Meet Josefina

Published in 1997; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Jean-Paul Tibbles and Susan McAliley


Josefina Montoya is the youngest of four girls, growing up near Santa Fe in 1824. Her oldest sister, Ana, is married and has two boys; Francisca is fifteen, and Clara is twelve. The three younger girls live with their father on his large rancho. Their mother passed away about a year ago. Since then, Ana has been helping out more, and everyone has pitched in, but the family feels the loss bitterly. It's a welcome distraction when their maternal grandfather's caravan returns from Mexico City with their maternal aunt, who is moving to Santa Fe.

Josefina notices that her aunt, Tia Dolores, is a wonderful influence on the family. Her middle sisters don't fight as much, her father is happier, and no one seems as overwhelmed. Even Josefina overcomes her anxiety around their goats, albeit because the meanest goat eats the bouquet Josefina made for Tia Dolores and tramples the flowers her late mother planted with seeds from Tia Dolores. Josefina is dismayed, thinking the flowers are dead. But Tia Dolores inspects them, and sees that they're just eaten at. The flowers will grow back in the spring.

Seeing how much more smoothly her family operates with Tia Dolores around gives Josefina an idea: her aunt should move in with them. That way she can have a place to stay, and help the family with so many things. Her sisters agree, but of course they have to get their father and their aunt on board with the idea first. Tia Dolores has brought so many wonderful things with her--seeds and sewing patterns and fabric and brightly dyed wool for weaving for the girls and her piano--and Josefina and her sisters would love to learn more about these things with her. The four girls bring up the idea to their father, who agrees to ask Tia Dolores about it.

But the next day, Josefina sees her aunt packing things into her grandfather's wagon. Her aunt is leaving for Santa Fe--closer than Mexico City, but still far away. As she goes back into the house, Josefina spies something large in the corner: her aunt's piano! Josefina goes back out to her aunt, and confirms what she suspects: Tia Dolores is going to Santa Fe for a visit, to see her mother whom she hasn't seen for ten years. Then she's moving in with Josefina's family!

Looking Back

When Josefina was growing up, much of the American Southwest belonged to Mexico. It had been settled by Spanish immigrants, so the non-indigenous people had many cultural similarities with the European country, like speaking Spanish and practicing Catholicism. By Josefina's time, the Spanish immigrants' descendants got along well with the Pueblo tribe, but others such as the Comanche, Apache, Navajo, and Ute tribes posed a threat. Families who lived outside large cities--like Josefina's--lived on large fortified ranchos, and women and children were discouraged from wandering too far away on their own. But they still had lots of contact with people outside their often-large extended families. For example, in the early 1800s, the United States established trade routes with Mexico, and many families sold or traded their crafts, crops, and livestock. After the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the southern border of the United States was close to what we see today. The Gadsden Purchase of the 1850s transformed the final little sliver of the American Southwest into US soil. The $10 million strip of land ($260 million today) completed the contiguous US (Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867; Hawaii was annexed in 1898; Puerto Rico was ceded 1898; the US Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1917).


This book is dedicated to "my husband, Michael, and my daughter, Katherine, with love."

Since it's a Spanish name, it's pronounced "ho-seh-FEE-nah."Also, "tia" is Spanish for "aunt."

Compared to the previous American Girls, Josefina is shy and reserved.

Josefina's family is wealthy enough to have servants.

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