SANTA FE (KRQE) - Two Texans, on a drive from Santa Fe to Taos, are struck by the unusual names "Tesuque" and "Pojoaque" on highway signs and get into an argument over the correct pronunciations.
To settle the issue, they pull over at a roadside business and ask a young clerk to slowly and distinctly answer their question: "How do you pronounce the name of this place?"
The clerk leans over the counter and responds "Lot-a-bur-ger."
Indeed, all jokes aside, people from other parts of the country often are puzzled at the esotericism of Northern New Mexico — with place names in Spanish, Tewa and other languages, and natural, cultural or historical references unknown elsewhere.
Mark Cross aims to acclimate tourists, newcomers and even people who have spent years here but remain ignorant of the finer points, with his newly published Encyclopedia of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico.
It appears to cover the basics accurately, succinctly and without any glaring omissions — although some might quibble over whether the correct phonetic pronunciation of the surname of the general who claimed New Mexico for the United States, Stephen Watts Kearny, is actually KEER-nee instead of KUR-nee.
The 415-page paperback begins with the Aamodt case — the first surname in an alphabetical listing of some 2,800 parties to a 46-year-old federal lawsuit seeking to adjudicate Indian and non-Indian water rights in the Pojoaque Valley. It ends with Zia, Zozobra and Zuni Pueblo.
The book includes an index, a subject index (grouping entries in categories) and 180 illustrations. It covers towns, landmarks, flora, fauna, museums, newspapers, sites, family names and individuals — sprinkled with history, lore and gossip.
Among the individuals, living and dead, are Charles Bent, the first territorial governor, assassinated during the Taos Rebellion of 1847; Dennis Chavez, the first native-born New Mexican to serve in the U.S. Senate; Death Comes for the Archbishop author Willa Cather; former Gov. Bill Richardson; former Santa Fe mayor Debbie Jaramillo; and political blogger Heath Haussamen.
Cross is a Virginia native with a master's degree in history from George Mason University. He has written book reviews for The New Mexican and worked as an editor for the New Mexico Legislature. He began his research for the encyclopedia soon after moving to Santa Fe in 1996.
The book, published by Cross' Caminito Publishing, should be available this month, for $26.95, at Collected Works Bookstore, Garcia Street Books and online via Amazon.com or www.encyclopediaofsantafe.com. Cross's website also includes a pronunciation guide with audio recordings of how locals pronounce the names of more than 170 places or things.
In an interview, Cross said his book follows in the tradition of regional encyclopedias like the 1989 Encyclopedia of Southern Culture or The Encyclopedia of New York City in 1995.
"It takes a lot of hubris," he said. "I thought the first question from anybody who's been in Santa Fe anytime is going to be, 'Who in the hell do you think you are?' "
He said when he told one longtime resident he had been in town for 16 years, the resident responded, "Oh, you're just off the bus." The local origin of that phrase is in the encyclopedia.
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