Photos courtesy of Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts
Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren was born and raised in Los Lunas and born into two of the most influential families in the county’s history. She went on to be a suffragette, educator and activist, trailblazing the way for women in New Mexico. Otero-Warren, along with four other women, will sit on the tails side of 2022 quarters as part of the series on American Women Quarters led by the U.S. Mint.
Adelina “Nina” Otero Warren is again making change!
Suffragette and educator Nina Otero-Warren, who was born and raised in Los Lunas, will now sit opposite George Washington on new quarters released by the U.S. Mint as a part of it’s American Women Quarters series.
“We want to make sure people know she’s a daughter of Valencia County,” said Louis Huning Jr., the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts museum specialist. “A lot of people associate her with Santa Fe and, yes, I mean she ran (for office) from Santa Fe County and lived there as well, but she’s from here. I think it’s important we let people know that as well.”
Other women who will be on the tails side of the 25 cent coin released during 2022 include writer and activist Maya Angelou; astronaut and educator Dr. Sally Ride; the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller; and the first Chinese-American film star Anna May Wong.
“Nothing against Louis, but back at that time men ran everything,” museum tech Roberta Scott said, referencing the museum specialist with a chuckle. “And so (Otero-Warren) was really stepping out when she was a suffragette, when she ran for office. She was really going against the grain and so I think we are right to honor her because she accomplished so much in New Mexico.”
To commemorate the release of the quarter, the Friends of the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts will be hosting a Chautauqua performance by Deborah Blanche from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17, at the museum. Blanche will dress up as Otero-Warren to educate patrons on her life and accomplishments throughout New Mexico.
Early life and family
In 1881, Otero-Warren was born in Los Lunas to two of the most influential families in Valencia County — Manuel B. Otero and Eloisa Luna of the village’s namesake.
Huning said Nina came from a family of politicians and activists, such as her uncle, Soloman Luna, who were influential in securing New Mexico’s statehood in 1912.
“She just speaks to the history of our region,” Huning said. “Her family, on both sides, were so influential in the different periods — Spanish colonial, Mexican to when we became part of the United States.”
As a young girl, Otero-Warren’s father was murdered, prompting her and her mother to move into the famed Luna Mansion, which is still standing today on the village’s main drag.
She resided in the mansion until her mid-teens when her mother and new stepfather, Alfred Bergere, moved Otero-Warren along with her two younger brothers and nine younger half siblings to Santa Fe.
After her mother’s death in 1914, Nina went on to be a caregiver for her 11 younger siblings.
“That just shows her strength again,” Huning said. “She is very resilient. It was a lot (of kids.)”
Photo courtesy of Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts
Otero-Warren moved to Santa Fe when she was 16 with her mother, stepfather and 11 younger siblings and half sibliings. In this photo, she is seen in her dress for the Santa Fe Fiesta.
Photo courtesy of Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts
After her mother’s death in 1914, she become the primary caretaker for her younger brothers and sisters.
Suffragette, author, activist and educator
During the movement to secure the women’s vote, Otero-Warren is reported to be the first female to address the New Mexico State Legislature in her mission to the state.
Additionally, she took educational materials about the suffrage movement and translated them to Spanish. This allowed New Mexico’s large Hispanic and Spanish-speaking population access to become involved with the movement.
On the 2022 quarter bearing Otero-Warren’s image, “Vota Para Mujer” is seen in large, shiny letters as reference to her work distributing suffrage movement materials and being a voice for the female Spanish-speaking population in the state.
“She was big on promoting the Spanish language at a time when a lot of people, mainly if you had political aspirations, you tried to distance yourself from, on the national spotlight anyway,” Huning said. “She really tried to highlight and embrace that and show that it shouldn’t come with a stigma.”
Scott remembers when she was a child, how the Spanish language was discouraged in educational settings, a stigma Otero-Warren worked to break down.
“A lot of the kids back when I grew up only knew Spanish and were held back their first year of school until they learned English,” she said. “And, that’s a shame.”
Nina continued to be a large proponent in teaching Spanish through her work as the first female superintendent of Santa Fe Schools, holding the position during a time when a woman in that kind of leadership role was unheard of, according to Huning.
Not only was she a trailblazer in educational leadership, but also in politics. Otero-Warren was the first Hispanc woman ever to win a primary for the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States, though she did not go on to win the election due to scandal.
Huning said although she kept the Otero-Warren name and described herself as a widow, she divorced her Army officer husband after only two years of marriage. When the information about her divorce made it into the public eye, it caused her to lose the 1921 election for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“She was defeated unfortunately, but it was still a big step forward,” Huning said.
Following her political pursuits, Nina took to the pen, writing magazine articles along with the book, “Old Spain in Our Southwest,” which published in 1936. She died in 1965 in Santa Fe.
“What you can learn (from Otero-Warren) is that nothing is impossible and you should always fight for what you feel is right,” Huning said. “Often times, people that are underrepresented need someone to step forward and make sure that they have the same opportunities as everybody else.
“Be an advocate for people, however you can, in whatever capacity.”
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.