New Mexico is losing a dialect that dates back to the Spanish Golden Age

When old patrons gather at Cynthia Rael-Vigil's café in Questa, New Mexico, a town nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, they sip lattes and lavender lemonade while gossiping in Spanish.



If a visitor from Madrid or Mexico City were sitting at the next table, they would have difficulty understanding this strange dialect. But Spanish speakers four centuries ago would have recognized the unusual verb conjugations, though perhaps not the unorthodox pronunciations or words originating in English and indigenous North American languages.


For more than 400 years, these mountains have welcomed a type of Spanish that today does not exist anywhere else on the planet. Even after their lands were absorbed by the United States in the 19th century, generations of speakers have somehow kept this dialect alive in poetry, songs, and everyday conversations on the streets of the Hispanic enclaves that are scattered throughout the region.


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