Amada's Blessings from the Peyote Gardens of South Texas by Stacy B. Schaefer won the Jim Parish Award for Documentation and Publication of Local and Regional History from the Webb County Heritage Foundation in Laredo, Texas. The foundation will present the Heritage Awards at the Founders’ Day Luncheon on May 14 at the Laredo Center for the Arts. The Heritage Awards honor recipients for their efforts in preserving the region’s culture and history.
Amada’s Blessings from the Peyote Gardens of South Texas reveals the life of Amada Cardenas, a Mexican American woman from the borderlands of South Texas who played a pivotal role in the little-known history of the peyote trade. She and her husband were the first federally licensed peyote dealers. They began harvesting and selling the sacramental plant to followers of the Native American Church (NAC) in the 1930s, and after her husband’s death in the late 1960s, Mrs. Cardenas continued to befriend and help generations of NAC members until her death in 2005, just short of her 101st birthday.
Schaefer, a close friend of Amada’s, spent 13 years doing fieldwork with this remarkable woman. Her book weaves together the geography, biology, history, cultures, and religions that created the unique life of Mrs. Cardenas and the people she knew. Schaefer includes their words to help tell the story of how Mexican Americans, Tejanos, gringos, Native Americans, and others were touched and inspired by Amada Cardenas’s embodiment of the core NAC values: faith, hope, love, and charity.
Schaefer is a professor emerita of anthropology at California State University, Chico (CSUC), and former codirector of the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology (CSUC), has worked in research, curatorial, and educational capacities at a number of California museums. Her most recent book is Huichol Women, Weavers, and Shamans (UNM Press). Currently her research includes ethnographic fieldwork among the indigenous peoples of Chile and Bolivia.