Spanish names are ubiquitous in the western part of the United States of America, especially in the southwest, which was part of New Spain under the Spanish conquest and rule. The region then became part of Mexico in 1821 after the Mexican Revolution. It’s very pronounced here in New Mexico, where the Spanish language is a dominant feature of language and culture. Almost every street in Taos has a Spanish name. This got me to thinking about pronunciation and how language is spoken based on those who dominate and subvert it, intentionally or not. Hanging out in Albuquerque last weekend with my son Jacob, a one-week New Mexico resident, he suggested the topic as a blog post.
During the Civil War there was a mass exodus from the American south to the west. For example, the Territory of Colorado (1861–76) was the predecessor to the state of Colorado. The territory was created on February 28, 1861, formed in response to the secession crisis as well as a massive influx of white immigrants seeking their fortunes during the Colorado Gold Rush.
This brings me to Salida, Colorado, near where my friend Sue summers along the Arkansas River.
Those of you who know Spanish, know that salida means “exit,” in reference to the exit to the Arkansas River Canyon. In Spanish, it is pronounced Sah-lee-dah, but here it is said, Sah-lye-dah. Origins are definitely Spanish. Pronunciation is probably derived from a Southern twang and early settlers who needed to Anglicize (also a form of conquest).
Here in New Mexico, which became a U.S. territory in 1850 but didn’t gain statehood until 1912, we have Madrid, pronounced MAAAH-drid, with the emphasis on the first syllable. A far cry from Mah-DRID, the capital city of Spain. Today, the old miner’s houses there have been restored into tony shops. Madrid is an arts destination.
In Albuquerque (named after Spanish royalty), we have The Bosque, locally pronounced as Boss-key (not Bohs-kay), which is the cottonwood tree-lined parkland flanking the Rio Grande River. Okay, let’s talk about Rio Grande. Grande is locally pronounced to end with a hard D, rather than the correct Rio Gran-day). Strange to me because New Mexico is 48% Hispanic, and 26.5% are Spanish speakers.
What else comes to mind in the translation of place names from Spanish to the English vernacular? Lima, Ohio (pronounced Lye-mah). Peru, Indiana (pronounced PEH-rue, however early settlers called it PEE-ru, which you still hear today). What about Amarillo, Texas? Is it Amar-ill-oh or Amar-ee-yoh?
Can you think of a Spanish place name that has been altered to fit Anglo pronunciation? Please send me an email to share your thoughts (the comment section doesn’t work on this blog). email@example.com
Charlie Dell Says …
Not places per se, Norma, but I always get a tickle out of 2 streets in Austin, TX. Manchaca is pronounced Man-shack. And Guadalupe, the University of Texas drag, is called Guad-a-loop.
Terri Hamlin says…
Colorado also has a town called Buena Vista pronounced locally as byūna vista. It’s even clarified on their website.
In a nod to Mexican Independence Day today, and in appreciation for all that Mexico has given us, me thinks the answer to this question is MEXICO. However, New Mexico thinks otherwise. It’s newest license plate proclaims this as truth and features big red and green chili peppers next to the identity number of the plate and the slogan: New Mexico, Chili Capital of the World. It’s true, New Mexico was once a part of Mexico and before that New Spain. Spanish and Mexican roots run deep here. So we don’t get confused, the license plate here also says, New Mexico, USA.
The origin of the chili pepper is clear. The indigenous peoples of Mexico had fully domesticated chili peppers far earlier than 1492 and the arrival of Columbus in the Americas. Archaeologists date the origin of chilis back to 5000 BC in the country’s Tehuacán Valley. The word “chili” can be credited to Nahuatl, an Aztec language from which many modern terms are derived, such as chocolatl and tomatl. The history of chili is a fascinating read.
There are over 60 types of chilis that claim Mexican origins. These include jalapeño, habanero, poblano, Anaheim, and more. These are the names for fresh chilis. Once they are dried, they take on a different identity because the flavor changes. For example, the chilaca chili, rarely used in its fresh form, becomes chili pasilla when dried, a staple of Oaxaca mole sauce. For more about biodiversity and origins, click here. For a varietal explanation, click here and here.
Here in New Mexico, chili pepper history comes much later. By all accounts, seeds were introduced by the Spanish in the late 1500’s to many of the pueblos and by the early 1600’s, became an important cultivar to use in southwest cuisine. Chili, as in the stew that combines spicy chili pepper flavor, meat, onions and tomatoes, traces its origins to Texas and rapidly spread throughout the region. Adaptations in the Midwest added beans and fat. Have you ever been to a chili cook-off?
Now is the season for roasting Hatch Chili in New Mexico.
The Hatch Chili is uniquely New Mexican, first cross-bred in Northern New Mexico in the early 1900’s by a horticulturalist wanting a milder version of jalapeño. It is available in August and September, depending on the weather. This short window of buying and eating opportunity gives it a caché of being rare and has taken on a mystique of desirability. There is a Hatch Chili frenzy here now. In front of the Taos Albertson’s and Smith’s supermarket, on the historic plaza, in the Walmart parking lot, I see outdoor roasters fueled by propane, with serious young men loading and tending the roasting bins. Bags of fresh roasted Hatch Chilis are offered for sale inside. The aroma of smokey chili goodness fills the air, invades naval passages, causes eyes to tear if you get too close.
Does the Hatch Chili make New Mexico the Chili Capital of the World? Not likely. However, I concede, my adopted state is the Hatch Chili Capital of the World, and I salute her for that. Hatch Chili pancakes anyone?
Preface: It’s Labor Day. We depend on labor wherever we live to work the fields, harvest food, wash dishes or cook in restaurants, sew clothes, tend our nursery-school age children and grandchildren, build, repair or clean our homes. Before I learned the word, Huelga from Cesar Chavez when I participated in the California Farm Workers Union demonstrations, I knew from my teacher-father the value and importance of taking a stand to protect basic human rights — a fair wage, health care, education. He was part of the California Federation of Teachers Local #1021 that went out on strike in 1969. He was proud of that. Our mom was scared. There was no income for months.
Now that I’m in New Mexico, I am constantly reviewing the similarities and differences between living here and in Oaxaca. The similarities are startling, especially as it relates to our indigenous First Peoples. This week, The Washington Post published an opinion piece about how the Navajo Nation has suffered during the covid pandemic: Navajo Culture is in Danger. I encourage you to read this. It offers insights into a way of life that is essential to cultural survival.
Here and in rural Oaxaca villages, Native American families live together in multi-generational households, often encompassing four or five generations. They care for each other in close-knit communities where language, values and culture are shared and transmitted. This is an important way cultural survival mechanism.
Living in close community poses huge risks to the vulnerable, especially the aged. We know from history that disease ravaged indigenous peoples with the European conquests, decimating huge swaths of the population. The covid pandemic reiterates how a rapidly spreading airborne disease can bring sickness and death to rural communities. Most hold the attitude that they want little to do with government intervention because of historical mistrust, abuse and discrimination. Lack of access to clean water, health services, education, and economic opportunity shape these attitudes. Poverty and isolation are huge factors.
The Washington Post article addresses how the Navajo Nation, hard-hit by covid early in its cycle, is weathering the disease. Small houses are built adjacent to family dwellings to house grandparents to make sure they stay safe, separated from family but not too far away! The tribe has a successful vaccination campaign and a high percentage of their people are vaccinated now.
What I loved about this article was the effort to keep loved ones safe in auxiliary dwellings, and still keep them close to the family and community. I’m not certain that this is a practice in Oaxaca, where family celebrations and observances are a priority and people gather in large groups despite the on-going threat of the pandemic. Most often, it is the octogenarians who are the keepers of culture.
For those of us traveling soon to Oaxaca, we will need to stay vigilant to maintain safe distance and wear face masks during Day of the Dead celebrations at the end of October. It is very likely that celebrations will not be curtailed much at the cemeteries or in the streets. Traditions are powerful. It is also doubtful that elders will be housed in adjacent small homes for protection there like the Navajo are here.
Footnote: Today begins the 10 days of the Jewish New Year. This is a time to reflect on our place in the world, what we can do to actively “repair the world,” our relationship within it and with others. On Rosh Hashanah (today), the Book of Life is opened and for the next days, we review behavior, intentions, deeds and misdeeds. We use this time in self-reflection to set things right with ourselves and others. On Yom Kippur, the Book of Life is closed and the promises for change we make is “sealed.” This open book period gives us a chance to start fresh and steer a new course. We reconnect with family and friends, renew spirit by being in nature, take action to make change where it is needed.
I have been in New Mexico for almost four months. New beginnings are intentional, spark creativity, and create opportunity. At this moment, I’m grateful to again ask the questions: Who am I? Who do I want to be?
It’s been two months since I left North Carolina and arrived in New Mexico, where life is more like Mexico than I ever imagined it would be. Spanish is a predominant language here. Indigenous Native American culture and artistry is powerful. Time moves slowly. There is no urgency and many people here say Taos means mañana. I am constantly reminded of the mantra told to me years ago in Teotitlan del Valle by my host family head Federico Chavez Sosa: Calma. Patiencia. Tranquila.
Life takes on a different meaning when the focus is on landscape and the whirl of city life is in the past. I’m utterly astounded by how the vastness of sky and horizon opens life to a defining purpose of expansiveness, the natural world, and infinite possibilities. Even as human life is finite, there is a sense of timelessness here that offers peace and solitude.
As I write this, a lone coyote dances through the sage brush traveling east to west toward the gorge. Only moments before, a white tailed rabbit came up to my patio door and peered in, ears and nose twitching in unison. A flock of magpies chatter on the fence posts. Small pleasures.
Out here on the Rio Grande River Gorge Mesa, I find comfort in budding friendships with people who are drawn here with similar vision, purpose, politics and lifestyle. I am also comforted by dear friends Karen and Steve who live a mile up the road from my rental house. I have known them for almost 45 years. She and I raised our children together, opened and closed a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, remained constant and supportive. Their land has become mine. We walk the gorge rim trails, smell the sagebrush, look for Big Horn Sheep, comment on new construction taking shape.
This is a soul-satisfying place.
It is a small town. There is no Whole Foods. (There is Cid’s.) There is no shopping mall. My drive to town takes a good twenty minutes. One could say I’m isolated. And, this would be true, more or less. It is perfect for writers, photographers, creatives who find sustenance in simplicity. For my city fix, I drive 75 minutes to Santa Fe. I’ve been going regularly since I’ve had a steady stream of visitors. I’m not sure when the feeling of being on perpetual vacation will end.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
I’m here because of Covid. Sequestered for over a year in my Durham, NC, historic renovated tobacco warehouse condo gave me plenty of time to reflect. I felt trapped in an edifice of impenetrable brick with a view to the high school across the street, electric lines above, and elevator access to the outdoors. It served me well before Covid when I was spending more time in Oaxaca. Was Durham where I wanted to grow older? The question of values kept coming up. So, while my decision to move here was, by many accounts impulsive, I realized I wanted direct access to nature and a long view. After spending a month in New Mexico in November 2020, even before I was vaccinated, I realized that life here could be almost normal even in the worst of circumstances.
That’s not to say, I wasn’t scared of making this move — leaving good friends behind, a network of the familiar, with the best medical care in the world at my fingertips. I lived in North Carolina for twenty-two years, the longest sojourn of my life except for growing up in California. Fear is powerful. It freezes us and keeps us from exploring. It is also liberating if we allow ourselves to move through it and have confidence in our ability to adapt and thrive in new circumstances. I also realize I have the vagabond gene in my family. I have lots of practice making change. This is learned behavior. Over the years I have pried myself out of my comfort zone. This propels me forward.
Still, I continue to wait. Buying land and building a home is a process and anxiety provoking. After months, we have still not broken ground because the county has not yet approved the building permit. Lots of moving parts. Lots of puzzle pieces to fit in place. The bank cannot finalize the construction loan until this happens. The site cannot be touched until the loan is signed. Infrastructure needs to be put in place. The road I will live on, Camino Chamisa, needs to be grubbed out. A trench needs digging to hold the lines for well water, electric and fiber. Poco a poco. This is the main reason I cannot get back to Oaxaca. I’m waiting for this to start.
Covid Bonus: being closer to family.
In September, my son and his wife-to-be will move to Albuquerque. This is a gift beyond my imagination. When I committed to buying land and making the move, this was a dream, not a promise. He has approval to work permanently from home, and we know now that home can be defined as anywhere! My sister and brother are in California. They will visit in August. Durham was not on their travel radar.
When will I get back to Oaxaca?
It’s Dark Sky here. I am star-gazing. The Milky Way and North Star provide no clues for me, although the ancients grounded their beliefs in such spectacular displays. I know for certain I will be in Oaxaca in mid-October to lead our Day of the Dead Culture Tour (three spaces open). Returning this summer depends on timing to certify the construction here. Time will tell.
I guess the next best thing to being in Oaxaca, Mexico, is being in Taos, New Mexico. They call it New Mexico for a reason!
Tuesday, September 1 – Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 8
nights, 9 days
New Mexico was originally part of the Spanish land grant known as New Spain. It calls to me in a way that reminds me of Oaxaca: Vast vistas of mountains and desert punctuated by red and purple skies, stately organ-pipe cactus and gnarly mesquite, Rio Grande River oases lined with scrub oak, and unparalleled art and craft made by indigenous peoples.
Colonized by the Spanish in 1598 and referred to as New Mexico by them after the Aztec Valley of Mexico, the territory was integrated into a new nation after 1821 Independence from Spain. Mexico was forced to cede its northern territories to the US in 1848 in a period of political vulnerability. Deeply rooted locals identify more with Spanish or indigenous ancestry.
Today, New Mexico has the largest percentage of Latino and Hispanic Americans in the USA. America’s First Peoples lived here for thousands of years before European occupation. Anglos, the trappers, merchants and adventurers, arrived much later. This sequence of settlement is important for showing respect and appreciation.
Sheri Brautigam, textile author and operator of Living Textiles of Mexico, and I join together again to bring you this program that starts in Santa Fe, the state capitol and heart of Colonial New Mexico. Sheri lives in Santa Fe and I visit periodically. Our love of place is defined by the majestic natural world, exquisite art, textiles, jewelry and pottery created by Native American people, and a deep appreciation for cultural history.
On many levels, it seems only natural to add New Mexico to our travel repertoire. Here political borders give way to the shared cultural and aesthetic history of Mexico and the American Southwest.
We take you to Native American pueblos to meet favorite weavers and jewelry makers, and to galleries and public spaces where world-class examples are displayed. We introduce you to collectors and purveyors of folk art and craft who will talk about quality, authenticity, craftsmanship and style. We go deep rather than wide to offer insight and perspective.
Any exploration of New Mexico must include a look into the life of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Our study tour takes you to her summer residence at Ghost Ranch where we spend the night and enjoy a morning walking tour of her favorite painting sites. We visit her Abiquiu winter home where her minimalist style shaped future generations.
Colonial Spanish and Mexican history, architecture and cultural influences
Sumptuous food spiked with rare New Mexico red Chimayo chile and green Hatch chile — try the Hatch flavored pozole or a green chile cheeseburger or buy a ristra to take home
Mezcal infused beverages that transcend Oaxaca origins
Here is the Preliminary Itinerary: Arrive September 1 and depart September 9, including Labor Day Weekend.
Tues, 9//1: Arrive and check in to hotel, welcome cocktail reception
Wed. 9/2: Breakfast with art and cultural history talk,
walking tour of Santa Fe galleries, the Governor’s Palace Portal and historic
sites, welcome lunch. Presentations by noted experts and collectors. Dinner
OYO. (B, L)
Thurs. 9/3: After breakfast, depart for Rio Grande River Kewa/Santo Domingo pueblo to meet Native American craftspeople where we will have private demonstrations of stone inlay and metal smithing, and a home-style lunch. We visit award-winners who exhibit at prestigious galleries and participate in the International Folk Art Market. (B, L) Dinner OYO
Friday. 9/4: After breakfast, we will take a private La Fonda Hotel art history tour, with lunch at the historic Fred Harvey restaurant, followed by a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (B, L) Dinner OYO
Sat, 9/5: After breakfast, we will return to the Kewa pueblo to attend the big Labor Day Weekend Artisan Fair, an all Native American traditional arts and craft event that includes artisans from throughout New Mexico. (B) Lunch and dinner OYO.
Sun. 9/6: After breakfast, depart for Ghost Ranch with a stop in Sanctuario de Chimayo a famous shrine of miracles and Hispanic faith. We will visit the Rio Grande style weavers of the Chimayo region and have lunch at Rancho de Chimayo, overnight at Ghost Ranch (B, L)
Mon. 9/7: After breakfast, morning Art Walk at Ghost Ranch to see the locales where Georgia O’Keeffe painted. After lunch at the Inn at Abiquiu, we will tour O’Keeffe’s winter home in Abiquiu, then return to Santa Fe. (B, L) Dinner OYO.
Tues., 9/8: Breakfast and day on your own. Grand finale
dinner. (D) Breakfast and lunch OYO.
8 nights lodging at a top-rated Santa Fe historic center property within walking distance to the Plaza
1 cocktail reception
a curated itinerary with introductions to some of the region’s finest artisans
museum and other entry fees, as specified in itinerary
private demonstrations, presentations and lectures
private coach and chauffeur to/from pueblos and O’Keeffe sites
outstanding and personal guide services with Norma Schafer and Sheri Brautigam
The program does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation that is not specified in the itinerary.
You can fly in/out of either Albuquerque (ABQ) or Santa Fe (SAF), New Mexico. Check Skyscanner.com for best schedules and fares.
We reserve the right to substitute
instructors and alter the program as needed.
Cost • $3,845 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $4,435 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)
Important Note:All rooms at Ghost Ranch for one night on Sunday, September 6, are shared accommodations.
and Cancellations. A $750 non-refundable deposit is required
to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in three equal payments – on January
22, April 22, July 22, 2020. We
accept payment using online e-commerce only. If for any reason, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC cancels the
tour, a full-refund will be made.
We will send you an itemized invoice
when you tell us you are ready to register. If you cancel on or before July 22,
2020, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After July 22, 2020,
there are no refunds.
If you register after January 22, you will owe $750 plus 1/3 of the balance due. If you register after April 22, you will owe $750 plus 2/3 of the balance due. If you register after July 22, you will owe 100% (if there are openings).
to Register: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice for $750 by email that is due on receipt.
Who Should Attend: Artists, makers, educators, life-long learners, writers, photographers, jewelry and textile lovers, historians and those wanting to learn more about Native American art, culture and history. If you love off-the-beaten path adventure, the great outdoors, and the inspiration of the great Southwest as seen by Georgia O’Keeffe, this trip is for you.
Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.
In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We ask that you return this to us by email 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!
Reservations and Cancellations. We accept online e-commerce payments only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.
Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We may walk a lot on some days. — up to 10,000 steps. We recommend you bring a walking stick if you need something to lean on!
If you have mobility issues or
health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study
tour for you.
Traveling with a small group has its
advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make
accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to
go off on your own if you wish.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
Click image to order yours!
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Our Clients Include
*Penland School of Crafts
*North Carolina State University
*WARP Weave a Real Peace
We send printable map via email PDF usually within 48-hours after order received. Where to see natural dyed rugs in Teotitlan del Valle and layout of the Sunday Tlacolula Market, with favorite eating, shopping, ATMs. Click Here to Buy Map
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle