Pena recounts tales of village life in new book
In his new book Memories of Cibola: Stories from New Mexico Villages, Abe Pena, '49, writes about the people of San Mateo and other nearby places from the 1920s to 1950s.
Pena, who lives in Grants, grew up on a sheep ranch near San Mateo, immersed in the traditional Hispanic culture of west-central New Mexico. He ran the family ranch for many years before serving 12 years in Latin America in foreign service positions. In 1987, he began turning his memories and stories passed down for generations into columns for the Grants Daily Beacon (now the Cibola County Beacon). Most of the book's 65 vignettes originally appeared in the newspaper.
Pena writes about traditional events such as Los Pastores, the shepherds' pageant performed at Christmas time. He remembers Spanish-speaking Lebanese immigrant children who proudly proclaimed, "Yo soy Mexicano, casi" (I'm Hispanic, almost). He tells of villagers who in a drought paraded a statue of their patron saint in hopes of rain. When hail fell instead, they took him out of the church again to show him "the mess he made."
"Pena has a good ear for a story," says historian Marc Simmons, who wrote the book"s introduction. "The engaging men and women who walk so freely through his pages seemed infused with the elixir of southwestern air and landscape and with the tonic of their own vibrant cultural history."
This fall, Pena is busy promoting the book, which went into a second printing seven weeks after it hit bookstores. During Homecoming weekend, he will be the dinner speaker at the Oct. 24 meeting of the NMSU Conquistadores Club. For more information call the Alumni Association, (505) 646-3616.
He will sign copies of the book at Barnes and Noble bookstore, 705 Sunland Park Drive, El Paso, Texas, from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 25.
He will speak Nov. 17 at the fall luncheon of the NMSU Library's Rio Grande Historical Collections' friends group. For reservations, call Patricia McCann at (505) 646-1551.
Memories of Cibola is published by the University of New Mexico
Press, (800) 249-7737 or (505) 277-4810. The book sells for $16.95.
Rita A. Popp, '93
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