Anthropology and Southwest

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Amada's Blessings from the Peyote Gardens of South Texas

Stacy B. Schaefer

Winner of the Jim Parish Award for Documentation and Publication of Local and Regional History from the Webb County Heritage Foundation

Winner of the 2016 Peter C. Rollins Book Award for Popular Culture from the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association

Amada Cardenas, a Mexican American woman from the borderlands of South Texas, 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. Author Stacy B. Schaefer, a close friend of Amada's, spent thirteen 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.


Stacy B. Schaefer, 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.


“Part memoir, part ethnography, the book uses in-depth interviews with Cardenas’s friends and family to reconstruct the unlikely life of this grandmotherly matriarch, devout Roman Catholic, and staunch defender of the Native American Church.”



“An affectionate recollection of Amada Cardenas. . . . [Schaeffer’s] work is also a commentary on interethnic relations and tensions, not only among Indians, Anglos, and Chicanos but also among tribes vying for an increasingly limited resource in the context of identity politics and environmental degradation in the peyote fields.”



6 x 9 in. 320 pages 58 halftones, 1 maps, 1 tables