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Fray Angélico Chávez History Library's WPA New Mexico Collection

Identifier: NMU CSWR WPA

Scope and Content

The New Mexico WPA writers collected accounts primarily from Hispanic and Anglo Americans, in cities as well as remote villages. The stories focus on their own lives, culture, religion, folkways, historical events, places, and lifestyle.

Stories about Native Americans are told by Hispanics and Anglos, and apparently not by the native people. Topics included Pueblo archaeology, tribal history and lands, reservations, viewpoints, feasts, kivas, moieties, koshare clowns, paper bread, etc. The villages studied are Acoma Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Pecos Pueblo, Sandia Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, Tesuque Pueblo, and Zuni Pueblo. Other accounts relate to the Navajos, Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, Utes and Tortugas.

Many of the accounts are from Hispanics. Among the Hispanos collecting stories were Domingo Baca, J. B. Cisneros, Frank V. Ortiz, Moises Rael, Rosario O. Hinojos, Aurora Lucero White, Mela Sedillo, Reynalda Elsa Ortiz and Reyes N. Martinez. The WPA writers copied Spanish stories, songs, dances, proverbs, and games, some that had been passed down from the late eighteenth century. They covered Spanish and Mexican land grants, settlements and churches, the Camino Real, and relations with the Pueblo Indians, including the Pueblo Revolt and buffalo hunting. Some focused on religion, prayers, baptism and marriage customs, women and girls, Penitentes, including women Penitentes, descansos, Matachines, Christmas, los pastores, saints, feasts, etc. Others stories are about legends, witchcraft, clothing, irrigation, foods, harvests, and the curandera.

The Anglo American accounts deal with the United States occupation, founding of towns and Protestant churches, Mormons, schools, hospitals, railroads, mining, ranching, horses, etc. There are tales about Americans fighting with the Native Americans, Indian attacks, and Indian captives. There are stories of outtlaws, trails, stagecoaches, and chuck wagon suppers. There are also ones about floods, ghosts, buried gold treasure, forts, Kit Carson, the Civil War and the Lincoln County War, as well as movies, puppet shows, and biographies of early American pioneers.

There are stories by and about New Mexico women. There are also tales about African Americans and Chinese immigrants.

Also included are the architecture and histories of buildings and the meaning of town place names. Among the places studied are Abiquiu, Albuquerque, Alma, Arroyo Hondo, Arroyo Seco, Belen, Bell Ranch, Bueyeros, Cabezon, Cerrillos, Chaco Canyon, Chilili, Chimayo, Cimarron, Church Rock, Clayton, Clovis, Columbus, Cordova, Corona, Costilla, Dawson, Elephant Butte Dam, El Moro, Estancia, Galisteon, Gallup, Grants, Hermits Peak, Hillsboro, Hobbs, Hot Springs, Johnson Mesa, Kingston, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lincoln, Llano Quemado, Los Cordova, Melrose, Mesilla, Pena Blaca, Penasco, Peralta, Pie Town, Placitas, Portales, Quemado, Questa, Robledo, Roswell, Raton, Sandia Park, San Miguel del Bado, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, the Santa Rita mine, Santa Rosa, Shiprock, Silver City, Springer, Talpa, Taos, Thoreau, Tijeras, Tinaja, Tinnie, Tohatchi, Tome, Tucumcari, Tularosa, Tyrone, Valencia, Vaughn, Wagon Mound, Watrous, White Oaks, Willard, Wingate, and many others.


  • 1936-1940

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of print material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws.

Historical Information

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a major New Deal program in the 1930s. One of the units was the Federal Writers’ Project, which was created in 1935 and headed by Henry Alsberg. It provided employment for historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and other white-collar workers. The nation and the State of New Mexico benefited from this project through funding for jobs and a resulting collection of valuable historical, literary and folkloric materials.

The New Mexico WPA writers collected accounts from both Hispanics and Anglo Americans. Most of the collectors were Anglos and a handful were Hispanics.

NOTE: The WPA stories are held at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (FACL) in Santa Fe. Photocopies are available at the Center for Southwest Research (CSWR), University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.


11 File Drawers


Most of the New Mexico WPA stories were collected among Hispanic and Anglo Americans across the state. They contain folk tales, songs, customs, town histories and biographies of pioneer leaders. Some stories relate to Native American topics; a few materials pertain to African Americans and Chinese immigrants.

Location of Originals

Originals located at Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Related Material

For a list of WPA Stories taken from the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library and located at the New Mexico State Archive and Records Center, Santa Fe, see Guide to the Collection of New Mexico WPA Stories at the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, by Louellen Martinez, 1983. (copy at CSWR)

Gilberto Benito Cordova, Bibliography of Unpublished Materials Pertaining to Hispanic Culture, Bilingual-Bicultural Communicative Arts Unit, Division of Instructional Services, State Department of Education, Santa Fe, 1972. This bibliography is at CSWR.


To search the CSWR's copies of the WPA New Mexico Collection, please refer to the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library finding aid. CSWR uses the same call numbers.
Inventory of the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library's WPA New Mexico Collection, 1936-1940 (Photocopies held by the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections)
Edited Full Draft
© 2018
Language of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131