Spanish Pathways: Readings in the History of Hispanic New Mexico. By Marc Simmons.
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2oo1. Pp. ix+2o6. Preface, in-
troduction, notes, references, acknowledgments, index. ISBN o-8263-2374.
Marc Simmons, the most prolific interpreter of New Mexico's past, has written
an astonishing number of essays along with his many books. The eleven pieces in
this collection, nine previously published between 1966 and 1992, reflect his in-
terest in the state's social history and material culture. An earlier collection, Coro-
nado's Land: Essays on Daily Life in Colonial New Mexico (1991), brought together
short pieces that Simmons wrote for the popular press. Spanish Pathways contains
lengthier essays, many of them well documented.
The previously published essays in Spanish Pathways include: a concise and bal-
anced explanation of the causes of the great Pueblo Revolt of 1680; an analysis of
Albuquerque's fraudulent beginnings in 1706 as a putative villa; an often-cited
piece on the arrival of a major smallpox epidemic in New Mexico in 1780-81; a
chilling description of "the Origins of Public Health" in New Mexico, where lice,
bedbugs, and other vermin were common and bathing was not; an exploration of
little-known efforts to open a direct trail between New Mexico and Sonora; and
the first detailed description of the expulsion of Spaniards from New Mexico in
the years following Mexican independence.
One of the two previously unpublished essays shows a surprising number of
physicians in New Mexico, and the other traces the secular and religious origins
of the Day of San Juan to Spain and examines its adoption and modification by
Pueblos, who infused the celebration with meanings from their own traditions.
This latter piece, together with his essays on livestock and irrigation systems, sug-
gest that Simmons overstates his case in arguing the New Mexicans "developed a
feeling of identity that partook as much of the New World as it did of the Old" (p.
1). Although Simmons points to ways that Iberian culture was modified in New
Mexico, those modifications seem relatively minor. At the end of the Spanish era,
New Mexicans' language, religion, institutions, arts, crafts, and dress would have
struck a visitor as far more Spanish than indigenous.
Built on deep scholarship but encumbered by scholarly jargon, Simmons's es-
says have worn well over time. "Misery as a Factor in Colonial Life," which first ap-
peared in 1988, is a notable exception. Simmons finds multiple references to
miseria in New Mexico, which he translates as "misery" although "poverty" seems
the more likely meaning. The distinction is important. One can be poor without
being miserable. Simmons describes poverty as the root of New Mexicans' "mis-
ery," but Ross Frank has since shown that New Mexico enjoyed an economic
boom following the smallpox epidemic of 1780-81. Simmons's own introduction
paints a picture of a vigorous economy, characterized by farming, ranching, trade
fairs with Indians, and a flow of goods moving up and down the Chihuahua Trail.
Poverty, then, seems to have diminished as a "factor" in late colonial life.
It is surprising that Simmons's bibliography does not include the most influen-
tial work on the social history of Hispanic New Mexico in the last half century:
Ram6n Gutidrrez's When Jesus Came the Corn Mother Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed May 5, 2015.