Fabiola Cabeza de Baca

Educator, nutritionist, activist, and writer of one of New Mexico’s first cookbooks, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca’s lifelong passion was to share the value of New Mexican foods.

AIRED: March 16, 2019 | 0:26:52

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers Like You






>>I really think it was about bringing knowledge

across the communities, about how to make life a

little bit easier.












>>Lopez: Fabiola Cabeza de Baca was an articulate

writer, prolific teacher from Llano Estecado.

What made her so brave and so intelligent?

>>Perea: Well I think in terms of brave, one of the

first things that comes to mind is, just

biographically, her mom died when she was very little.

So, she was raised on the ranch with her Dad and a

lot of the Vaqueros.

And so if you think about the Llano Estecado, it's

this really stark landscape.

She describes it in one of her books as loneliness

without despair.

It looks flat.

It doesn't look anything like, you know, these

green lush valleys.

Some days it hasn't rained for so long, the sky

almost bleaches white.

So it looks like a landscape that would have

to make you brave, right?

Because to see that kind of openness, it can be

overwhelming and to try to find water and make a

living from place that's so dry, that's so hard to

access, you know, resources from...

I think you have no choice, but to become resourceful.

And I really think, you know, she looked around at

her community and thought not just, "How are we surviving?

And how are we flourishing?"

But, "How can we take these skills out into

other parts of rural New Mexico?"

and that's really what she did.

One of the things that's really fascinating about

her is, she became an extension agent.

So, her work like her schoolwork was in home economics.

She talks about it as kind of like, this science, right?

And you read her work and it's all about these

chemicals that you put together, you know, to

make the kind of the best nutritional kind of value,

like elements.

And what do you call it, minerals and stuff like

that, that we would never think about.

And so, I think, like, when she became an

extension agent, she was really, really determined

to bring that knowledge out to the rural

communities of New Mexico.

So she went to the, you know, smaller Hispano villages.

But, she went to the Pueblos.

And, she does talk really interestingly about how

she became part of these communities.

Like, she even talks about San Il Defonso, which we

tend to think about, you know, Pueblo communities,

as maybe being a little more isolated.

But she talks about becoming part of these

communities and these were like...

and became like comadres, but almost like relatives.

And I think that's really important, and why she was

probably so tenacious, if she was going to go visit

her family, right?

>>Lopez: And she's the author of the first

bilingual cookbook in New Mexico?

>> Perea: Right, yes. She is.

That came out in the early 30s and it's full of just

recipes, you know.

And it's interesting, because I tend to think that we

tend to think of cookbooks as just being cookbooks.

But in her work, it's really about also

expressing New Mexican culture and really

thinking about how women are the caretakers of that

culture, right, through the food we make, through

sitting around in the kitchen, you know, doing

the work we do.

>>Lopez: Right.

And it seems like she definitely secured those

cultural practices in her writing <yes> but also

brought in an element of modernity?

>> Perea: I really think it was about bringing

knowledge across the communities, you know.

About how to make life a little bit easier.

How to incorporate these new kinds of technologies

into their kitchens.

One of the things she focuses on a lot is

pressure cookers and how pressure cookers can cook

food in far less time, than, you know, your wood

stove or anything like that.

So it's just like, she is spreading the gospel

(laughter) which I think sound, like kind of, you know, maybe

trite, or insignificant, but it's significant.

Like, it changes the way women cook in the state.

Prior to her work, people were drying food and then

she comes in and it's about canning food, right?

And I think that's also a really important way of

getting, you know, how to keep the stuff that we've

grown all season fresh and accessible throughout the

winter, because we know our winters in the Llano

Estecado are kind of frightening, right?

My grandmother was still using a pressure cooker in

the 1980s and I think it's a legacy of this.

That's really what I thought when I was looking

at the archives is it's a legacy of probably Fabiola

Cabeza de Baca going through, saying, this is a

way to save time and give more time to your family.

>>Lopez: And in what ways did she...

was she informed through her cookbook about the

ways of the land, the language, the women?

>> Perea: So she had that cookbook first and then

she kind of updated it in the good life.

And what she does in that cookbook is combine

recipes and food with the seasons, with the

landscape, with how families work.

One of the big seasons obviously is spring, is

planting season.

So, up in Las Vegas where she's from and in other

parts of New Mexico you can kind of count on the

last freeze happening before May.

So, on May 15th, which is San Ysidro's feast day,

that's when people plant, like officially.

And that's when the ceremonies happen and the

singing in the field and all of this really

beautiful stuff.

So, throughout her cookbooks, she really

talks about, "At this time of year, this is what's

growing." Or, "At this time of year, this is what

we harvested, and how we preserved it.

And this is when you eat it." And then, you know,

she combines that with, you know, cultural practices.

>>Lopez: Have you tried any of her recipes?

>> Perea: Yes, I've tried the calabacitas because

that's easy, right?

It's cake.

Posole, also because it's easy.

There's the ones that are a little bit more

intimidating, like she talks about things like

making cheese every day.

I'm never going to try that (laughter).

<Yeah> There's stuff that, you know, we know now,

we're supposed to be eating, right?

The three sisters: corn, beans and squash.

And she makes sure that that's part of something

that's included in her cookbook.

So, it actually is, you know, pretty practical.

Like anybody could pick up "The Good Life" and try

those recipes.

>>Lopez: Do you think she wanted to bring New Mexico

into the future?

>> Perea: I think it's a combination.

She wanted to bring technology, and I think

make things easier for these women that she saw

in these communities across the state.

But I also think she wanted to preserve the

culture of it, which is why she talks so much

about how these particular foods interact with these

particular times of the year.

Because there's something we're planting that time

of the year.

There's, you know, in winter, it's storytelling time.

So, she talks about like, you know, gathering around

the wood stove and like eating these foods but

also, you know, engaging in activities like weaving

and colcha, or embroidery, and those are things that

are very traditional to our state.

So, it's cultural practice, with

environmental practicality, with technology.

>>Lopez: Why is her work important to us today?

>> Perea: In terms of just cultural preservation,

that's probably the most basic one, right, is...

it's teaching us what we were like and what we were

doing, you know, almost a hundred years ago now, really.

But the other reason its important is because

you've seen, I know we all have seen the kind of

movement towards sustainability in our

state and across, you know, the United States.

Because, we really do need to take into account, kind

of, the scarcity of our resources.

And she's really doing that in the 1930s, because

she's had to from where she grew up, right?

Those resources were always scarce.

It's important also to understand sustainability,

to understand food ways, you know, fundamentally.

It's good for us to follow the seasons, right, and to put

that food in our body at that particular time of the year.

>> Perea: And to think...

as much as 80 years ago, 90 years ago...

we were already crossing borders, right?

She was leaving New Mexico to go to Mexico.

She has these sections in her archive of going to

Spain and it's like, you know, there's this

reputation of New Mexico as being isolationist.

But we were actually always kind of

transnational and I think she reminds us of that.

>>Lopez: She was a wandering spirit but with

a mission.

>> Perea: Laughter. Yes!

With a very particular mission.


>>I am the extraordinary Hmong rice paddy eyes

mouth full open filled with opium poppy seed.

Hair long black like the Mekong.

The ghosts of my ancestors swimming on my back.

Waves breaking my spine sinking like silver.

Clapping with the poetry of [?

] to the murky depths of my buttocks sunburnt

yellow buttocks crisp by the McDonald eating sun as

a slave beneath him.

I'm not sushi.

I'm not takeout and I do not have an ancient secret.

Pillsbury dough people do not ask me what the Dalai

Lama's number.

Cause the monks were Shaolin Temple are revolting.

I don't know Jet Li only jet lag.

My spirit crossed the ocean to be delivered to

Toys R Us.

But Hmong are not welcome in country clubs and

corporations inside.

Janitors, short order cooks, factory workers

please apply a wax yourself on wax yourself off.

I already sound off.

Don't Daniel's son me I'm nobody's son.

A nomad sowing my seed writing my [?

] straight into your fortune cookie carrying

more wisdom in my pocket than Plato's philosopher king.

Driving down University Avenue.

My future coming through the rear view.

Xi riding steady on his steed snapping drums

clinking gong and ancestor fills my ears with sounds of pride.

It says I am the extraordinary Hmong.

>>I knew that there was this desire inside of me

to write a Hmong anthem.

At least my Hmong anthem and I couldn't get the

words out. And then one night

I was watching Late Night at the Apollo.

And a young woman that performed Phenomenal Woman

by Maya Angelou.

And I thought there you go if Maya Angelou can say

I'm a phenomenal woman than I can say I'm an

extraordinary Hmong.

So I wrote Extraordinary Hmong in like 30 minutes

and I did some minor editing but really you

know when I say the ghosts of my ancestors swimming

on my back I really do feel in that moment I was

writing that the ghosts of my ancestors were on my

back helping me tell the story of our extraordinary existence.

I get really inspired when I come to the Hmong

market because it's a place for Hmong people to

hold onto their culture and those things that are

important like the food the clothes that are being

sold here.

It's also a place for the larger Minnesota community

whether you're wrong or not to come and find out

about the Hmong people.

It was believed that once upon a time the Hmong

actually had a written tradition but because of

persecution from the Chinese that they were no

longer allowed to actually write in their language.

So what they did was they took the traditional

characters and put in the clothes.

So this character is the eyes of a tiger.

So this is the character for Tiger.

And you see another representation of the

tiger eye right here too.

I remember when I was a child my parents dressing

me up in a little dress like this and taking me to

the Hmong New Year and downtown St. Paul at the

River Center.

It's so important as we become more Americanized

to still hold onto our clothes to still hold onto

our stories, our folktales and our history.

And that's not saying that we don't want to be less American.

But it's just a piece of who we are that we should

find valuable that we should hold onto.

This is a traditional skirt has been made into a bag.

Now you know the hipster in me says that is way cool.

But the traditionalist and me says this is meant to

be a skirt.

Why is it a bag so things are forever changing in

the Hmong community.

And I see that change.

You come here to the Hmong Village and it's all good

it's all good change because yeah why can't we

imagine something for instance why can't this

skirt become a bag.

And why can't our traditional folk tales.

Become reimagined to include you know the

landscape of Minnesota the landscape of America and

different...some of those different ideas into our

folktales and that's what I'm trying to do with my

writing is to create stories that have the

familiar things and different landscapes.

Being a storyteller I think is in my blood

because I got that from my mom.

She inspired me to tell stories and you know I

work in different mediums.

I work in poetry.

I work in essay writing and also playwriting and.

No matter what form or what genre I'm using I

feel that I'm always really just telling a story.

And I think right now it is so important for us

Hmong to remember our stories because how we see

ourselves as being Hmong has changed.

So it's really important for...

I think for capture that.

To capture what was what is now and what will be in

the future of being Hmong.



>>By all accounts it's a posh life.

The well-appointed New York apartment, successful

career and a loving wife.

But for Amir, the main character in the play

Disgraced, there is annoying impediment to his

success: his Muslim heritage.

I told my mom "No!

She's not Jewish." But she knew the name was Jewish.

"If I ever hear that name in this house again,

Amir", she says, "I'll break your bones.

You'll end up with the Jew over my dead body!"

Then she spat in my face.

It's a Pakistani-American man's journey post 9/11 in

this country and what it means to aspire for

success in that climate.

For somebody who identifies as Muslim or

South Asian to the outside world written by a

Pakistani-American playwright Ayad Akhtar,

Disgraced won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013.

Actor Rajesh Bose, who plays Amir in a new

Huntington Theatre Company production, says he

empathizes with the burdens his character bears.

I get it in my bones why he feels the way he does.

There's a sort of a lifetime of suppression.

I certainly understand why somebody feels the need to

be very careful about how he expresses who he is or not.

Despite all the comforts of success as a

high-powered attorney Amir begins to unravel under

the weight of his Muslim roots reluctantly

providing private counsel to a radical imam, Amir is

suddenly accused of being a radical extremist himself.

"What's it like for you?

With security at airports.

What you hear stories." "Wouldn't know.

I cut right to the chase." "He volunteers himself.

Goes right up to the agents and offers himself

up." Nicole Lorance plays Amir's artist wife Emily.

If you have some kind of awareness of who you are

or where you came from, then it is hard to escape.

You can push it away can compartmentalize you can

tuck it away as long as you can but it ultimately

will come home to roost.

How explosive would you say this place is.

Oh it's on fire.

It's on fire.

The drama premiered in 2012.

Since then its themes have grown even more resonant

as recurring terrorist attacks and campaign

speeches have placed Muslims under scrutiny.

It's in the throat.

It just catches.

It's a real shift in society where,

unfortunately, everybody has to kind of have a

feeling about Islam and, unfortunately, it's a it's

a like or dislike it's a hate or, you know, love.

It's these like polar opposites.

"I don't blame the French." "The French?"

"For their problem with Islam." "You're okay with

them banning the veil?"

"You do have to draw a line somewhere." OK,

Mrs. Kissinger." Much of the Disgraced drama

unfolds between two New York couples at a dinner party.

There their own prejudices inadvertently leak and

then gush out.

It's cause for introspection among the cast, too.

You know, I'm from Texas and, you know, I have

heritage like crazy people and Texas you know or no

matter how many years I've been away and like up on

the northeast coast I still have these kind of

way knee-jerk reactions that are kind of like

go-get-'em kind of stuff.

And that's just essentially who I am it's

a it's it's at my core but I can finesse it, you know?

And so is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I don't know.

For Bose who's now played Amir in three different cities.

It's a role that's at once thrilling and debilitating.

I still don't sleep that well doing it because it's

extraordinarily humbling I think.

Do you ever finish role like this and say I got to

do Noises Off...

I need a break.

Yeah maybe maybe like a comedy or a farce, a Noel

Coward something.

Until then there's Disgraced...

a story not ripped from the headlines but

anticipating them.


>>AMANDA GOETZ: It's pure excitement from skating.

>>PAIGE BARTHOLOMEW: When I'm on the ice, I forget

about everything else going on and I can just be

me and have fun and skate and show everybody what

I'm made of.

>>EMMA VERMILLION: It makes me feel good because

I wouldn't be the person that I am today without it.

>>AMANDA: Showcase is more for the artistic skater,

the skater that likes to perform and become a character.

>>PAIGE: I think I decided to go into Showcase

because it's more of a fun outlet and just more

entertaining to watch and to perform and making

people laugh and making people feel the sadness

that you're trying to portray in some of them

and the happiness and all of those different emotions.

>>FIONA ROSE: When I was little I just loved acting

and I also found my love of figure skating so when

I heard about Showcase, I was really excited to try it out.

>>EMMA: You get to show your face more and just

like other than smiling you can sing your words

but if there is no words you can show your emotions

along with that too.

>>AMANDA: We have two different events in solo

skating in Showcase and that would be light

entertainment and dramatic whereas light

entertainment's more fun and lighthearted and can

be silly or funny and whereas dramatic is more

emotional and, you know, you can leave the audience

in tears if you do your job.

Today we are doing our run throughs of some of the

selected programs where the kids that are skating

tonight are going to have a chance to qualify for Nationals.

We have a very good choreographer here.

I don't know how she comes up with things but she's

pretty amazing at it.

And I think the skaters really can relate to what

she comes up with and they just it fits with the

music and the character.

>>FIONA: My friend, my duet partner, we're just crazy.

So our coach decided that we could be monkeys and

our routine is Tarzan.

We get to be weird and funny.

Makeup kind of brings out that you're a monkey and

then they know what you're doing, so you just kind of

be weird and express yourself through that.

>>PAIGE: I'm doing my duet.

We're nerds and we're trying to impress a lady

that we see in the stands and we're trying to get

her attention and make her our squeaky queen.

When I look over and see the person that I'm

skating with have so much fun, it makes me want to

have fun and smiles are infectious.

So when you see someone else smiling and singing

the words, you start to smile and sing the words

more and it just encourages you to be better.

>>AMANDA: I think sometimes when people hear

theatrical skating, they kind of assume that the

skaters don't skate or can't do the jumps or

can't do the spins, which is not true.

The skaters are doing all of that while smiling and

while performing and while bringing the audience into

their program.

I feel like if they just came and watched it once

or twice then they would be hooked too.

They do double jumps.

They do axles and spins.

I mean they're just as good of skaters as anybody

else, it's just they're performing for the crowd

and you're going to see a lot of different double

sows, double loops, double flips, jumps that are

consistent and will go with the program.

>>PAIGE: I like to jump and spinning is always fun

and there are some fun footwork things that are

different in every single program that you can

really make your own in those moments.

So I think footwork and those fancy turns kind of

thing that you can just make your own in that

moment are my favorite to do.

>>EMMA: I'm doing a jump called the double sow and

I'm doing a spin called an illusion.

>>PAIGE: People think it looks super easy but then

you go out and people can't skate backwards and

they realize how hard it is.

Me and all the other girls included put in so many

hours every day and fall down so many times and you

just have to keep getting back up and trying again

and just keep practicing all those different things.

>>AMANDA: A great Showcase skater is someone that has

really good skating skills.

If they make a mistake, can pull it off anyways

and just make it like it was part of the program,

laugh at themselves when they do make a mistake.

Entertain, that's huge in Showcase skating.

We have five of the best duets in the country that

won last year.

They have different routines this year and

some of them are with different partners but

most of them stay together for a while, that's what

makes a good team.

So you're going to see some of those duets.

And then we have a lot of solos where we have all

the way from the preliminary level, which

is the lowest level you can do at National

Showcase, all the way to senior.

>>FIONA: I put in a lot of work, you know.

I skate the whole year coming up to this


It's really my favorite competition.

>>AMANDA: The fun thing about Showcase is it's

unique, because everyone just loves to be around

each other, they want to watch the other programs.

They support each other.

>>PAIGE: I think Showcase is very entertaining.

If you're just looking to have a good time and come

out and watch it, then come out and watch it.

You'll never not be entertained from someone

doing a Showcase program.

You'll go from feeling super happy and laughing

to being so emotionally touched by a different

program that there's so many different aspects of

it that you can feel by coming out and watching



New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers

Like You


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