A New Mexico school board is planning to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish at public meetings starting next week.
Las Cruces Superintendent Greg Ewing told the Las Cruces Sun-News that students are entitled under law to choose to have part of their education in Spanish and that reciting the pledge in Spanish during board meetings will be a wonderful experience for students.
"We want to be as inclusive as we can and as welcoming as we can of all individuals," he said.
The pledge will continue to be recited in English at the meetings.
Las Cruces is following the lead of districts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, where the pledge has been recited for years in both languages at public meetings.
Las Cruces officials say the change stems from New Mexico's Spanish-speaking heritage.
"We are a bilingual state," school board member Terrie Dallman said. "We are supposed to be providing education, especially our second-language learners if their primary language is Spanish."
A supporter of the proposal, Dallman said the Pledge of Allegiance was recited in Spanish in several elementary school classrooms when she taught and that middle schools carried out the practice, too.
Spanish explorers and conquistadors first entered present-day New Mexico in the 1500s, sparking a wave of colonization in a land that had exclusively been the domain of Native American tribes and pueblos. Immigration from Spanish-speaking countries has continued over the centuries.
Nearly half of New Mexico's population in 2016 was Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Dona Ana County, 68 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino.
About half of the county's population sometimes or always speaks a language other than English in the home, according to the Census Bureau.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.