Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Reader/Committee Chair

Karp, Michael


Across the North American continent, white supremacy is often taken for granted as a foregone conclusion by the late nineteenth century. Recently, however, scholars of the Greater Reconstruction, Indigenous history, Latinx history, U.S.-Mexico Borderlands history, and historians of capitalism have challenged this assumption by deconstructing narratives that portray white-European American hegemony as inevitable. My research on settler colonialism adds to the discussion of the establishment of white supremacy in the West by analyzing the evolution of white supremacy in New Mexico over time. It argues that the Spanish, Mexican, and American settler colonial regimes actively used white supremacy as a tool to organize all racial categories from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries to ensure Spanish-European and European-American hegemony.

This thesis does not seek to replicate or dictate the order of racial hierarchies in New Mexico. It rejects a hierarchy of suffering and recognizes that the ideological categorization of race does not always translate onto lived experiences. Rather, it seeks to study the social construct of white supremacy over time in New Mexico. It adopts a social-theoretical approach to white supremacy to explain how racism was structured at various historical stages and to prove that the establishment of white supremacy as the overarching social, political, and legal authority was not an inevitable result of the expansion of U.S. settler colonialism in the nineteenth century. As such, this thesis will explore the changing and often contradictory nature of white supremacy—and whiteness—over time, beginning with Spanish settler colonialism in New Spain and ending with American settler colonialism in New Mexico, while refusing a definitive hierarchical ranking of racial categories. In analyzing the Casta System and settler colonial-Indian frontier relations, the following pages demonstrate the Spanish use of white supremacy to ensure European dominance during Spanish and Mexican settler colonialism. This thesis concludes with an overview of American domination and the subsequent extension of settler colonialism and white European-American white superiority in New Mexico by the end of the nineteenth century.