The award-winning series “Mama’s Santos: An Arizona Life” by Arizona Daily Star reporter Carmen Duarte is now available as an e-book in Kindle and Nook formats.
“Mama’s Santos: An Arizona Life” ran as 36 installments from Feb. 13 through March 19, 2000.
The story was initially a short piece for the Star 200, the annual section about the area’s largest employers, that illustrated the personal side of Arizona’s cotton industry.
Duarte’s mother, Leonarda “Nala” Bejarano Duarte, toiled in the cotton fields of Arizona and New Mexico for many of her 90 years.
When it became apparent to Star editors that telling the fuller story would add context and understanding to the history of Arizona and the people who laid the foundation of the state, Duarte spent a year traveling, interviewing, researching and writing “Mama’s Santos.” The Star’s Tom Beal edited the series.
The outcome was a complex, compelling tale of one woman’s courage, fortitude and faith, and a story of familia that, as many readers told the Star, is a universal story of many families who came to Southern Arizona.
Publication of “Mama’s Santos” as an e-book brings the story to a broader audience, reaching readers who did not have access to the 2000 series and those outside Southern Arizona.
“It’s a complex portrait that reflects the humor, the loving grace, the faith and the struggles of this culture that lies at the heart of Tucson,” said Maggy Zanger, a University of Arizona School of Journalism professor.
Zanger developed an assignment based on “Mama’s Santos” for the UA class that produces El Independiente, a bilingual publication that serves South Tucson.
“I see it (‘Mama’s Santos’) as essential reading for my students so they understand the enormously significant role that the Chicano community has played in the development of Tucson and so they appreciate the continuing role that community plays — culturally, politically and socially — in the metro area today,” Zanger said in an email.
“Students appreciate the richly textured descriptions of family life, work, religion and education, and they learn much about the development of the Chicano community in Tucson,” said Nancy Sharkey, UA journalism professor who now uses the series in the El Independiente class.
“The wonderful storytelling is an example of multigenerational personal narrative that one student compared to T. Coraghessan Boyle’s work,” Sharkey said in an email.
Even though the series ran 13 years ago, native Tucsonan Duarte said she still receives emails and comments about the series.
In 1994, the Arizona Press Club honored Duarte with its Distinguished Service Award, and she was named the Hispanic Professional Action Committee’s Woman of the Year in 2000.
The “Mama’s Santos” series received numerous other prestigious awards and citations, including the Inland Press Association’s First Place Award for Community Leadership and the Arizona Associated Press Managing Editors Association’s Second Place Award in Enterprise Reporting in 2000, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Public Service Award and the Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Overall Excellence in 2001.
The series also won the 2001 University of Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award, multicultural category.