The Book of Archives and Other Stories from the Mora Valley, New Mexico

Written by A. Gabriel Meléndez
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

This collection of 42 short stories covers the period from 1835 until the present day, with the first half of the book written in English and the last half in Spanish. The stories provide a picture of life in the Mora Valley of New Mexico. They encompass the early days of Mexican land ownership, the Mexican wars, and finally the American occupation. There are family stories that retell histories of the villages and their people. Each provides an historical and cultural narrative of this land. “The Book of Archives” is a collection of scraps of paper that document the history of the Mora Valley, including military records, diaries, and newspaper articles, and are bound together in a leather portfolio. Although the portfolio itself was destroyed during the Mexican-American War, storytellers have verbally passed down the tales from one generation to the next.

The author brings to life a land of change brought about by wars, the displacement of the inhabitants (the Indians), and territorial land-grabbing by newcomers to the valley (the American settlers). Although many of the stories are unrelated, the author is able to provide a linear flow of narrative from earliest New Mexico until the 20th century. The culture is especially well-researched, and the stories probe into the spirit of the original inhabitants of the land as they deal with the changes to their culture. Even if you dislike short stories, you may want to experience the tales as presented in The Book of Archives.