Sarah Leiter Receives New Mexico Folklore Award

Departmental News

Posted:  Oct 21, 2020 - 10:00am

Sarah Leiter, Doctoral student in Ethnology, has received the 2020 New Mexico Folklore Award.  Sarah will present her lecture Spanish Blood: Grounding Ethnohistorical Claims to New Mexico in Genealogical Descent at a future date to be determined. This endowment award is granted biannually to a graduate student with an exceptional record, and who is involved in some investigative research and writing in the area of New Mexico Folklore that is part of a larger project such as an honors paper or graduate thesis, and who can deliver a public lecture.  The award rotates annually between the UNM Department of Anthropology and the UNM Department of History


Since the Spanish colonial era, declaring genealogical descent from medieval Spaniards has been a common ethnohistorical strategy for claiming belonging in New Mexico. This claim often is oriented toward the recognition of legal and economic rights, as in the pursuit of legal land ownership through inheritance from Spanish conquistadors. In other situations, it has been more affective and cultural, expressed through New Mexicans’ oral traditions and ritual reenactments of their Spanish ancestors’ conquests. This talk will discuss three novel, interrelated strategies by which Spanish New Mexicans are demonstrating their descent from Spaniards. These are 1) applying for dual citizenship in Spain through a Spanish origin law, 2) engaging in Spanish-Jewish identification practices, and 3) narrating the actions of medieval Spanish Jews through a historically inclusive use of the pronoun “we.” I argue that all three strategies appeal to the Spanish New Mexican tradition of expressing a cultural connection to medieval Spaniards and, therefore, serve to further substantiate their ethnohistorical claims to New Mexico.