History ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-14-2018


Sibling states split from the original New Mexico Territory, Arizona and New Mexico are neighbors geographically but very different otherwise: in how they were founded, in their ethnic makeup, in their sociocultural values, and in the forms of structural racism that are part of this history of both states. Mexican American residents who found themselves suddenly American citizens struggled in response to discrimination aimed at “Mexicans” by their Anglo American neighbors fueled by racist stereotypes built on the Spanish Black Legend and the mythology of the Alamo in Texas. Above all, Mexican Americans contested Anglo Americans for the right for an equitable education for their children.

This study examines the struggles of Mexican American educational activists and organizations, stressing continuity and change, to identify the elements of New Mexico’s and Arizona’s educational policies that were shaped by their pre-1945 history. It begins with a discussion of the antecedents of the states of Arizona and New Mexico during the territorial period until statehood, with the goal of demonstrating the weight of early decisions, experiences and policies (i.e., those of pre-1945) on later policies and practices by comparing the history of educational policies, administration, and activism of both states between 1945-2010. Chapters alternate between discussions of national events outside New Mexico and Arizona, before examining how events played out within the contemporaneous national environment. Issues that plagued Mexican American education in both states included Americanization/English Only, bilingual education, segregation/desegregation, and the erosion of public support for educational equality from the 1970s onwards. The study also examines several important pioneers of education in either state, such as George I. Sánchez, Georgia Lusk, and Maria Urquides.

The study concludes that the historical sociocultural values and structural racism inherent in Arizona and New Mexico at their founding as states have continued to inform decisions made by state actors post-1945. It tracks a steady erosion of pro-Mexican American court decisions and policies from the end of the 1970s to 2010 and suggests that New Mexico’s superior educational attainment for Mexican Americans may be due to a commitment to best practices lacking in Arizona’s responses.

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Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

L.M. García y Griego

Second Committee Member

Bárbara Reyes

Third Committee Member

Joseph P. Sánchez

Fourth Committee Member

Jason Scott-Smith

Fifth Committee Member

Diane Torres-Velásquez




Arizona, New Mexico, education, education policy, Mexican American, Latino

Document Type