Society Reading Feature #8

This issue's featured girl: Josefina

From the American Girls Club Handbook:

Project One: Dance La Vaquerita

Tía Dolores brought the latest songs and dances from Mexico City and taught them to Josefina and her sisters. Learn La Vaquerita (lah vah-keh-REE-tah), and practice it just as Josefina might have. For this dance you will need a partner. Play some lively dance music. Your library might have recordings of Spanish folk music.
1) Stand beside your partner, with both of you facing the same direction. Hold hands so that each partner's inside hand holds the other partner's outside hand.
2) Skip forward 4 skips. Then skip backward 4 skips.
3) Still holding hands, turn and face each other, and raise your arms above your heads to make a bridge.
4) Now both of you duck under the bridge and turn around.
5) Do not let go of each other's hands! You should end up holding hands in your starting position.
6) Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5. As you get better at the dance, make up your own patterns of skipping and turning.

Did you know?
In 1824, traders coming into New Mexico brought European jewelry, Chinese silks, and American tools. They also brough songs and dances such as Mexican jarabes (ha-RAH-bes), European waltzes and minuets, and American barn dances like "Turkey in the Straw." Music brought cheer and laughter to the harsh New Mexican frontier. But music was also a way to pass along stories and traditions. Josefina and her neighbors loved songs that told stories about the kings and queens of Spain. Josefina's baptism and First Communion were celebrated with songs and dances. For the Indians at nearby pueblos, dances were an important part of celebrations and religious ceremonies, too.

Project two: Make a Memory Book

When Tía Dolores lived in Mexico City, she made a memory book of Mamá's words so Mamá wouldn't feel so far away. Make your own memory book to keep poems, songs, stories, and memories safe forever.
You will need: Crayons, 9" x 12" sheet of brown paper, candle, old newspapers, iron, 5 sheets of plain 8.5" x 11" paper, hole punch, ribbon or yarn, scissors, and (if you are young) and adult to help you.
1) Draw a crayon design on the brown paper. Press hard! Rub candle wax in the areas that do not have crayon.
2) Crumple the brown paper into a ball and reopen it. Do this 15-20 times.
3) Open the brown paper and place it between 2 layers of newspaper. Iron the newspaper until the brown paper is soft like leather.
4) Place the sheets of paper in a stack, with the brown paper on the bottom. Fold the whole pile in half. The brown paper should be on the outside.
5) Punch 2 holes along the folded side. Thread the ribbon or yarn through the holes and tie a pretty bow. Now you can write favorite sayings, poems, and stories inside!

Did you know?
Every Sunday after church, the women of Santa Fe gathered on the plaza to sell vegetables, woven cloth, or other goods. These strong, spirited women ran large households, raised and educated families, and worked as partners with their husbands on the ranchos. Josefina and her sister expected they would grow up to be like these women. In 1824, New Mexico belonged to Mexico. Mexican law gave women rights that American women would not be granted for another 80 years. Under Mexican law, women could own property and businesses. They did not have to turn their profits over to their husbands, as women did in the United States. They had the right to argue legal cases in court, to make wills under their own names, and to pass down property to their daughters. New Mexican women lost many of these rights when they became American citizens shortly after the Mexican-American war ended in 1848. But they never lost their independent spirit--the spirit of New Mexico.

La Tules: An Independent Woman
Josefina and her sisters were surprised that Tía Dolores was bold enough to discuss business with Papá. In Josefina's time, the patrones (pah-TRO-nes), or heads, of most ranchos and businesses were men. But some women did run their won businesses. One woman became so rich and powerful that she even loaned money to the U.S. Army to pay its soldiers! That woman was the bold--sometimes shocking--Gertrudis Barceló, or Doña Tules (DOH-nyah TOO-les). The people of Santa Fe loved to play cards, especially a game called Monte. Doña Tules was an excellent Monte dealer and a shrewd businesswoman. Her establishment became a meeting place for both Mexican and American soldiers and traders. Some people thought that Doña Tules was scandalous. Others thought that she was, as one American wrote, "the height of fashion." Doña Tules advised military officers, made deals with politicians, took in orphans, and gave generously to the poor. In time, she became a legend--the independent woman with firey red hair who dared to do the business of men.

Want to know more?

Stories about Hispanic life today:

". . . And Now Miguel" by Joseph Krumgold
"Maria: A Christmas Story" by Theodore Taylor

Nonfiction books about Josefina's time:
"De Colores: Latin-American and other Folk Songs for Children" by José-Luis Orozco
"Along the Santa Fe Trail: Marion Russell's Own Story" by Ginger Wadsworth

Folktales set in Josefina's Time:
"The Girl Who Loved Coyotes: Stories of the Southwest" by Nancy Wood
"The Little Seven-Colored Horse" by Robert D. San Souci

Special places to visit:
Palace of the Governors
100 Palace Avenue
P.O. Box 2087
Santa Fe, NM 87504-2087
This is the oldest public building in the United States, built about 1610. It is now a museum of New Mexico history you can visit today.