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Great Books About New Mexico: Romance of a Little Village Girl

Romance of a Little Village Girl (UNM Press, 2000) by Cleofas M. Jaramillo 

NMSL JaramilloFounder of La Sociedad Folklórica de Santa Fe, Cleofas M. Jaramillo was passionate about preserving and passing on the Spanish Colonial traditions of Northern New Mexico. To that end, Jaramillo’s writings, and the Sociedad (begun in 1935 and still active today) keep alive the stories, folklore, recipes, music, and reminiscences so important in recording and preserving the local customs and traditions. Romance of a Little Village Girl, first published in 1955, is an autobiographical account of her idyllic childhood in Arroyo Hondo, and the courtship with her cousin and future husband Venceslao, a territorial legislator and rancher. Her later years in Denver and Santa Fe brought family tragedy; perhaps the memories of earlier happier times played a role in her desire to protect and preserve the old ways. Not just a telling of her life story, the book is a true “romance,” a nostalgic, in-depth look at the culture of a nearly bygone era, and the traditions and language at risk from assimilation by modern society.

A major part of any culture is its cuisine, and Jaramillo sought to record the local and family recipes of the region with The Genuine New Mexico Tasty Recipes she first published in 1942. Her pamphlet is a “collection of Spanish recipes … used in New Mexico for centuries,” and includes the classics still enjoyed today during the holiday season (biscochitos, posole, tamales) and beyond. This collection of comforting favorites is not a step-by-step instruction manual for a novice cook, but rather an homage to the culinary roots of her childhood. New Mexico Tasty Recipes, a 2008 reprint (Gibbs Smith) of the original pamphlet, is still available. Make some time during this hectic season of the year to take a look back at a more relaxed era, and enjoy the romance of Cleofas and Venceslao, and the simpler ways of village life … and perhaps enjoy a bisochito or two while you read.

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