Sabino's Map, quite simply, is the best history yet made of a northern New Mexico community. It is thorough, balanced, gracefully written, and blessed with an insider's access and affection. -- William de Buys, Author, River of Traps
This most enthralling book, Sabino's Map by Don J. Usner, traces the history of a northern New Mexico village and captures the life of its residents across three centuries. Small, overshadowed by nearby Santa Fe, and limited by the terrain of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Chimayo is nonetheless located near Tsi Mayoh (Tewa for the Hill of the East), one of the four sacred Pueblo hills, and is the site of a famous santuario (shrine) of the Black Christ of Esquipulas, which has attracted worshipers from a wide area for over a century. Chimayo is known for its master weavers, its lush orchards, and its fiery chilis. . . Chapter 6, titled "A Plaza of Primos (A Town of Cousins)," in which Usner weaves the threads of family relations, begins the richer anthropological half of the book. The role of elders, the relationship between men and women, the haves and haves-less, political ties, formal and informal Catholic religious traditions and associations, the Presbyterian mission efforts and schools, social events, home gardens, and the economic activities of the twentieth century -- all receive insightful narrative attention gleaned from hundred of hours of interviews by the author. A descendent of settlers in Chimayo and actually residing in an ancestral home, Usner, a cultural geographer, treats his subjects reverently and at times poetically but realistically. The book is written in easy, engaging prose, which, along with the numerous photographs, makes the reader feel he or she has lived there for a lifetime. -- Gilberto M. Hinojosa, The Journal of American History, December 1996
Using both historical data and ethnographic material, Usner has done an excellent study of the small northern New Mexican community of Chimayo, focusing on the Plaza del Cerro. The title of the book refers to a map of the plaza made by one of the residents and kept by his widow. The map shows where all the families lived in the plaza and is a valuable research tool because it enabled elderly informants to remember past events. In a chapter devoted to the religious beliefs of the Chimayosos, Usner states, "The older people in Chimayo still share an ethic in which attention to matters of the spirit is as essential to survival as providing the basic necessities of food and shelter." This simple quote clearly defines the devotion of these people and the importance of religion in their lives. A chapter on growing food is important because it reveals how deeply the people of Chimayo are tied to the land, if not economically at least spiritually. Illustrations and photographs of the past and present are helpful and appropriate. The few color plates show how really beautiful the land is. -- R.S. Guerra, Choice, May 19965002
From the Publisher
Sabino's Map: Life in Chimay's Old Plaza recounts and celebrates the history of the Plaza del Cerro, the only fully intact colonial plaza remaining in New Mexico. With its lively oral histories and rare historical photographs, Sabino's Map is the first in-depth look at perhaps the best known Hispanic village in the American Southwest. Sabino's Map provides a thorough cultural history of Chimay, from prehistoric settlements to the current struggles of an isolated community in a modern and changing world. Through historical photographs, collections of documents preserved by author's family, and from the words and memories of the people who live there, Usner evokes a poignant sense of the colorful people who remember and continue to make the history of the Plaza del Cerro.