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Guided tour: A fictional small town is a colorful microcosm of life in northern NM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — To write about a day in the life of a small, insular, fictional northern New Mexico village, you have to spend more than 24 hours in a real one.

Stanley Crawford used his decades of experience living in Dixon, a small northern New Mexico community, to write his witty, perceptive book “Village: a novel.”

“Village” is set in the fictional San Marcos. The season is spring, and the time is the late 1990s.

The novel examines the village’s rocky dynamics by profiling some of the quirky, irascible, grumpy, discontented residents, most of them Hispanic, a few of them Anglo. Crawford’s pen leaves none unscathed.

Stanley Crawford

You’ve got, for example, Onésimo and Isabel Moro, owners of Moro Mercantile. Onésimo would rather shoppers not buy, let alone touch, the goods. Sure, they can buy his gas. Meanwhile, vigilant Isabel spies on customers from upstairs peepholes.

There’s a hippie family – absent-minded toymaker Porter Clapp and his partner, Stephanie Wachler – who just quit a steady job to spend more time at home.

Their kids, Krishna and Athena, go to school. That morning, Crawford writes, the two nagged their mother “again about having named them for dead gods who didn’t even speak English.”

There’s Mr. Morales, the postmaster who regularly opens other people’s mail; he even opens – and watches at home – a porn video mailed to a neighbor’s teenage son. Then he repackages it.

Also, Morales avoids running up a tattered American flag at the post office. He prefers to fly the crisp flags of Mexico or Spain, because they proudly remind him of New Mexico before 1848.

Or consider the Spanish teacher who admonishes her charges for San Marcos’ pronunciation and word choices, like el dompe for the dump and trocka for truck, instead of Castilian Spanish.

And there’s Lázaro Quintana, the mayordomo of the irrigation ditch that runs through the village. He’s operated the Acequia de los Hermanos for 57 years, and residents think of it as Lázaro’s ditch. Quintana marks his personal history by his many surgeries.

The acequia’s water is an important player in the novel. In an early chapter, Clapp reads an announcement on a pole inviting villagers to a meeting called by the state Water Office that evening in the school gym about “the establishment of water rights.”

The notice instills fear in the villagers. They think that whatever rights to acequia water they have will be lost in a decision by a bureaucrat in Santa Fe, forcing San Marcos to dry up.

Martin Caudell, a young feckless Water Office lawyer, faces community suspicion and antagonism even before he tries to run the meeting.

Crawford sometimes drops into a stream-of-consciousness writing style that’s usually easy to follow.

Crawford wrote the novel “The Canyon” and two memoirs, “Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico” and “A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small Farm in New Mexico.”

Stanley Crawford discusses and signs copies of “Village: a novel” at 3 today at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW.

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