Stories from the North Series

What can we learn from material culture?

STORIES FROM THE NORTH- Here is a sneak peek at the upcoming new series from Los Luceros Historic Site! In this video, we bring to life a letter written by the audacious Maria Chabot in 1948 to her confidant, artist Georgia O'Keeffe. In this letter, Maria describes her time as the presidente of the Acequia Madre. Her letter reveals her experience of being a women in 1940s rural New Mexico, what it was like to work for Mary Cabot Wheelwright, how others thought of Mary, and demonstrates her quick witted character. Our lesson plan which will be available on Wednesday will examine the material culture in Maria Chabot's room and Mary Cabot Wheelwright's room in the Hacienda at Los Luceros Historic Site. You can tour their virtual rooms, read letters, view objects, and photos to try and take a glimpse into their lives. Below is the letter being read in the video: 1948, Letter 44 Maria Chabot to Georgia O?Keeffe Los Luceros, 4/5/1948 ?When I realize that this has been one of the hardest days of my life, that at noon I thought I would never get through it?that at one point I wondered if I would get killed ?I have to laugh at how a hot supper and a letter from you puts everything right. I am almost refreshed!...I?ve had 300 of the maddest men working under me that I?ve ever seen. I can imagine how revolutions start, how frenzied murder takes place, how women through all the ages have had ? at the proper moment to be boss. I can?t say that I like it, but I came out on top. By gosh, I had to! It was up to me to control the deal?or the deal would control me. There was only about one hour I didn?t control it and it was horrible. Cleaning a 14- foot waterway seven miles long is a real job. [?] The men elected me unanimously (half of them believe I could do the dirty job and the other half were afraid of me) ? but I was the first female they had ever taken orders from, and it ached every last one of them. So I knew what I had to do before I started. [?] They said the three engineers did not know the Acequia Madre and certainly a mere woman did not. (They) began yelling about Mary Wheelwright at 3 PM ?how irresponsible she was, how she was the biggest owner on the ditch and had never attended to it, a millionaire, etc. (I wish I had a phonograph record of it). They also called me a liar. For a week the Albuquerque Indian Office had promised me a bulldozer. I?ve held the men off from the hard jobs?knowing that the machinery could do it in an hour ? a day. But they thought I did not know what I was up to. The machine didn?t come. They said I would never bring the water, that I had promised (to) but I lied. Oh we were in the midst of a terrific scene at 4:30 PM when the bulldozer reared its great tracks over the hill. I looked up and saw that machine against the sky and I assure you it was as beautiful as any bone you ever painted. We had been fighting about taking down fences and removing bridges. I insisted. The men would not. They did not believe in my machine. Then suddenly?like a snorting angel ? there it was. I took a pair of pliers out of my dirty hip pocket, walked over to the fence, cut its wires, made a sign to the driver (he sensed the situation in a flash) and the big monster moved into our mother ditch and with its 8-foot maw did it in ten minutes what 300 men had been trying to do all day. The silence was wonderful. There is nothing like demonstration. I got into my car and drove away?but I gave a simple order first. I told one of the noisier men to pick up some willows in the ditch. He did, like a damned sheep. They know our civilization is right?But what an ordeal to make them admit it?. Polito believes me. There is something wonderful in his absolute faith. He was the only man on the ditch today who knew I was right. It is quite the ordeal for him?to abandon his own people and stick by me. There was a bridge in the way. I gave him a look and he threw a chain over it and pulled it aside with his tractor. It is small independent actions like that that begin a whole people moving--- Oh I am very tired, very glad to be in bed. Mary writes that she landed in Calif. Three weeks ago?that her big house is to be put in minimum order as she will not stay for long. But what a mess it is! The woodpeckers got into the sala this winter and messed up Mary?s elegance. I?ve had a woman cleaning for a week ?while I?m out housecleaning a ditch?

Posted by Los Luceros Historic Site on Sunday, April 26, 2020