Cleofas Martínez Jaramillo

Photo Credit: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, Mrs. Cleofas Martinez Jaramillo In Her Wedding Hat, Photographer: Anderson Studio, Date: 1901, POG Negative Number 009920

Nuevo Mexicana, Folklore

Cleofas Martínez Jaramillo


In the late 19th/early 20th-century, nuevomexicana Cleofas Martínez Jaramillo recorded her memories of life in New Mexico. In contrast to her professional folklorist contemporaries, Martínez Jaramillo created a repository of lore that lay outside of the structures of the scholarly field and that featured aspects of “women’s life” typically ignored by male scholars of the time.  Jaramillo’s two memoirs, her cookbook, and a collection of children’s fairy tales embody a remembrance intended to contest misinterpretations and oversimplifications of nuevomexicano life and culture perpetuated by the communities with which Jaramillo lived in her later years. The dedication to her first memoir Shadows of the Past/Sombras del pasado reveals another motive: after losing two members of her small nuclear family, Jaramillo viewed her work as means to carry family memory and folk practice into the future. Although English was not her preferred language, Jaramillo published primarily in English to make their contents legible for future generations. 

Born in Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, Cleofas Martínez was educated at Catholic schools in Taos and Santa Fe. In 1898, she married Venceslao Jaramillo, a ranch owner and politician. Her husband died of cancer in 1920, and Angelina, their only child to survive to adulthood, passed away in 1931. After these deaths, Martínez Jaramillo turned to folklore and writing, translating twenty-five of her mother’s oral stories into Cuentos del hogar/ Spanish Fairy Stories.  Like her contemporary Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca Gilbert, Martínez Jaramillo recognized the cultural significance of cooking and domestic activities.  She documented and privileged such “female” practices in her writing on lore.  

In 1941, Martínez Jaramillo published Shadows of the Past, a memoir describing the traditions, songs, and stories of her childhood, as well as her family’s history in New Mexico. In 1955, she penned Romance of a Little Village Girl, which recounted the cultural history of Jaramillo’s youth and adult life, documented oral practices, and confronted the conflicts between nuevomexicano cultural praxis and shifting social and power dynamics in the region. She helped found La Sociedad Folklórica de Santa Fe in 1935, an organization that continues to document, preserve, expand awareness of, and maintain the region’s Indo-Hispano folklore and folk practices. 

Among  her publications are Cleofas Martínez Jaramillo’s publications include:

The Genuine New Mexico Tasty Recipes.  (1942/1981)

Romance of a Little Village Girl. (1955)

Shadows of the Past; Sombras del Pasado. Illustrated by the author. (1941)

Anna M. Nogar