have a rapidly growing set of New Mexicans with a cultural framework different from the northern New Mexican. Our governor is the exemplar, with her heritage tracing quickly to Mexico. Even for Doña Ana, the Mexican origin percentage is well up over the decade—from 71.1 percent to 86.3 percent.  
One of the state’s leading historians, Tom Chavez, author of “New Mexico Past and Future,” was kind enough to give these numbers some thought. His comments are posted at www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.
Harold Morgan
New Mexico News