OLD SPAIN IN OUR SOUTHWEST
Facsimile of Original 1936 Edition
FOREWORD TO THIS EDITION
Charlotte T. Whaley
A forceful and progressive leader of men and women in the state of New Mexico during the first half of the twentieth century, Maria Adelina Emilia (Nina) Otero-Warren (1881-1965) was larger than life, and some would say more difficult.
At a time when women were expected to become wives, homemakers and mothers, she tried marriage in 1908, at the age of twenty-seven, to dashing U.S. Calvary Captain Rawson Warren. That star-crossed union lasted less than two years. Since a divorced woman was an anathema in New Mexico in those days, Nina declared herself a widow, een though it would be another thirty-two years before Rawson Warren died.
Returning to the family home in Santa Fe, Nina assumed some of the responsibilities of raising nine of her mother’s twelve children. Her mother, Eloisa (nee Luna) Otero Begere, who died at the age of fifty, was one of the wealthiest women in New Mexico. Her first husband and Nina’s father, Manuel Basilio Otero, was killed in a shoot-out while trying to protect his extensive land holdings. His wealthy and attractive widow then married Alfred Maurice Bergere, a gregarious sales representative for the Albuquerque-based Spiegelberg Brothers Emporium. That marriage resulted in nine children and established a stately home that, even after Eloisa’s death, became a center for important social, literary, and political events in Santa Fe.
Her daughter Nina was more interested in establishing a career for herself than in raising her siblings. While she set strict standards for the busy household (she was resented by some; treated cautiously by all) she chose to focus her attention on the woman suffrage movement, campaigning fiercely with Alice Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt, and other determined women until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment was achieved in 1920.
Nina was appointed then elected superintendent of public schools of Santa Fe County in 1917, at the age of thirty-seven becoming the youngest superintendent of the largest school district in the state. Following her success in winning her first election, Nina decided to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a Republican she handily won the primary, the first woman ever to do so, but she lost in the general election to an Anglo Democrat by less than nine percent.
Nina went on to other challenges, becoming the first woman to be appointed Inspector of Indian services in the U.S. Department of the Interior. She directed literacy programs for the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the Thirties, and led the Work Conference for Adult Teachers in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, in 1941. During those years her social life also flourished, enriched by her friendships with the artists and writers who flooded into Santa Fe in the Twenties, making the unique city an aesthetic center at the heart of the inspirational beauty of Northern New Mexico.
In the midst of all her education, political, and social activities she established Las Dos Realty Company with her close friend Mamie Meadors, homesteading 1,257 acres of land twelve miles outside the city of Santa Fe from 1929 to 1932. There in the isolated, rustic adobe houses she and Mamie built, Nina finished her book Old Spain in Our Southwest, a compilation of memoirs, anecdotes, simplified historical accounts, and folktales that, taken as a whole, form a charming picture of rural Hispanic life in the late nineteenth century. Nina hoped that Old Spain in Our Southwest would serve as a teaching tool to educate the multicultural populations in the country and to gain approval, respect, and admiration for her people. The book more than lived up to her expectations. This latest edition makes available once more one of the rare first-hand accounts of gracious, romantic times in early New Mexico.
Santa Fe, NM