SANTA FE, N.M. — Novelist Sandra Ramos O’Briant, in an article posted on the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices section, weighs in on growing up in Santa Fe “50/50” – Anglo and Hispanic.
She’s the author of “The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood,” which won International Latino Book Awards for Best Historical Fiction and Best First Book in 2013. The book is about New Mexico sisters caught up in the Mexican-American war.
Her piece in the Huffington Post, part of a “tag” blog about diversity in literature by a series of writers, is headlined “Bullied: Diversity, Differentiation, Distinction.”
“In Santa Fe, New Mexico, I attended barrio schools and was bullied for my O’Briant surname. My classmates refused to believe my mom was Latina. Being a 50/50 was not easy. Diversity is a term I embrace, and not just ethnically. I hate being stereotyped and having my choices restricted, not only in my life, but in the lives I create for my characters.
“Most of my characters have been set apart from others in some way. A bullied child is an isolated child, and reading was my escape … . What I learned is that there is more that humans have in common with one another than what racially, ethnically or culturally separates us. The kids who bullied me acted out of ignorance that had been passed down for generations. I was lonely, but gained strength from my isolation; I learned to make my own path.”
O’Briant, born in 1949, then introduces her novel and continues:
“That’s the long way of saying that I began my historical research to answer the burning question that had so cruelly affected my youth: Why did the Latino kids in Santa Fe hate Anglos, especially Texans?
“Answering this question led to an examination of war, class, education, the role of women, religion and superstition during the Mexican-American War. Santa Fe, N.M., an area now known as an artistic and tourist mecca, was the first foreign capital conquered by the U.S. It had a profound impact on the people there.”
In the book, one sister is a Mexican peasant and two others can trace their heritage back to Spain. One runs off with a Texan and experiences racism while living with his family. Another dresses like a man and works with horses. “All of these family attributes set them apart from the people (la gente) in their community and make them targets when the war wreaks havoc and loss,” O’Briant writes.
In answering how her literary work is different, O’Briant adds:
“Short answer: There are no historical novels dealing with the Mexican-American War from a female perspective (of which I am aware). This is not a good thing. My agent got favorable responses from editors at several big publishing houses. They actually read the book and took the time to dictate letters saying they enjoyed it. The catch? Marketing. Historical fiction readers like French and English stories about royalty or the mistresses of royalty. Last on the list are American historical books. The Civil War and the American Revolution are first in line. There are exceptions, of course, but Mexicans? Puhleese … .”
Not just chile any more
U.S. News and World Report recently listed Santa Fe as one of “eight underrated beer cities” around the world:
“Often lumped together with Albuquerque’s craft beer scene, Santa Fe is actually home to New Mexico’s oldest microbrewery, the Santa Fe Brewing Company. Stop by the brewery for a tour or tasting and sample the award-winning Chicken Killer Barley Wine, which is best known for its intense flavors (this beer is brewed with twice as many ingredients as the company’s other varieties) and high alcohol content (10 percent). Meanwhile, the smaller – but no less impressive – Blue Corn Brewery offers a selection of six house beers and a rotating selection of four specialty beers.”
And they apparently didn’t even make it out to Duel Brewery or the Second Street pubs.