Saturday, October 17, 2015

DNA Test Results - I Am Excited!

I'm not sure why it took me so long to get my DNA test. Probably because my brother, Phillip got his done about 3 years ago and I didn't understand the results. I wasn't prepared to learn the difference in an autosomal DNA test, X-DNA test, Y-DNA test and mtDNA test or learning what my personal Haplotype is. I looked at the info and decided it was way over my head. So did three years of research on my ancestry and now they are now able to provide information on my mother and father for the same price that my brother paid for just our father. I find them to be equally important so I am glad I waited.

Since I created my family tree on I had my DNA test done by them so I can easily find others in my family tree. I sent my saliva sample to these lovely folks and bingo they created a colorful pie chart, map and graph that made me very happy, proving once again that I am an artist unwilling to compute numbers and figures but I get all giddy about colorful pie charts and maps that only sort of make sense because it is as it states, a very colorful ethnicity estimate. I have the raw data files that I will attempt to figure out later. I just recently found out that forty-six chromosomes make up our DNA. 23 from our father and 23 from our mother. So here is my pretty little DNA Pie Chart.

As the pie chart above shows, I have 45% Iberian Peninsula and 26% Native American ethnicity. That is the easy part because the rest of the pie chart doesn't make sense unless you refer to a written description on and the map below. Obviously the Iberian Peninsula is the darkest blue area which includes Spain and Portugal but the paper work says because of migration, or as I would call it hanky panky with the neighbors, it also includes Sisily, Italy, France, Morocco and Algeria. And then the large light blue circle that encompasses 10 other regions including more of Italy and France and then there is Switzerland, Germany, England and a tiny bit of Ireland. And last but not least the 5% Middle Eastern from Morocco and Tunisia. Which makes perfect sense when you consider that from the 8th to the 15th centuries, parts of the Iberian peninsula were ruled by the Moors who crossed over at the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain. The Strait of Gibraltar is only 9 miles across.

The graph above compares my ethnicity to the average person that lives in Spain today. I have 45% Iberian Peninsula DNA compared to their 51%. The people living in the Iberian Peninsula region are fairly admixed, which means that when creating genetic ethnicity estimates for people native to this area, there are similarities to DNA profiles from other nearby regions.

My DNA didn't change, but science does.

This is an updated calculated in Aug 2019.

My cousin, Davy Delgado tells me that some of that 26% Native American is very likely from my Castillo-Padilla branch of the family tree. Davy and I share a great-grand parents, Jose Delores Padilla and Marcelina Castillo. He tells me that the Castillo-Padillas were Comancheros before and after the Bosque Redondo era. I am going to take his word for it because he is the New Mexican historian extraordinaire. He lives and breaths our family history.

Early on in my ancestry journey, I met a cousin, Eric Castillo who lives in Pueblo of Isleta is nestled in the scenic Rio Grande Valley, 15 miles south of Albuquerque. It is one of the larger 19 Pueblos within New Mexico and was established in the 1300s. Isleta Pueblo covers an area of more than 329 square miles, surrounded by the Manzano Mountains to the east and to the desert mesa lands of the Rio Puerco on the west. The name Isleta in Spanish means "Little Island."

With that being said, I might possibly be part Navajo and Mescalero Apache and maybe even Hopi. As the story goes, from 1863-1868 the U.S. Army forcibly moved the the Navajo tribe from their traditional homelands in Arizona to The Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation in Ft Sumner. It was a tragic period of U.S. history. It is as difficult for me do research on this era of my history as it is to do research on Cortes conquering Mexico and the Spanish Inquisition. It seems that I always end up on my couch at 2:00 in the morning, with tears welling up in my eyes as I read about people being wrongly uprooted from their homes.

The Navajos were starved into submission and also forced to march hundreds of miles to the Bosque Redondo Reservation. They call this journey "The Long Walk." Some 53 different forced marches occurred between August 1864 and the end of 1866. Four different routes were used, based on the weather, water and rations available along the way. The Spanish Mission of San Agustin de la Isleta was built in the pueblo around 1629 or 1630 by the Spanish Franciscan friar Juan de Salas. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, many of the pueblo people fled to Hopi settlements in Arizona while others followed the Spanish retreat south to El Paso del Norte, present-day El Paso. After the rebellion, the Isleta people returned to the Pueblo, many with Hopi spouses.

So much for the history lesson of injustice. That lesson seems to repeat itself and it is something I would like to see healed amongst the human species. I really would like to see the day when we all realize that there is more than enough for everyone if there wasn't such greed amongst some.

Back to the DNA information. I also learned that sibling's DNA vary slightly. My brother Phillip and I had already sort of figured that out as it has always felt like maybe our siblings Gilbert and Nita got the Fajardo Catholic gene and Phillip and I got the mystic Jewish gene. Memories are carried in our genes. It is a proven fact and you can read about that  here.

Scientists have found that memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA

Your DNA contains a record of your ancestors, but you aren’t a carbon copy of any one of them. The particular mix of DNA you inherit is unique to you. You receive 50% of your DNA from each of your parents, however you may receive different segments of DNA than your siblings. 

Here is a chart that shows the possible variations in a family.
This is not my family, just a sample.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

La Malinche - Caught Between Two Cultures

Since my last entry I have been studying the life and times of Hernando (Hernan) Cortés, born in Castile, Spain in 1485. According to, I am a descendant of Cortés and I have found that most branches of my family tree overlap over a 500 year period so there is more to this story. When you consider the average person has 4,096 10th great-grandparents and it has been said that Cortes has at the very least a half a million descendants because several women had his children, I have my work cut out for me. It has taken me over 4 months to finally sit down and put all of my research of the Spanish conquistadors arriving in Mexico into words. Reading about it in history is one thing however, it is difficult to fathom the DNA that circulates in my blood. Imagine, if you will, the Spaniards befriending the Aztecs, impregnating their women, creating a whole new breed of Meztizos and then killing Emperor Montezuma in their continued effort to gain wealth and land. It's is a little overwhelming but then I realized there was more to the story... the Aztecs weren't exactly angels either.

Hernan Cortés

Hernan Cortés as he appeared in his shining armor

Cortés arrived in Mexico on November 8, 1519. November 8 just happens to be my brother Phillip's birthday. He arrived with an entourage of about 400 men. They were light skinned and wore beautiful shining armor. They brought horses and wine, both unknown to this part of the world. Cocoa was the drink of choice in for the nobles of Mexico. I've had vivid dreams about riding on a horse wearing armor and drinking wine from a metal chalice, never knowing what those dreams meant but I will save that story for another blog. Their arrival coincided with an Aztec prophecy of a white-skinned God arriving from the east. This would explain why the ruler, Moctezuma II (also known as Montezuma II) greeted Cortés with lavish gifts allowing him to stay at the Aztec palace in the capital of Tenochitilán.

On November 8, 1519, Hernando Cortés was received
by Moctezuma II in the city of Tenochtitlán. 

On my journey through the past, one of my main objectives is to bring to life the strong, intelligent women in history from a woman's perspective. Most recently I found an extraordinary Aztec woman, Malinali, known today as La Malinche. Her claim to fame is that of being Hernan Cortes's beautiful and reputedly treacherous Indian translator and mistress. He gave her the name Doña Marina when she was baptized a Catholic. Her story starts out with a boom! Her given name, Malinalli, signified her birth date on the Aztec calendar, May 12, 1502. My birthday is May 12 which blows my mind because on this ancestral journey I have found that important dates have repeated time and time again over a 500 year time span. Key players in my ancestry seem to share both birthdays and death dates.

Statue of La Malinche
Coyoacán, Mexico
La Malinche Mural by Diego Rivera
La Malinche's parents were nobles, however, after beginning her life living a privileged childhood, tragically, her father died. Her mother then married her father's brother. They soon had a son and La Malinche was was claimed as dead, disinherited and sold into slavery. Talk about a Cinderella story!

When Cortés arrived in Mexico, La Malinche was one of twenty female slaves given to the Spaniards by a Mayan Lord along with other gifts of an Aztec calendar, gold, jewels, pelts and feathers.  At that time La Malinche was 16 and very capable of distinguishing herself with her beauty, grace and education. She immediately became Cortés' personal translator, negotiator and cultural mediator and then became his mistress. She gave birth to his first born son, Martin Cortés. La Malinche was in the forefront of written Mexican history. Cortés and La Malinche's son Martin was the first documented child of European and indigenous American ancestry, a Meztizo. Therefore La Malinche has been deemed the mother of the Mestizos, literally and metaphorically.

Monument of Cortes, La Malinche, and their son, Martin in Coyoacan

Needless to say, her story is intriguing and it is a perfect example of how history becomes distorted, depending on the story teller. For the most part of 500 years La Malinche has been condemned as traitor because she was was instrumental in the demise of the indigenous tribes of Mexico. Cortés stated in a letter: “After God, we owe this conquest of New Spain to Doña Marina.” She was perceived as a trader however, her actions saved thousands of lives from the brutal, blood-thirsty rulers by enabling Cortés to negotiate rather than slaughter while preventing human sacrifice and cannibalism. Coincidentally Cortés saved her from a life of slavery so in essence they really owed each other and built a sort of Romeo and Juliet bond on that connection. From my point of view, she was a fearlessly loyal heroine. But that is just me, a feminist, 500 years later. The disdain that's been felt towards La Malinche runs deep. There is a derogatory term for those who are attracted to foreigners, foreign values, thinking them superior or of better quality and worthy of imitation – "Malinchism" or "Malinchist." It even became a technical term, political, for everything that meant choosing foreign culture. Malinchistas were those who encouraged Mexico to open itself to the outside world. In a speech given in 1968 Mexican President Diaz Ordáz scolded the Mexicans saying “Our malinchismo is holding us back. We must get over it."  Needless to say racism isn't a new problem. It is built on the fear of what we do not understand about other cultures.

The Mexican artist Antonio Ruíz’s
Surrealist Painting “The Dream of Malinche,”

Malinche with Cortés: mural by Roberto Cueva del Río

Art Mimics Life

In Theatrical Productions -  La Malinche is sometimes portrayed as a victim of conquest, and sometimes the cause of her own destiny, but almost always, she is guilty. If she was indeed violated, it was because she didn't struggle enough. If she was a willing participant, she not only brought her own troubles, but she caused her child and all of her people to suffer.

In Art -  La Malinche is represents women's innate deception and guilt, using her beauty and sexuality to gain power and in so doing so, very much in need of punishment.

In Dance - The dichotomy persists. In "La Malinche," a ballet composed in 1949, she is at first an unwilling victim, then assumes the proud deportment of an aristocrat, and in the end, weighted down by the finery she wears. She then gives birth to the Mestizo child who then rejects her.

In Literature -  La Malinche has been compared to Eve, the temptress who through deception, leads men astray. Malinchismo represents one end of the spectrum of stereotypes of women while the Virgin of Guadalupe resides at the opposite end of the stereotypical spectrum. 

Painting of La Malinche and Hernando Cortés

See how much more interesting history lessons are when you have a woman injecting romance into the story? I'm not the only one. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chicana writers, artists, and activists began to examine the story of La Malinche. They discovered neither victim nor traitor but the strength of a survivor. This is a story I can relate to. La Malinche did not choose her destiny, but neither did she crumble in the face of adversity. I've explored her fate and her abilities to negotiate difficult cultural demands. Much more difficult than my own, yet helping me to understand the ongoing struggle for personal and world wide cultural power.

La Malinche learned to wear the finest clothes and jewels 

Hernan Cortes, La Malinche (Doña Marina)
and son Martin Cortés' home
57 Higuera St., Coyoacán, Mexico
Now owned by Guatemalan artists Rina Lazo Wasem
And her husband, Mexican artist Arturo García Bustos
Rina studied with Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo

.... And the plot thickens...... As the story goes Cortés, La Malinche and their son Martin lived in the house pictured above in Coyoacán, Mexico. La Malinche wore the finest clothes and jewels, living a storybook life for a time.... however.... Cortés had a wife in Cuba, Catalina Mercada Suarez who arrived in Mexico in 1522. She mysteriously died in this house. Some say Cortés had her killed for the love of La Malinche.

So there is your history lesson for the day. I am still scrambling through 500 years of ancestors who married into each others families over and over and over so I am not sure that the lineage below is absolutely correct. I am sure there will be corrections but it has been an interesting journey of discovery and there will be updates to follow. Moctezuma's daughter, Isabel, the last empress of Mexico, also had a daughter out of wedlock by Cortés. It is extremely difficult to characterize Cortés however, he gets points for leaving his many children well cared for in his will, along with every one of their mothers.

Click This Chart To Enlarge

When I started doing research on my ancestry, I seriously believed I would be able to become a member of for approximately 3 months, do some casual research and be done with it and be able to give everyone in my family a 10 page ancestry book for Christmas. I wasn't prepared to learn that about 10 generations ago my ancestors came from Spain and created a little havoc along the way making them very important characters in world history. I also didn't take into account that each of us has 4,096 10th great grandparents. So think about it, if only 96 of my 10th great-grandparents made it into the history books, that means I have 4,000 that were slackers!

Read this chart, it is mind blowing!
You have 1,048,576 18th great-grandparents!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Today I was saddened to hear of the passing of Wayne Dyer, author and speaker in the field of self-development. I was just one of millions. There was a time when I listened to his CDs and watched his videos so much that I jokingly called him my boyfriend. It seemed that every time I had a question, he magically appeared with the perfect message. Sometimes on facebook, an email, on a CD, video or a number of ways. This month, in celebration of his life, his Facebook Page has been offering his books and CDs at a very low price and today offered free podcasts. I turned on a podcast while doing some art earlier today. I had just been pondering my relationship with one of my children and of course there was Wayne with the answer. He had 8 children of his own so who would know better about individual relationships with offspring and how different each child is. As he said, children are born with their own personalities and lessons to learn. He quoted Kahlil Gibran from the poem "On Children"

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

Logically I know this to be true. Yet sometimes it's difficult to let go and allow your child to walk on their own path and learn their own lessons in the manner in which they have chosen. This is especially true if their road takes a turn away from the road you once walked together, onto a road that your perceive as more difficult than the one that you dreamed of for them. There is an instinctive attachment that a parent feels for their children, a bond like no other that makes it difficult to just let go and watch them walk away with the partner of their choice if your instinct tells you that their life could be easier if they were making different choices.

So what does one do. Deep down I know that there is power in partnership, this I know for a fact, not having a partner for some time. But not just any partner. "God Idea Partners"  There is a verse in the Bible that speaks of the company we keep:

Proverbs 13:20
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

My instincts tell me to let go, My parents continued to make important choices for me well after I was 18 and I believe my life would have been so much different if that had not been the case. I wanted to go to college at Highlands University in Las Vegas New Mexico. They went and got me and made me come to Austin to babysit for my sister's son. Because of that, I have always made a point to offer help to my children when asked yet allowed for mistakes, knowing that everything happens for a reason and IF you pay attention there is a lesson in everything.  It is possibly the hardest thing I have ever done, yet all the while my final prayer at night is for my children's well being and my first prayer in the morning is the same. Sometimes that is all you can do. God knows we are all a work in progress with no judgement so I am thinking the key is self forgiveness.

So here's to letting go and allowing out children to make their own choices and mistakes. I only wish that they knew that their crown has been paid for by all of their ancestors that cam before them and it is just a matter of putting it on and wearing it. Never let anyone put you down and when someone tells you who they are believe them. There is a place within you that is sacred. Go there. In your heart, you know what is best for you. Do it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Hero's Journey

On the endless journey of researching my heritage, I've lived vicariously through more than 500 years of my ancestor's experiences, hardships and victories. Every week I have found myself walking in someone's else's shoes, sometimes in a different country, a different century, some times as a woman, most times as a man. On this journey, I have come to know from the deepest part of my soul that we are all one. One world, one people under God. I know now more than ever that division comes only through those that are fearful and greedy, most often, using religion to divide and conquer.

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

A recent exciting discovery is that I am a descendant of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. He came to North America from Spain in the 1500's. Being raised as a Catholic, he lived in the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the third largest genocide in history when the Catholic Monarchy killed Jews and Moors to take over Spain in the name of Catholicism. When he came to the Americas, he met many Native American tribes befriended them and wrote a journal about them all. He realized that we are all one people under God. If he had been operating from a place of fear, he would have made the Native American's beliefs wrong. Instead he learned from them and taught them what he knew. He was seen as a Shaman and a healer because he brought with him his knowledge and used native plants to heal. He was a brave soul walking a hero's journey.

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca

On May 16, 1894 another descendant of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's was born in New Mexico. Her name was Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, my 1st cousin, 2 X removed. I believe that she followed as closely in Alvar's footsteps as anyone could have. After she earned a degree in Las Vegas NM, she became a school teacher and then spent a year studying in Spain and doing genealogical research. (A woman after my own heart!) She then returned to New Mexico and embarked on a thirty-year career as an extension agent, teaching the indigenous people in rural New Mexico (consisting of Native Americans, Hispanic and Anglo Americans) about preserving and canning food. She invented the u-shaped hard taco shell and introduced green chile to the Anglo communities. I can only imagine the fear that she encountered from the various tribes on the red dirt back roads of New Mexico. She was another brave soul walking a hero's journey.

That is just the story of two of my ancestors! Over the 500 year time span that I have studied most of my ancestors were of Spanish descent, they encountered many different cultures on their journeys. Every tribe, every denomination differed in their tradition, ritual, practice of faith and worship. Many were Converso Jews (Jews forced to convert to Catholicism by the Spanish Monarchy.) Some were Catholics who killed the Aztecs and married their wives in order to take over Mexico and then later there were some of Spanish descent who married those of French descent in New Mexico. And then of course my parents moved to Texas and I married and had children by a man who was of German and English descent. Through the years our customs and traditions have been meshed together like a beautiful woven tapestry. Throughout the centuries, I have encountered many ancestors who were such brave souls, willing to walk the hero's journey.

What I have deduced that it isn't which ritual or religion that you practice that matters. I believe that in prayer or meditation you become one with God and what you call it doesn't matter. Our souls are constructed of layers of consciousness carried in our DNA. We, individually and collectively are the result of the love of thousands. It's only out of ignorance that people make others wrong because they don't speak the same language, say the same prayer, have the same skin color or call God by the same name.

Because I spend my time doing research or creating art, I spend very little time watching TV. I have never been a big talk radio person and I completely stay away from websites that look like they are designed by amateurs. It seems that there are a lot of untruthful, hateful, fearful information being shared by those hoping to get the masses to buy into their fear. It saddens me to know that people buy into the fear at their own cost. There have always been those that teach of gloom and doom being caused by those in power. I understand that there are bad people in the world but I believe that to think about them constantly, is to give them power. I also believe that there is one God that created us all equally. A God that is the seed of everything that ever existed. I have chosen to believe that there is no division between all of us who inhabit this planet. I believe there are good and bad within each class, race, color and creed. There is good and bad within each of us.

Now more than ever, I am baffled at the arrogance that anyone in this day and age still believes that God only speaks their language or that their tradition of worship is the only path to heaven. Who is to say which language or conversation with God is the right one. I say that all conversations with God are the right one. If you believe your religion and your God is better than someone who is different from you, I would urge you to see the world as God sees it. Through God's eyes, not yours. There is one God, however, people around the world speak different languages. Their grandparents told they different fables. Be forgiving of others stories and beliefs. It is not for you to judge. I challenge you each of you to go beyond religion and live in prayer. Recognize the presence of God in every moment. See the world through the filter of God.

Here is a great song that I recorded last night that feels to me like walking the hero's journey.
Mystery Monday at El Mercado
"Walk A Mile In My Shoes"
Jimmy LaFave, Christine Albert, John Inmon, David Carroll and Bobby Kallus

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day and Happy 100th Birthday Daddy

It's been a crazy day... We have had a flood in Central Texas that is worse than the Memorial Day flood of 1981. Worse than any of us have ever seen. Memorial Day, is the holiday honoring American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. So I honor my father today. Tomorrow would have been his 100th birthday if he were still with us. Happy Birthday Daddy. I hope you are having a cold one with all your war buddies in heaven.

I was just told by a facebook friend today:

"Your dad's shoulder patch is the 2nd Infantry Division. This unit fought the entire war from North Africa in Nov. of 1942, to Sicily in July of '43, to Italy in Sept. of '43. They were withdrawn from Italy for the Normandy invasion, did that, and fought all the way to D-Day.

My Father, Felipe Montoya Fajardo
On the bottom row, center

I just remember him talking about being in the 2nd Infantry Division, the Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day in 1944. He also spoke about fighting until the end of the war, The Battle of the Bulge in 1945.

Felipe Montoya Fajardo
WWII 1945

Felipe Montoya Fajardo
WWII 1945

My dad Felipe Montoya Fajardo and his first cousin Jose Pilar Fajardo fought in The Battle of the Bulge, WWII, Normandy, France. They had WAY more than that in common. Their mother's were sisters.

Lucinda Labadie and younger sister Josefita Labadie married brothers. 
Lucinda was married to Victoriano Fajardo.
Josefita married Doroteo Chavez Fajardo.

My father's mother Josefita, died when he was only 3 years old, due to the 1918 Spanish Influenza so my dad, Felipe and his cousin, Jose grew up sort of as brothers. 
They also married sisters.
My dad married my mother Agueda and Jose married her younger sister Carolina. 
Complicated I know but I promise, when you sort it all out, there is no incest going on there.

Before they left for the war, my Uncle Jose married my mother's little sister, Carolina. As my mother told the story, when they returned from the war, Connie and Jose had a son, Benny. According to my mother, my dad was a "player." Here story used to change from she didn't like him or trust him to the very romantic story of him having a Model T car that he used to charge the girls a quarter for rides to and from the dances in Puerto de Luna from Santa Rosa. It was a 12 mile drive. My mother finally admitted that she wanted to deter his taxi service to the other young women so she would give him a dollar right up front at the beginning of the evening to "buy" his taxi services for the evening. Smart girl. Very shortly after they had returned from the war, my dad's step-mother became ill. His parents were living in Amarillo where his father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. He needed to go to Texas to see her, yet he didn't want to leave my mom behind because all the young men who had just returned from the war were looking to get married and settle down. He asked her to go with him to Amarillo and she declined because they weren't married and that wouldn't be proper so he asked her to marry him. They got married in the and he took her to Amarillo with him. The rest is history. I had always wondered why there were no wedding photos and I wondered why they never spoke much of their wedding. She told me this story shortly before she passed away.
Just this past year I discovered that my father's parents, Doroteo Fajardo and Josefita Labadie were married at the Nuestra Senora del Refugo Church, Puerto de Luna, NM on May 12, 1915 and my father was born on May 26, 1915. That was a very well kept secret until after both of my parents passed away. 

I can't sing praises enough for After studying my genealogy for a little while, I have noticed that important dates tend to repeat within the family. My brother and my grandpa Doroteo were born on the same day and my grandparents were married on my birthday. Over and above that, I have either reconnected with long lost cousins or I have meet ones that I never knew I had. It is a wonderful thing to feel so connected.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Who Invented The Taco Shell? Fabiola Cabeza de Baca

If you have followed my blog, you know that I have spent a lot of time researching my ancestry. One of the major objectives was to discover the strong, influential women in my Hispanic heritage because they seemed to be overlooked in the history books. 

I was trying to get this blog published yesterday, May 16th because it was the birthday of one of the most accomplished women of her generation in the Hispanic, New Mexican culture - The First Lady of New Mexico Cuisine - Fabiola Cabeza de Baca. Born in Las Vegas, New Mexico just 4 days after my birthdate, on May 16, 1894. 

Fabiola was immensely intelligent and curious. She was a teacher, nutritionist, organizer and an author. She is known for making tremendous advancements in food safety and most of her time was dedicated to helping people in New Mexico learn how to properly can, dry and preserve food with a decreased risk of food borne illnesses. She is also known for organizing markets where Native American women could sell their homemade goods for profit. Yet of ALL of her accomplishments, I would have to say that I am most impressed with the fact that she invented the u-shaped fried taco shell and she is reputed to have introduced New Mexico’s green chile into Anglo-American cooking. That is a HUGE claim to fame considering a hundred years later, my son is serving the u-shaped fried taco shell in his Mexican food restaurant Taco Circus located in St. Louis, MO.

Fabiola's parents were Graciano Cabeza de Baca and Indalecia Delgado. The Cabeza de Baca family ancestry is traced back to Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Baca, my 9th great-grandfather. He was a Spanish explorer, one of four survivors of the 1527 Narvaez Expedition. He became a trader and faith healer to various Native American tribes. After returning to Spain he wrote an account of his journey, La Relación ("The Account") which in later editions was retitled Naufragios ("Shipwrecks") He has been considered notable as a proto-anthropologist for his detailed accounts of the many tribes of Native Americans that he encountered. Fabiola went to Spain to study her genealogy and translated his journals from Spanish into English. There was a movie made about him in 1991. You can s the trailer here.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca - Spanish explorer
My 9th Great-Grandfather

Fabiola’s paternal great-grandfather, Don Luis Maria Cabeza de Baca held title to the Las Vegas Grandes land grant awarded him by the Mexican government in 1823. Her uncle Ezequial Cabeza de Baca was elected the first Lieutenant Governor for the State of New Mexico in 1912, and the second Governor of the state in 1917. I discovered Fabiola when I was researching my ancestry and found some of her research on our ancestor, Manuel Francisco Delgado, her 4th great grandfather. In the year 1790 he was the 1st Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico.

When Fabiola was four, her mother Indalecia Delgado Cabeza de Baca, died and left behind her husband and four children. Fabiola's father and paternal grandmother Estafana, raised Fabiola and her siblings. Fabiola's early life was spent on the family ranch near Las Vegas, NM. The Cabeza de Baca family belonged to a wealthy Spanish elite ranching family. Women did not perform manual labor, instead her grandmother Estefana spent her time doing charity work. Fabiola tells us in her memoir, "We Fed Them Cactus" (1954), she refused to take on her “proper” role as a Spanish lady. Her father allowed her to spend time with him the ranch, riding with the men and the tending of fields, orchards, and animals. She also accompanied her grandmother, a healer (curandera) on her herb-gathering expeditions and learned to become an accomplished storyteller. Fabiola also collected Hispano folklore and the history of her people that she worried was fast disappearing from the modern world.

Her family moved to Las Vegas after her mother’s death. She attended the Sisters of Loretto school, where she was expelled in her first year for slapping a nun. She then attended the New Mexico Normal College, (Now Highlands University) and in 1906 she spent a year in Madrid, Spain where she studied Spanish, art, literature, and history. (a woman after my own heart!) Fabiola receive an elementary school teaching certificate from New Mexico Normal, in 1912; a BA in pedagogy from New Mexico Normal College, in 1921; and a BS in home economics from New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, in 1927.

Built in 1873 the Loretto Chapel at the Loretto Academy
was where Fabiola went to school.
It was influenced by the French clergy
in Santa Fe, the Gothic Revival-style chapel
was patterned after King Louis IX's
Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
A striking contrast to the adobe churches already in the area.
The staircase in the Loretto Chapel
has two 360 degree turns
and no visible means of support
and was built without nails—only wooden pegs. 
Fabiola's life is a wonderment to me. She lived the life I dreamed of. I had always wished I had known my grandmother before she grew old and blind. I wished that I had grown up in a time when speaking my native tongue was not looked down upon. I dreamed of going to college at Highlands University after graduating high school and studying music. That almost happened! My senior year in high school I worked half day and went to school half day and after graduation I rented a little adobe house in New Mexico with plans of attending Highlands University. I had been playing guitar and I wanted to major in music. My parents had other plans. They went and fetched me and brought me to Austin where I was to babysit for my sister's then 2 year old son. It was 14 years before I made it back to college in Amarillo to acquire an art degree. Now, at the age of 60 my dream is to go to Spain and see all the castles and cathedrals that bear the Fajardo coat of arms, to discover my Spanish heritage. I still have high hopes that dream will come true.

In 1916, the year after my father was born in Santa Rosa, Fabiola was sixteen and took her first job as a school teacher in a one-room school in rural Guadalupe County six miles from the family ranch. Fabiola's father opposed her working but Fabiola insisted. The young teacher stayed with the families of her students because it was too far to travel back and forth each day. Teaching in the rural community was a challenge. Her students, in addition to being frequently absent, came from very mixed backgrounds. She recalled her students as “the children of homesteaders, children of Spanish extraction and children of Indian blood but of Spanish tongue.” As teachers do, even now in poor communities, Fabiola often used her own money to purchase school materials and she created her own bilingual curriculum. When teaching music she had the students teach each other their traditional songs such as Spanish folk songs and cowboy ballads.

In her book "We Fed Them Cactus," her description of her experience teaching in a rural schoolhouse reads like a laboratory for creating civic democracy: “I learned the customs, food habits, religions, languages, and folkways of different national groups. They were all simple, wholesome people living from the soil. . . . My education was from books; theirs came the hard way. It was superior to mine.”

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert in front of rural New Mexico schoolhouse
Fabiola continue teaching school for the next ten years although never again in such rural and poor circumstances. She taught in Santa Rosa and at a Spanish-language school. I sometimes wonder if she taught my mother and father in Santa Rosa. She began taking summer classes at New Mexico Normal and between school and work, managed to get her Bachelor's degree in 1921 with a major in Pedagogy and a minor in Romance languages. After graduation she spent a couple of years in Madrid, Spain researching her genealogy at the "El Centro de Estudios Historicos." (Center for Historical Studies) When she returned, she again resumed teaching home economics and became intrigued with this new field of study. Home Economics applied progressive goals of efficiency and science to the kitchen and family. She began taking classes at New Mexico Normal in foods, clothing and chemistry. In 1927, she moved to Las Cruces and attended New Mexico State University where she earned a degree in Home Economics from New Mexico State University in 1929.

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca

The Extension Service eagerly offered Fabiola a job after she obtained her degree and she began a thirty-year career as an extension agent. Her ethnicity and her reverence for the old ways lent to her success as an extension agent. Fabiola was the only extension agent in the state of New Mexico who spoke Spanish. Her job kept her on the road often from dawn until midnight. Rural areas were sparsely populated and many miles separated farms and homesteads.

In 1931 Fabiola eloped with Carlos Gilbert. She was thirty-five. Gilbert was a successful insurance agent and active member of the League for United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the most prominent Hispanic civil rights organization of the mid-twentieth century, founded in 1929. (The Carlos Gilbert Elementary School in Santa Fe is named after him.) Fabiola’s father disapproved of the marriage because Gilbert was divorced and he didn't like LULAC’s emphasis on Mexican American, rather than Spanish American identity. Fabiola was an officer in the organization, but as a woman, she could not hold a leadership position. She would be so proud of my friend Christine Albert who lived in Santa Fe when I lived in Santa Rosa during the early 70's. Christine is now the Chair of the GRAMMYS. It has been a slow uphill battle but both of these women have done more than their share to nudge our society into believing that women are true leaders of our communities.

Fabiola's sister, Guadalupe Cabeza de Baca Gallegos on the far left
and Fabiola third from right.
As an agricultural agent, Carlos taught farmers more efficient crop and livestock practices and extension agents like Fabiola, taught farmer’s wives lessons in nutrition, food preservation, food preparation, and home technology. She taught rural women vital skills such as gardening, fruit and vegetable preservation and basic home repairs. By introducing the local rural women to sewing machines, they were able to make quilts faster. She also translated government documents into Spanish for the rural population. But above all, she was an innovator. She challenged conventional rural ways and tried to integrate modern advancements with traditional ones. Rural reforms in New Mexico attempted to alleviate some of the worst effects of poverty by bringing them modern home economics and agricultural practices because 82% of the New Mexican population was rural and were living in a depressed economic situation even before the Depression hit in 1929.

Fabiola's Home

In 1932, a serious accident interrupted Fabiola's career as an extension agent. Her car was hit by a train, injuring her leg which was eventually amputated. Even while recuperating, she worked writing extension circulars on canning and food preparation. After returning to work she continued to visit thousands of homes throughout rural New Mexico. During the 1930s, she also began to compile copious notes about village traditions. She collected recipes, folklore, herbal remedies, religious rituals, and planting practices. She sent these and other recipes to the Santa Fe paper "Neuvo Mexicana" and held a bilingual weekly radio program on KVSF on homemaking.

Fabiola was the author of two New Mexico cookbooks and several bilingual food pamphlets and newsletters. She wrote a weekly food column for the Spanish newspaper "El Nuevo Mexicano" in Santa Fe. She had a bilingual weekly radio program on station KVSF on homemaking. And I must say again, she was a woman after my own heart, she believed writing to be one of the most potent forms of social action. In 1939, she published a compilation of old and new recipes she had collected from Spanish Anglo, Indian and Mexican families. "Historic Cookery" was originally published as an extension circular and was republished several times. Governor Mabry sent hundreds of copies to other state governors and officials as publicity for the state of New Mexico. She wrote articles for the New Mexico Agricultural Extension Service bulletins portraying traditional New Mexican village cultural practices. One of her first efforts “Noche Buena” carefully documented traditional Christmas cooking within its historical context. These articles culminated in a book length tribute to Hispanic traditions entitled "The Good Life," Published in 1949. It was a fictional story of the Turrieta family and life in their village accompanied with recipes of their favorite food. Fabiola intended to share some of her experiences with her rural clients. She felt that their way of life was rapidly vanishing and this was her attempt to preserve it in a book.

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca
At work in the kitchen
Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
In the collection of the Fray Angélico Chávez Library
New Mexico History Museum
Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert's cookbook
"Historic Cookery" has been credited with the popularization
of cooking with chile that led directly to America's love of
native New Mexican foods. 
When "Historic Cookery"
first appeared in 1931 it may have been the earliest cookbook
of New Mexican foods to be published, with heirloom recipes
from the Fabiola's family
and others collected from villagers in New Mexico.

Fabiola was proud of her noble heritage, in which she included women’s work that was vital to creating civilization on the plains—particularly their vital knowledge of herbs and midwifery. Her goal in all of her writing was to preserve the best of the past and honor her Hispanic traditions. She praised her grandmother for her knowledge of herbs. She published traditional chile recipes in her first cookbook, "Historic Cookery" (1931, 1939), but she also suggested the use of an “electric blender” for getting the meat out of green chiles in the most expeditious way.

Here's one of her recipes from "Historic Cookery":

She introduced the pressure cooker and new methods of canning, but she preserved the “old ways” that were quite good enough, and that meshed with both the cultural desires and the nutritional needs of her clients. In order to better serve the Pueblo and Hispano communities spread over hundreds of miles of northern New Mexico that she traversed,

She published her next book "We Fed Them Cactus" in 1954. It chronicled four generations of her family history on the Llano Estacado gleaned from stories or cuentos that her uncle had told her and her brother. The opening line stated, “This is the story of the struggle of New Mexican Hispanos for existence on the Llano, the Staked Plains.” Fabiola’s poignantly recounts her families decline from wealthy land grant holders to struggling ranchers as the United States increasingly encroached on their title to the land. Although nostalgic it also presents a critical view of progress as it affected the Hispanic people of the Southwest.

An excerpt from "Historic Cookery" by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca


 In the 1950s, Cabeza de Baca’s extension work branched out into the international arena. Under the
auspices of the United Nations, she began to develop home economic programs in Mexico. She traveled to remote Mexican villages and trained workers in the techniques she had acquired working in Pueblo and Hispanic villages.  In her later years, she became an active member of "La Sociedad Folklorica" of Santa Fe, an organization dedicated to preserving Spanish culture, traditions, and folklore. Fabiola Cabeza de Baca died in Albuquerque on October 14, 1991.

Food + Folklore Festival
November 8-10, 2013
International Museum of Folk Arts
Santa Fe, New Mexico