Childrens Book Review of The Santero's Miracle: A Bilingual Story by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

America’s Spanish-speakers esteem Church carvings as father-to-son endeavors. The carvers have set deadlines. Even snowbound, they must come through in “The Santero’s Miracle.”

The Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas and Europe are home to cultures which prioritize:
• Liberality with friends;
• Love toward family;
• Loyalty for ancestors.

This deep truth likewise describes the Spanish-speaking homelands within the United States of America’s possessions, states and territories. The multi-cultural, multi-lingual culture of New Mexico therefore displays longstanding immersions in Spanish-speaking lifestyles. The Hispanicization does not falter before, during or subsequent to the process of New Mexico becoming on January 6, 1912 the forty-seventh state in the United States. This Spanish continuum explains the accuracy and appeal of the communal, familial, generational, neighborly, and peer interactions in the holiday season book, “The Santero’s Miracle: A Bilingual Story” (El Milagro del Santero: Un Cuento Bilingüe).

San Isidro, beloved as patron saint of farmers, symbolizes the dignity of work and the holiness which is attainable through ordinary lives.

"San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Farmer)": 1866 oil on canvas by Joaquin Castañon
San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas Triangle, south central Texas
San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas Triangle, south central Texas

 

Ten-year-old Andrés assists his grandfather, don Jacobo, in carving San Isidro, patron saint of farmers, during the Christmas holidays. A little angel and two oxen await the application to the aspen-carved, gesso-coated San Isidro icon of:

  • Black to boots, eyes, hair;
  • Blue jacket;
  • Grey to pants, wide-brimmed hat.

Andrés considers adventurous:

  • Breakfasting on doña Sofia’s fried bacon, potatoes, tortillas;
  • Feeding the family’s black, rabbit-chasing, shaggy dog Zorro (“Fox”);
  • Gathering eggs;
  • Milking cows;
  • Road-sledding through aspen-, cedar-, pine-forested valleys in northern New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo (“Christ’s Blood”) Mountains.
  • Shoveling footpaths through two feet (0.61 meters) of snow.

Don Jacobo deplores unplowed snowfalls keeping:

  • Ambulances from emergencies;
  • Relatives in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Taos from village reunions.

 

The practice of creating santo images (religious-themed images, such as angels, Our Lady Mary, saints), originating in Spain, spread to the New World; it is preserved as folk art in New Mexico.

One of New World's foremost santeros (wood carver of santo images): Patrociño Barela (ca. 1900 - July 2, 1964), self-taught and illiterate, with his carvings and one of his children
Works Progress Administration
Works Progress Administration

 

Don Jacobo asks for San Isidro’s intervention. He awakens to cleared roads. Don Leopoldo’s wife calls the ambulance which transports weak-hearted don Leo within the hour. Andrés, don Jacobo, and doña Sofia clear the muddy tracks left on the porch by the snow-logged feet of:

  • The angel;
  • San Isidro;
  • Two oxen.

Luis, don Jacobo’s only child, drives in from Los Alamos with his daughter Veronica and wife. In the event of sequels, readers therefore imagine Don Leo’s recovering and welcoming gifts of doña Sofia’s posole (corn and meat stew). But will Andrés finish school and college to train as an engineer like his father or as a santero like his grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather.

 

posole in clay bowl: hearty, pre-Columbian traditional stew is welcome comfort food.

Cuernavaca, Morelos state, south central Mexico
Cuernavaca, Morelos state, south central Mexico

Conclusion

 

The beginning of Dr. Anaya’s Christmas story describes Don Jacobo sharing his dream about the angel, San Isidro, and two oxen statues plowing fields in December, not April. It foreshadows happy endings. The Santero’s Miracle indeed offers many opportunities for:

  • Analyzing cultural contexts;
  • Applying literary criticism;
  • Assimilating Spanish phrases.

The “must-own” miracle story’s pervasive elegance is due to the collaboration of:

  • Rudolfo Anaya, in fact- and fiction-writing and in Chicano, English, Hispanic, and Spanish literatures;
  • Amy Córdova, in book illustration and fine arts;
  • Enrique Lamadrid, in folklore, history, translation;
  • Melissa Tandysh, in composition and design;
  • Tien Wah Press of Singapore, in binding and printing;
  • University of New Mexico Press, in publishing.

It welcomes:

  • Ages 6+;
  • First-grade onward.

 

In "The Santero's Miracle," 10-year-old Andrés enjoys road-sledding through forested valleys of Sangre de Cristo Mountains:

Sangre de Cristo Mountains, behind Santa Fe, during a winter sunset after a downfall of snow
Santa Fe, north central New Mexico
Santa Fe, north central New Mexico

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

In "The Santero's Miracle," Andrés' father, don Jacobo, worries that heavy, unplowed snowfalls will deter family reunions with relatives in Taos ("place of red willows").

"Near Taos, Rio Grande": 1997 oil on masonite by O. Gail Poole (1935-2013)
O. Gail Poole Collection
O. Gail Poole Collection

Sources Consulted

 

Anaya, Rudolfo. 2004. The Santero's Miracle: A Bilingual Story. Illustrations by Amy Cordova. Spanish Translation by Enrique Lamadrid. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

Gonzales, Edward. Patrocino Barela Sculpture Gallery. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://patrocinobarela.com/index.html

Gonzales, Edward; and Witt, David L. 1996. Spirit Ascendant: The Art and Life of Patrociño Barela. Santa Fe, NM: Red Crane Books, Inc.

Gonzales, Edward; and Witt, David L. “Spirit Ascendant: The Art and Life of Patrociño Barela, an Appreciation of Barela. LaPlaza.org: Art. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.laplaza.org/art/barela/bio.html

“Harwood Museum of The University of New Mexico. LaPlaza.org: Art. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.laplaza.org/art/harwood/

“Hispanic.” The Harwood Museum of Art: Collections. Taos, New Mexico. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.harwoodmuseum.org/collections/hispanic

Loomis, Sylvia. 2 July 1964. “Oral History Interview with Patrocino Barela, 1964 July 2.” Smithsonian Archives of American Art: Research Collections > Oral History Interviews – B. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-patrocino-barela-5438

Mares, E.A. 2010. Astonishing Light: Conversations I Never Had with Patrociño Barela. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

Mares, E.A. . "astonishing light: Conversations I Never Had with Patrociño Barela." Tony's Cantina.com. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.tonyscantina.com/astonishing_light__conversations_i_never_had_with_patroci_o_barela_112805.htm

"El Milagro del Santero." NMSU College of Extended Learning. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://santeros.nmsu.edu/about/index-sp.html

"Patrocino Barela." Owings Gallery. Santa Fe, New Mexico. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.owingsgallery.com/artists/patrocino-barela/

“Patrocino Barela (American). Artnet.com: Artists. New York, NY: Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/patrocino-barela/past-auction-results

“Patrociño Barela, Carver: Recounting the Life of Taos Woodcarver, Patrociño Barela.” The Collectors Guide. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Retrieved December 3, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa046.shtml

 

 

In "The Santero's Miracle," Andrés' father, don Jacobo, worries about snowfall as hardship, foiling visits from relatives in Los Alamos.

Los Alamos (Spanish: Los Álamos, "the cottonwoods"), north central New Mexico
Los Alamos (Spanish: Los Álamos, "the cottonwoods"), north central New Mexico
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

The Santero's Miracle: A Bilingual Story by Rudolfo Anaya ~ illustrations by Amy Córdova ~ translation by Enrique R. Lamadrid ~

In this bilingual story of faith, Don Jacobo has a dream that, in the end, is a reminder that miracles do happen.
Rudolfo Anaya stories

Big Miracle: long-sleeve navy t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Long Sleeve: Big Miracle - Logo
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 12/06/2014

Mira, It's a combination of acquaintances, bookstores, internet, libraries, and studies. For example, my graduate program related to wherever Portuguese and Spanish are (and have been) spoken. So part of the curriculum included Professor Anaya's writings, with which I've kept current ever since.
It's disappointing to hear about the smallness of the library. But perhaps someone far-sighted, influential, and wealthy will make a donation to Romania's library system: it's the season of miracles ;-].

Mira on 12/05/2014

But where do you find these books? At the local library? I wish our libraries here had more books. When you go to the central branch of the municipal library and all you have for books to borrow are two very small rooms . . . you begin to wonder what century you're living in.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/05/2014

Mira, For me, I appreciate the clear, current information which a top-quality children's book -- such as Professor Anaya's story in this case -- can give me on a topic of interest when I'm feeling underinformed and overwhelmed. My preference for information-gathering -- in non-children's book formats -- is a book with illustrations and text which take up no more than 150 - 175 pages. But that's not always what I find!

Mira on 12/05/2014

Yes, I love these. I am reading the one about posadas right now. I love cultures in the Spanish-speaking world. I find them fascinating and I only wish I had more time to read for pleasure.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/04/2014

Mira, Yes, I do speak Spanish, with a North Mexican, a North Spain, or a Uruguay accent, depending upon whom I'm with.
Do you like seeing reviews of publications in or about Spanish? I'll be doing some more, and I hope that you're among the audience.

Mira on 12/04/2014

I learned a few things. I didn't klnow "zorro" meant fox in Spanish, for instance. Do you speak Spanish yourself?

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