At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of U. S. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. Many people participated in compiling a series of state-by-state guides to the country. Other writers’ projects included the gathering of folk songs and oral narratives by still-living ex-slaves.
New Mexico was among the states participating in this effort, and the project workers there included two women interviewers, Lou Sage Batchen and Annette Hesch Thorp, who in their work placed particular emphasis upon gathering Hispanic women’s stories, or cuentos. The two interviewed many native ancianos, gathering folktales as well as capturing narratives and gleaning vivid details of a way of life now long disappeared. Professors Tey Diana Rebolledo and María Teresa Márquez have combed through long-lost archives to recover these invaluable first-hand accounts, and have prefaced the whole with an introduction delving into some of the problematic cultural issues surrounding these records.