This week's Wednesday Wonders features
by Anne Schroeder
About Maria Inés:
An Indian girl born under Padre Serra’s cross at Mission San Miguel de Arcángel witnesses the political intrigue and greed of Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui invaders who plunder California, destroying everything she loves. A refugee in her own land during the Time of the Troubles, Maria Inés struggles to survive while she reclaims her family, her faith and her ancestral identity. A moving must-read for fans of the Old West and Native American history.
Her mother-in-law’s shadow fell across her, blocking the light of the fire so that part of her face showed grief. Wordlessly, Oxwe’t held the baby. For a long moment she studied the tiny features, the pert nose and the tiny, dimpled chin.
“The blood will be strong,” she declared.
Señora took the baby and laid it on the mother’s belly. It was a girl, wizened, its skin a purple tinge the color of a sunset just after a storm. Alfonsa rubbed the tiny arms and legs with her rough fingers, wishing she had something to wrap it in.
“A cover,” she whispered.
One of the women was reaching for a cape when a padre rushed in. Alfonsa was glad to see it was Padre Juan Cabot, the Spanish padre who usually managed the laborers and not the spiritual matters.
He fell to his knees, his gray robe sweeping the dirt floor. He wore his stole around his neck, a sign that he was to perform a blessed sacrament in her humble house. She felt her heart swell with gratitude, even as her fingers holding the baby trembled. Uncorking his flask of holy water, he poured a few drops onto the baby’s forehead and made the sign of the cross.
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” He scarcely glanced up, his attention focused on saving the baby’s soul before the body ceased its breathing. “What is the name?”
Oxwe’t raised her head and her nostrils flared. In the olden times a child did not receive a name for the first four years. Even then, the name was not chosen by the mother, another taboo.
Alfonsa looked for her husband, but he was not in the room. She felt her insides quake with fear, but her voice was strong. “We call her Maria Inés.”
My Book Review:
This book touched me because of the time period it covered, a time when the Spanish came to California and set up the mission system. They brought in cattle that destroyed the local habitat, thereby forcing into the missions the surrounding Salinan tribes in the cause of saving their souls, but turning them into slaves to perform the work of the missions. Abused by the Spanish soldiers who left many of the women diseased, their treatment by the padres was only slightly better. This was the world into which Maria Inés was born. In her lifetime she sees the change as Alta California changes from Spanish rule to Mexican rule, the missions desecularized, casting Spanish soldiers, Catholic priests and Yokuts into chaos. Then, came the Americans after the Mexican-American War. Through it all, the Indians lost the most of all.
I could tell quite a bit of research went into this book. It covered so many of the dramatic changes that came to California during the 1800's. Also, the Yokut culture and beliefs were shared by the author in detail.
Just as her parents sacrificed for her, Maria Inés sacrifices for her son, once when he is quite young, and again when he is an adult and chooses to not acknowledge she is his mother--because it is better to be Mexican than to be Indian.
This book is very well-written. I couldn't put it down until I finished. I highly recommend it to those who love historical fiction, especially anything doing with the history of California.
I read the author's book, Cholama Moon a couple of years ago. Although published first, it chronologically comes after Maria Inés. That is another great story that takes the reader into the California of the Mexicans and early American settlers. You may learn more and purchase Cholama Moon by CLICKING HERE.
About Anne Schroeder:
Anne Schroeder describes herself as a calorically-challenged Aphrodite with an unmistakable fervor for life. Second of seven children, she was born in Ventura County, California, the subject of her first memoir, BRANCHES ON THE CONEJO: Leaving the Soil after Five Generations.
In 1971 she graduated from Cal Poly, SLO, in the first wave of the Social and Sexual Revolution with a degree in Social Science, a husband, toddler and part-time job. Her memoir ORDINARY APHRODITE is an adventure tale about a life of small steps in the Boomer women's experience. Her fiction and memoir have won numerous awards.She served as 2015 President of Women Writing the West, 2016 WILLA Literary Competition Chair and is a member of Western Writers of America.
Her Central Coast Series features well researched, character-driven novels about the history of Central California in the Mission California era. CHOLAMA MOON is the first in the series, a western romance with gritty attitude. MARIA INES was released in October 2016. It follows a Mission Indian girl through the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquests of California.
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