Review: How Chile Came to New Mexico, Bilingual Book by Rudolfo Anaya, Nasario Garcia, Nicolas Otero

by DerdriuMarriner

Chile peppers add bright colors and spicy tastes. Their Latin American uses come before Spanish settlements. Their popularity is explained in “How Chile Came to New Mexico.”

Many cuisines and cultures appreciate chile peppers (Capsicum spp). The members of the nightshade family Solanaceae are claimed as critical culinary ingredients in:
• Africa;
• Asia;
• Australia;
• Europe.

But they claim as native homelands the Americas. The Mesoamerican region of the Americas indeed gets identified as the source of many faunal and floral wonders in the western hemisphere. It includes the modern-day countries of:
• Belize;
• Costa Rica;
• El Salvador;
• Guatemala;
• Honduras;
• Mexico;
• Nicaragua.

Its history involves impacts from North America’s Aztec peoples and Central America’s Maya populations. It indeed is the Aztec civilization of central and northern Mexico which shares plot-space with the southwestern United States of America’s ancient Pueblo culture in “How Chile Came to New Mexico.”




The spiciness of chile peppers (Capsicum) is attributed to their active component, capsaicin, and related capsaicinoids:

Chile peppers produce capsaicinoids as secondary metabolites (organic compounds not involved in growth, development, etc.), probably as deterrent against certain mammals and fungi.
the look of capsaicin in 3D
the look of capsaicin in 3D


Botanists characterize chile peppers -- which also are spelled chili peppers and chilli peppers -- as the fruits of edible plants in the genus Capsicum and the nightshade family Solanaceae. They consider the edibles’ spiciness as deriving from the presence of the active component capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and related capsaicinoids. They describe the hot-tasting foodstuffs as longstanding components of ancient diets in what now is Latin America. Archaeologists indeed find evidence of chile peppers going back to no later than 7500 B.C. They hypothesize the herbaceous plant’s domestication by human cultivators as occurring no later than 4000 B.C. They link the first harvests of the deliberately tamed and trained crop with the Mexican regions of:

  • Oaxaca;
  • Puebla;
  • Veracruz.


Chile peppers enjoy an ancient botanical history, prior to appearance in New Mexico, as colorful as their indubitably revitalizing tastes:

Landscape of the xeric Tehuacán Valley matorral ecoregion in Puebla state, one of Mexican regions credited with chile peppers as domesticated crop.
Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, near San Antonio Texcala, Puebla state, Central México
Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, near San Antonio Texcala, Puebla state, Central México


In one of the Rio Grande’s Pueblo villages, Young Eagle’s family gets together with Sage’s. Sage’s father has ongoing complaints about tasteless corns and meats. He is convinced that chile fruits will improve flavor. He judges that meal-time enjoyment is so important as to warrant marrying his daughter to whomsoever brings chile seeds from the south-dwelling Aztec peoples. Sage knows that Young Eagle will try his best to meet the challenge. She lets him go after giving as talisman a turquoise necklace. The good-luck charm and an Aztec-linked giant eagle make Young Eagle invulnerable to:

  • Boulders;
  • Rivers;
  • Vultures.

Young Eagle obtains a sack full of chile seeds from one of the Valley of the Aztec’s clan chiefs.


In "How Chile Came to New Mexico," Sage's gift of a turquoise necklace serves successfully as good luck charm for Young Eagle in his quest for chile pepper seeds:

Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) turquoise and argillite (orange) inlay pieces, circa 1020-1140 CE.
Pueblo Alto, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, northwest New Mexico
Pueblo Alto, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, northwest New Mexico



Appreciation and respect for the multi-cultural, multi-lingual landscapes which define distinct regions within the southwestern United States of America inspire LDP Press to:

  • Publish since 1984;
  • Structure the Rio Grande Books imprint into recent releases since 2006.

The list of publications for 2014 mentions How Chile Came to New Mexico as one of the issues from the winter months. The tale offers imaginative explanations for the spread of chile peppers from suspected origins in central Mexico to xeriscaped fields surrounding the Southwest’s Pueblo villages. It thereby provides cultural enrichment and educational entertainment to all ages through the expertise of:

  • Rudolfo Anaya, as author;
  • Nasario García, as interpreter into Spanish;
  • Nicolás Otero, as painter in the santero tradition.  


How Chile Came to New Mexico by Rudolfo Anaya ~ illustrated by Nicolas Otero

An exciting tale of how New Mexico's premier crop came to the Land of Enchantment.
Rudolfo Anaya stories



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.


"How Chile Came to New Mexico" is set in the enchanting landscape of a Rio Grande Pueblo community:

Rio Grande crosses Colorado-New Mexico border to flow through central New Mexico and hug west Texas-northeastern Mexico border before emptying into Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, at southernmost tip of Texas.
Route 64 Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos, north central New Mexico
Route 64 Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos, north central New Mexico

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 2014. How Chile Came to New Mexico. Illustrated by Nicolás Otero. Translated into Spanish by Nasario García. Los Ranchos de ABQ, NM: Rio Grande Books.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Photo puzzle of Chile ristra hanging in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico: photo by Michael DeFreitas

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
Photo Jigsaw Puzzle - Robert Harding

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Asterisk Logo: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Asterisk Logo
Ad AllPosters

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: 12/24/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 12/29/2014

Mira, Unfortunately, children's books can, indeed, be pricey! Thus far, "How Chile Came to New Mexico" is not included in the local public library system, which carries very few of Rudolfo Anaya's writings. I am fortunate to have been gifted with a copy of this recent (2014) story by one of New Mexico's most famous storytellers. I hope that you are able to locate a less expensive copy, if you are interested in the book, because it is well done.

Mira on 12/25/2014

Unfortunately this book is very expensive at $22.46. Did you find it at a library?

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