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Concha Ortiz y Pino: New Mexico’s Grand Dame

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Concha Ortiz y Pino.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Concha Ortiz y Pino. I was with Concha when she passed away, so I always remember that she died on September 30, 2006. I was fortunate to have been Concha’s friend during the last three years of her life. Concha died when she was 96, so there were many people in her long life. It was as if we were all participants in a relay race. I happened to be the last one handed the baton that got her to the finish line. Shortly before her death I published an important era in New Mexico’s history with the book ¡Concha! Concha Ortiz y Pino: Matriarch of a 300-Year-Old New Mexico Legacy.

A photo with Concha at a political function in 2005.

For almost a century María Concepción Ortiz y Pino was known as the grand dame of New Mexico. She made it a point to help people through her active involvement in both local and national politics. Concha 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, as well as countless state and national politicians, knew her by nickname, Concha. Her political career began in 1932 when she was 21. She set out through rural New Mexico with Sen. Dennis Chávez as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential campaign. The two of them reached out to Spanish-speaking voters in rural New Mexico. Their efforts helped get Roosevelt elected. The president’s New Deal era brought an end to the Great Depression.

The Legacy of one Spanish American Family in America

An early 20th century photo of members of the Ortiz y Pino family playing poker.

The Ortiz y Pino family was one of New Mexico’s most distinguished Spanish American families in the days when those things seemed to matter. Their family saga was akin to that of the Kennedy family of Massachusetts. Their pride and sense of place in history, along with their power, money, triumphs and tragedies were fodder for the fantasies of plebeians.