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Historically, New Mexico scholars and folklorists have often omitted womens roles in Hispanic cultural production and heritage maintenance. However, women make significant contributions to the retention, transmission, and adaptation of traditional Hispanic practices. In this dissertation, I examine how particular Hispanic women, who I refer to as 'center women' (Brodkin Sacks 1988), from a small village named San Rafael, New Mexico mobilize their families and other community members in order to successfully perform traditional New Mexican events such as the annual fiesta in honor of the local patron saint, Las Posadas, a Christmas time novena, and Good Friday commemorations. These events not only illustrate women's cultural competence and the work of kinship (di Leonardo 1987), they are also instances in which women demonstrate agency and innovation within traditional customs as they adapt heritage practices to attract participation from younger generations and disparate groups of family and community members. Through communal and family cultural performances, I explore changes in Hispanic New Mexican cultural production, but also intergenerational changes in women's beliefs about how traditional practices relate to their lived experiences, contemporary heritage expression and preservation, and social belonging. I argue that the women with cultural competence and social capital must reproduce themselves within the community in order to continue traditional Hispanic practices and to maintain a communal character for their increasingly dissimilar village. Older and younger generations of women have qualitatively different experiences with village life, and these differences have precipitated changes in how the annual fiesta is carried out, the importance of New Mexican Catholicism within events, and even how traditional foods are prepared and consumed. I demonstrate how younger generations of San Rafael women are more likely to participate when customs are flexible, or pick and choose the practices in which they engage and to what extent.'


Ethnicity, Gender, New Mexico, Religion

Project Sponsors

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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First Advisor

Lamphere, Louise

Second Advisor

Singer, Beverly

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gonzales, Phillip B.

Second Committee Member

Lamadrid, Enrique

Included in

Anthropology Commons