Saturday, November 13, 2010
Brujas, Bultos, and Brasas
There are many interesting books about New Mexico. I have read Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, and Bless Me, Ultima and other novels by Rudolfo Anaya. And I have read all the Tony Hillerman and Michaer McGarrity novels. Each one is completely different, yet each presents an interesting facet of life in New Mexico.
Last night I began reading a book that has been on my list for a long time now: Brujas, Bultos, y Brasas: Tales of Witchcraft and the Supernatural in The Pecos Valley, by Nasario Garcia (1999, Western Edge Press). I believe this one will prove to be the most different of all. Mr. Garcia has compiled a collection of stories he gathered from elderly Hispanic residents (los viejos) of El Valle, a 25 mile stretch of the Pecos River from San José to Villanueva, New Mexico, south of Interstate 25, and between Pecos and Las Vegas, NM.
The stories are not merely tales of growing up in the early to middle 20th century in La Valle, but mainly the recurring themes of magic, superstition, and folklore. There are stories of brujas (witches), bultos (ghosts), el Diablo (the devil), and el mal ojo (the evil eye). There are stories of animals with supernatural powers: el burrito (the donkey), the coyote, and el tecolote or la lechuza (the owl).
Mr Garcia’s intent in writing the book was to interview the people and capture the stories from los viejos before their generation is gone, and those stories disappear. To me the stories present the folklore of a people I want to learn more about.
La Valle is within an hour of our house, and we have driven down winding New Mexico state road 3 and through these villages. It is an area of incredible natural beauty, and now as I am learning, an area rich with the northern New Mexico Hispanic culture.
Here are some pictures we took along the Pecos River Valley between San José and Villanueva in October 2007: