I’ve long considered the variant of the Spanish language talked in brand-new Mexico come be among our country’s great social treasures. The regional speech is well-off in pronunciations and vocabulary that are unique, having progressed in location over an ext than 400 years.

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I discover especially fascinating those regional words whose definitions are closely associated to our history. Collecting and studying such new Mexicanisms provides us tiny glimpses into a method of life now largely gone.


Take the old word coi, borrowed from the Tewa language north of Santa Fe. In the 18th century, it was part of daily speech here. Coi was the surname Spanish-speakers used for the an initial story, or floor, that multilevel Indian pueblos.


In the beforehand days, remember, the first floor had no home windows or doors. Exterior ladders gave accessibility to the roof and also to the stair-stepped story above. This arrangement permitted for the drawing up the ladders in situation of attack, whereupon the pueblo ended up being an reliable fort.


The coi might be gone into only with a catch door in the roof, as kivas are today. That dark chamber was not perfect for day-to-day living, for this reason it served the citizens as a storage area, particularly as a granary.


By 1870 or so, the pueblos to be no longer subject come attack, therefore doors and also windows were opened up in their an initial floors, and the interior an are converted come apartments, prefer those above. The word coi dropped native use and within a generation to be forgotten.


Another term, having a somewhat similar history, to be genízaro, introduce to Indians, caught or ransomed, that were assimilated into brand-new Mexican society. The imperial government enabled them to establish their own communities on the frontier. Belen, Abiquiú and San Miguel began as genízaro towns.


Hispanos looked down upon them as being crude and also rustic bumpkins. A mother might admonish she naughty child: “Hijito. No seas genízaro,” (that is, “Son. Don’t act choose a genízaro.”) The definition of that antiquated expression would certainly not be construed at present.


One the the most brand-new Mexican of every words is cíbola, kept as a ar name in Cíbola nationwide Forest and also Cíbola County. Coronado in 1540 knew the cluster of Zuni pueblos as the district of Cíbola. Strangely, cíbola (or cíbolo) also became the regional term for buffalo.


The Spanish language go not have actually a word because that that brand-new World animal, so as soon as it to be encountered top top the northern frontier, pioneer folk called it merely a “vaca de Cíbola,” or a Cíbola province cow. By the 17th century, cíbola alone had involved mean buffalo, and also buffalo hunters were recognized as ciboleros.


The reddish-brown American elk likewise presented a problem. Spanish short a name for this creature, too. So here in new Mexico, that was dubbed an alazán venado, signifying a “sorrel deer.”


Elk were taken into consideration so exotic the the king ordered brand-new Mexicans in the 1780s to capture several and also ship them come Spain. They lastly arrived and also were inserted on display screen at the Retiro Park in downtown Madrid.


Punche is a brand-new Mexicanism still supplied today. The is a indigenous tobacco long grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Colonial settlers produced big quantities because that the Indian trade. Corn husk cigarettes made through punche to be pretty strong, yet the plant additionally had worth as a individual medicine, i m sorry is why a few old-timers continue to raise a little bit of it, and also the word survives.


In traditional Spanish, the term because that dusty or dust cloud is polvareda. Yet in new Mexico it became “corrupted,” together language scholar say, once the local civilization transposed the two last consonants to produce polvadera. (Actually, the brand-new word sounds far better to the ear.)


A little village phibìc of Socorro is dubbed Polvadera. Follow to legend, the very first settlers to be debating what to call their new community as soon as the mr spoke to them, saying that if the did no rain by Aug. 10, the soil would end up being a desert.


As the happened, the rain did no come. Hence, town fathers determined that that was ideal to name their development Polvadera (Dusty).


Sadly, our brand-new Mexican Spanish is slipping away. Numerous young civilization do no speak it in ~ all. As soon as lost, this treasure will certainly be difficult to recover.


Now in semi-retirement, author Marc Simmons composed a weekly history column for more than 35 years. The new Mexican on Saturdays is publishing reprints selected from among the an ext than 1,800 columns he developed during his career.


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