• June 18th, 2024
  • Tuesday, 03:03:35 PM

UNM Authors Explore Concept of ‘Querencia’ in New Book

Photo: UNM
Spencer Herrera, associate professor of Spanish at New México State University.

The basic definition for the Spanish language word querencia is a metaphysical concept taken from the verb querer, which means “to want” or “to love.” But the reality of querencia is more complicated, more poetic and sentimental, seated in deep emotions and culture and a sense of longing for and belonging to a place where the heart resides.


Querencia: Reflections on the New Mexico Homeland, edited by University of New México (UNM) alumni Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez, Spencer R. Herrera, and UNM professor Levi Romero, was published in 2020 and was reviewed by The Western Historical Quarterly in June by Joseph Ukockis, a doctoral student in History at the UNM Center for the Southwest.


“My co-authors and I wanted to celebrate New México. So, we decided to explore the idea of querencia,” Herrera explained. “There has been a fair amount already written about the idea by well-established authors, but from previous generations, who we deeply respect and admire. But we decided to seek new ideas and perspectives from both burgeoning and mid-career scholars. We wanted to understand what New Mexican querencias mean today. But we wanted to anchor those ideas in scholarship produced by those who taught us, whether directly in class or indirectly through their words and in doing so, honor them.”


The book contains 17 essays from 20 contributors, many of them with ties to UNM, about their experiences with querencia.


Herrera, now an associate professor of Spanish at New México State University, completed his Ph.D. in Spanish with a minor in film at UNM. He recently completed a stint as a visiting scholar at the UNM Center for Regional Studies. As visiting scholar, he made a journey along the Río Grande to collect stories about the people and the land along the way and visited the boyhood homes of the esteemed late UNM professor Rudolfo Anaya, who died in 2020, to better understand and write a dossier about his life and legacy.


Fonseca-Chávez received her BA in Spanish and her MA in Southwest Hispanic Studies from UNM where she was a visiting scholar at the Center for Regional Studies in 2019. Her Ph.D. is in Spanish Cultural Studies, with an emphasis in Chicano literature from Arizona State University, where she is now an assistant professor of English.


Romero wrote a book, Sagrado: A Photopoetics Across the Chicano Homeland, that was co-authored with Herrera. His books have received numerous awards and he was awarded the post of New México Centennial Poet Laureate in 2012. He is an associate professor in the UNM Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.


Querencia, which expresses a deep love of one’s homeland and its people, has been highly acclaimed for its close examination of the New México homeland by Hispano and Indigenous scholars. The book has received several positive reviews with more forthcoming. It also generated several talks and interviews with the author-editors and other contributing authors. Creating a book of this magnitude with 20 contributors is a major undertaking that took five years from concept to print,” Herrera said. He also authored a chapter titled New Mexico Triptych: Querencia Etched in Wood, in Media, and in our Memory, which critically examines the importance of cultural maintenance in today’s society.”


Anaya, who was a Professor Emeritus of Creating Writing in the UNM Department of English, wrote the foreword. In the foreword, the Western Historical Quarterly review noted, the late Anaya “discusses his time spent with incarcerated nuevomexicanos, highlighting the importance of books to a population rendered placeless and invisible.”


“We are honored that Rudolfo Anaya, considered the ‘Godfather of Chicano Literature’ and author of more than 40 books, including Bless Me, Última, wrote the foreword to Querencia, his last published piece before his death,” Herrera said.


By Mary Beth King


Mary Beth King, Public Relations Specialist, University of New México.


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