Chasing Dichos through Chimayó
240 pages, 7 x 10
38 halftones
Release Date:15 Nov 2021

Chasing Dichos through Chimayó

University of New Mexico Press

Winner of the 2015 Southwest Book Design and Production Award for Gift Book from the New Mexico Book Association

Silver Winner of the 2015 PubWest Book Design Award for Historical/Biographical Book

2015 Southwest Books of the Year

The poetic proverbs known to nuevomexicanos as dichos are particular to their places of origin. In these reflections on the dichos of the Chimayó Valley in northern New Mexico, native son Don J. Usner has written a memoir that is also a valuable source of information on the rich language and culture of the region. Illustrated with black-and-white photographs that Usner, who is also known for his photographic work, took of the people and places that he writes about, this book is a one-of-a-kind introduction to the real New Mexico.
Usner has known Chimayó since he was a boy visiting his grandmother and the other village elders, who taught him genealogies going back to family origins in Spain. The Spanish he learned there was embedded in dichos and cuentos. This book is the result of Usner's research into these memorable sayings, and it preserves a language and a culture on the verge on dissolution. It is a gateway into a uniquely New Mexican way of life.

What is missing in collections of proverbs from medieval times to the present is context. How and when do people actually use them in conversation? And who are the dichosos, those talented performers of dichos who share and teach them? With the help of his mother, Estella Chávez Usner, Don Usner commemorates them with camera and pen. These deeply drawn family and community memoirs show that genealogy in New Mexico is more a performance than a dusty archive; it is a living exercise in verbal art. Usner's book includes sayings that are centuries old as well as those that are recently composed and locally adapted. Accessible and poetic, this repository of dichos and refranes as used in New Mexico brims with authenticity.'--Enrique R. Lamadrid, author of Hermanos Comanchitos: Indo-Hispano Rituals of Captivity and Devotion
This book is a marvelous recovery project. In flowing and sometimes wistful prose, Usner records the customs, history, and oral expressions of the people of Chimayó. The author's journey back to his village roots, his patient attention to detail, and his gift for storytelling provide compelling reading. In this collection of dichos framed by autobiographical vignettes, we hear the voices of Usner's family and ancestors. We feel their presence. They continue to reside in the spaces and stories of the community. Chasing Dichos through Chimayó is a testament to the wisdom of generations. But it is equally a reminder of a vibrant and enduring linguistic heritage.'--John M. Nieto-Phillips, author of The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s

Don J. Usner has written, coauthored, and provided photographs for several books, including Sabino's Map: Life in Chimayó's Old Plaza, ¡Órale! Lowrider: Custom Made in New Mexico, and Valles Caldera: A Vision for New Mexico's National Preserve. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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