As part of the lecture series, People & Places, held in Zimmerman Library, Enrique Lamadrid gave a talk entitled “Sueños del Coyote: The Emergence of Genízaros in the Nuevoméxicano Literary Imagination.”
The University of New Mexico’s regularly holds lectures in its Frank Waters room, hosted by the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections. Lamadrid works in the New Mexico museum system as a researcher and author. He also teaches in UNM’s Spanish department and serves as the editor of the “Querencia” series.
In his brief lecture, Lamadrid explored the unique cross-cultural place that genízaros, or coyotes, occupy in New Mexico. He did so by using examples of New Mexican literature and folklore that spanned more than a century.
“Coyote comes from the mestizo class structure,” Lamadrid said, explaining that in colonial times, a new group of people arose from the contact between settlers, natives and others in the area.
Lamadrid explains that after the Apache wars ended in 1868, the word genízaros essentially disappeared from the New Mexican consciousness, citing the creation of patchwork land grants as its downfall. Land grants insulated genízaros from the world, but the food, storytelling and other traditions persevered.
Genízaros is now used to describe New Mexicans with Spanish, Anglo and pueblo heritage. Photographs, excerpts of literary works and personal accounts of various authors were used to spotlight this intercultural experience, specifically the impact of the historic capture and servitude of genízaros. Besides living on in literature and research, the Works Progress Administration made an effort to collect oral histories from genízaros in the late 1930s.
He gave no further explanation as to how the word coyote came to represent genízaros. Lamadrid stated that in researching the context of the literary presence of genízaros, he and others consulted with tribal members as well as others who could fall into that category.
In modern times, many people either don’t identify with the word genízaros or are unfamiliar with the term.
“¡Soy Genízaros!” exclaims author Gilberto Benito Cordova in his book “Big Dreams and Dark Secrets in Chimayo.” Here is one person who does identify as being in that unique cultural in-between.
To learn more about this, try Leslie Marmon Silko’s latest book, The Turquoise Ledge, a memoir chronicling her life in Laguna Pueblo as a coyote.
The People & Places lecture series will have several more presentations through the spring semester. All of the future lectures focus on New Mexico history and the people that shaped it, and feature speakers from universities across the country.
The next topic will be “Crownpoint Boarding School Through Diné Generations,” presented by Farina King of Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. It will take place in the Frank Waters Room at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 6.
Katie Monette is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @KatieMonette9.