Compadres from a Distant Land

      “Monika Ghattas has written a well-researched book about the Arabic-speaking immigrants who settled in New Mexico between the late 1880s and 1940s. Their descendants have become so interwoven into New Mexico’s makeup that their ethnic identity, in many ways, has become subsumed by New Mexico’s multicultural history. Ghattas writes: ‘This study calls attention to their presence and highlights their contributions to the storied voices of the Southwest’ (p. 11). Ghattas faced many challenges in reconstructing the history of this small group of immigrants, including the fact that many settled in small Hispanic villages across New Mexico and thus did not necessarily establish cultural institutions such as churches, schools, and social centers that normally produce and maintain records of minority groups’ lives and practices. Their unique experiences in rural New Mexico reveal ‘a story of cultural adaptation and not ethnic preservation’ (p. 14). Ghattas’ research focused on documents such as store ledgers, birth and baptism records, immigration and census records, city directories, and license requests. To supplement the limited primary sources, she conducted oral interviews with descendants of the original families and also collected references to ‘los árabes’ found in local stories and folk tales. After examining the political, economic, and personal causes for emigration, and the reasons for their rapid assimilation, the author concludes that this group of immigrants ‘eased effortlessly into Hispanic communities, where they encountered little if any noticeable discrimination’ (p. 16). This informative book is recommended to those interested in learning more about New Mexico’s diverse ethnic and multicultural history.”
      —Colonial Latin American Historical Review
      “One of the untold stories of New Mexico history deals with the Arabic-speaking immigrants, Los Árabes, who began finding the Territory late in the 19th century. Now Monika Ghattas, delving deeply into scattered sources, has brought these people out of the shadows and reveals through her crisp and reliable portrait of Los Árabes, working hard, assimilating, and contributing to New Mexico’s economy and its diverse heritage. This mature and beautifully crafted study, more descriptive than analytical, as the author states, is a pleasure to read and will appeal to laymen and scholars equally. I give it my strongest recommendation.”
      —Marc Simmons