New Mexico’s 20th Century Power Broker

Concha Ortiz y Pino.

March is Women in History month. Without a doubt, Concha Oriz y Pino is the most historically significant women of the 20th century. For almost a century María Concepción Ortiz y Pino was known as the Grande Dame of New Mexico. She helped people through her active involvement in both local and national politics. She was born in the village of Galisteo in 1910, two years before New Mexico became a state. Nineteen New Mexico governors and six U.S. presidents knew her by nickname, Concha.

Campaigning for FDR During the Great Depression

Concha’s political career began in 1933 when she was 21. She set out through rural New Mexico with Sen. Dennis Chávez as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential campaign, reaching out to Spanish-speaking voters in rural New Mexico. Concha also helped with Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, which helped bring an end to the Great Depression. It was this first political experience that whetted Concha’s appetite for politics. It also began her lifelong advocacy for the poor and disabled.

First Female Legislative Whip in the Nation

In 1941 Concha achieved the distinction of becoming the first female majority whip of a State Legislature in the nation. She was elected to that position in the 15th New Mexico Legislature. Ten years later Concha confronted one of her biggest challenges. In 1951 she became the lady boss of her family’s 100,000 acre property known as Agua Verde ranch. More than 100 men reported to her at a time when few women worked outside of the home. The Agua Verde ranch was located in Santa Fe, San Miguel and Torrance counties. Concha’s job was to supervise the sprawling ranch, which was the size of the city of Los Angeles. Well into her nineties, Concha continued to possess the wit and admiration of the people of New Mexico.

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