STORIES FROM HISPANO NEW MEXICO
A New Mexico Federal Writers' Project Book
"Stories from Hispano New Mexico" is the fourth volume in the New Mexico Federal Writers’ Project Book series. The first, Outlaws & Desperados, was published in 2008 to mark the 75th anniversary of the New Deal; "Frontier Stories" followed in 2010 and "Lost Treasures and Old Mines" in 2011. "Stories from Hispano New Mexico" celebrates New Mexico’s one hundred years of statehood in 2012.
Although we can well imagine the dramatic pull of land, climate and vying traditions on those who lived here, there were no written histories of the area until Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan priests came clanging into the Southwest in the 16th century. With the exception of La Relación—Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative of his crew’s shipwreck off the coast of Florida in 1528 and his eight-year trek into the Southwest—the first known recorded history of New Mexico was Historia de la Nuevo Mexico, a verse narrative by Spanish soldier-poet Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá published in 1610. Since then, New Mexico’s evocative landscape, culture and history have inspired thousands of books of poetry and prose.
From 1936 to 1940, the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project was in full swing in all 48 states of the union. The dual goal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s project was to gainfully employ local writers while collecting archival documents related to the state’s history and culture. In New Mexico, field writers fanned out around the state collecting regional documents and recording the stories, pecked out on old upright typewriters, of old-timers who remembered New Mexico’s vanishing past.
Most of the oral histories collected by New Mexico field writers refer to events in the mid to late Territorial Period, approximately 1880 to 1910. Though the stories target a thirty-year timespan—a time in which ranchers, farmers, sheepherders, miners, prospectors, outlaws and settlers alike were battling forces of nature and man to tame the territory—they are evocative of a long and enduring way of life that still flavors life in New Mexico.
Although the tales collected here are wonderfully various, they are far from inclusive: appreciative readers must read between the lines to fill in missing voices and viewpoints. Of particular significance, Native American populations were rarely interviewed and no Native Americans were represented in NMFWP’s stable of writers. Women, too, most often appear as secondary figures within the narratives.
In editing this series, we have attempted to stay true to the voices of the oral history informants and to uphold the dedication and veracity exhibited by the project writers in their manuscripts. From the start, our editorial policy has been minimalist in intent: we have changed punctuation and corrected spelling only when necessary for readability and clarity. Our policy has been to edit the material sparingly so that the richness of the “told and retold” stories reflects the relevant time and place and tells something of the storytellers (who were sometimes also the protagonists). Our hope is that each manuscript retains a sense of the writer’s creative expression and preserves the authentic storytelling voice of the informants.
Stories from Hispano New Mexico presented a new challenge to us as editors. In previous volumes, most of the oral histories were told in English and transcribed in English; in this volume many of the tales were told in Spanish and later transcribed into English—often without the aid of a translator. Although two of the field writers, Reyes Nicanor Martínez and Lorin W. Brown, were bilingual, many knew little Spanish. Consequently, a number of Spanish words in the manuscripts were misspelled; in some cases, the word use was simply incorrect. In this collection, in addition to correcting obvious misspellings, we have added accent marks to Spanish words where sometimes none were indicated in the typed manuscripts. Attentive readers may notice inconsistencies from one document to the next, as we made editing decisions one word at a time. We hope that the manuscripts retain the authenticity of their original versions and at the same time conform to proper written Spanish.
We have greatly enjoyed assembling this volume of oral histories and stories.This collection gives voice to New Mexico’s remarkable Hispano settlers and their enduring legacy.
Ann Lacy and Anne Valley-Fox
Santa Fe, New Mexico