Born to a family that traces its heritage back Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca-Gilbert grew up on a ranch on the Llano Estacado not far from Las Vegas. As a young woman, she taught in a rural school in Guadalupe County. Her teaching position made her realize how little nuevomexicano children learned about their history and heritage in the state’s schools. She earned a BA at the New Mexico Normal School in 1921, and she went on to earn another degree in Home Economics in 1927. During the 1930s, she worked as a county home demonstration agent in rural areas throughout the state. Through her experiences with nuevomexicanas in in her job with the extension service, she compiled a series of traditional recipes. In the late 1930s she began to publish cookbooks to preserve traditional nuevomexicano cooking. In the 1940s she dedicated her time to writing folktales and histories of the people in northern New Mexico. In 1954 she published her memoir, “We Fed Them Cactus,” which still stands as an important primary source on the history of the early twentieth century. Fabiola Cabeza de Baca died in 1991 in Albuquerque.
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