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Sabino's Map: Life in Chimayó's Old Plaza Paperback – July 1, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press (July 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0890132909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0890132906
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,594,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Before reading Sabino's Map: Life in Chimayo's Old Plaza (1995), one should first read Benigna's Chimayo: Cuentos From The Old Plaza (2001), both by Don J Usner. Reading the newer book first will allow for a better understanding and appreciation of the older book.
Don is an extraordinary writer who is an 8th generation Chimayoso, even though he was not actually raised full time in Chimayo. He brings to his writing a humanity informed and formed through family, place and the cuentos of his grandmother, Benigna, and others.
This story of the Chimayo Plaza, the oldest Hispanic plaza in the U.S., is the story of Sabino's Map and about the houses and families of the Plaza noted on that map. It is the story of their histories, religions, natural history and the cultural/social history of northern New Mexico over 300 plus years.
The writer is connected in many ways to his topics in these two books and those connections come through loud and clear by way of excellent writing, which is not very common, and careful scholarship. Don has objectivity with both passion for the subjects and compassion for the people, many to whom he is related, sometimes through more than one branch of the family.
In the end one has the cuentos of Benigna, the history of the Plaza, the smells of the chiles and old plaza rooms, the feel of the weavings and the living and loving histories of families.
Did I like these books and will I purchase other books by Don J Usner? You bet.
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Format: Hardcover
Don J. Usner's love of Chimayo and it's history comes through loud and clear in this book. Through interviews, historical documents preserved by families of Chimayo, stories of residents, and pictures Don Usner is able to tell the history of this interesting plaza.
I feel that the stories and information in this book serve as an example of each plaza in New Mexico. I believe that many of the plazas and towns are similar to Chimayo. The difference is that Chimayo has preserved it's history through being off the beaten path and not much of a tourist attraction (except for those who are interested in history!)
I was able to hear Mr. Usner talk to a group of teachers about the writing of this book and his other book. He has gone through a lot of trails to publish this book and preserve the history of Chimayo. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Usner.
I would buy more books by this author. He able to take a subject that many authors would make dry and uninteresting and make it come alive. Very good.
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Format: Hardcover
Early Hispanic settlers in northern New Mexico tended to gather in small plazas, consisting of a cluster of adobe houses and stores, arranged in a rectangle and facing inwards, with the outer walls serving as a defensive barrier to marauding Indians. The Plaza del Cerro in Chimayó, New Mexico was the longest-surviving such plaza, lasting into the 1970s. (It now is largely abandoned and succumbing to nature.) On his mother's side, eight generations of author Don Usner's family lived and died in the Plaza del Cerro, and his mother became the recipient of a trove of papers relating to the community and dating back to the early 1700s. As a boy, Usner himself spent much of his summers on the Plaza with his grandparents.

SABINO'S MAP is a unique commemoration of the community of Plaza del Cerro. "Sabino" was Sabino Trujillo, who in the 1950s drew a map of the plaza as it existed when he was a boy in the early 20th century. When Usner began interviewing the elderly residents of the plaza about their lives, Sabino's widow Amada gave Usner a copy of her husband's map and it became both a real and symbolic window on a bygone world. While the book is focused on the small community of Plaza del Cerro, it also provides documentation of a style of life among the Nortenos of New Mexico that prevailed with few changes over three centuries.

SABINO'S MAP is an exercise in "cultural geography". It begins with the geography and history of the area, before turning to the various aspects of community life there in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I learned a great deal from what appears to be a very well researched subject: Chimayo, New Mexico. Nicely portrayed and written.
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