Bread Loaf in the Land of Enchantment

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This year, Bread Loaf celebrates its 25th summer in New Mexico. Since 1991, Bread Loafers have traveled to the Land of Enchantment, as the state is called, to experience the exhilaration of Bread Loaf courses and conversations within the context of the unique allure and culture of the American Southwest.

The geographic and curricular expansion of Bread Loaf into this region was a natural step for an institution that has long promoted engagement with the multitude of voices and experiences in classrooms and across cultures.

“As one of three distinctive Bread Loaf sites,” director Emily Bartels observes, “the campus in Santa Fe provides students an extraordinary opportunity to experience and interrogate the many links between literature and culture, learning and the environment, writing and place.”

The site for Bread Loaf’s third campus was selected by Jim Maddox, director from 1989-2010. “One of the many reasons for locating in Santa Fe,” said Maddox at the time, “was to take advantage of the meeting point of different American peoples in the Southwest—most obviously Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo.”

The first summer, 66 students enrolled at the Santa Fe campus, travelling from 21 states and one foreign country. Middlebury faculty member and nature writer John Elder was the first on-site director, and faculty members in 1991 included Deirdre David, Jacques Lezra, Ken Macrorie, N. Scott Momaday, Arnold Rampersad, John Richetti, and Susanne Wofford. Bread Loaf graduates Alfredo Lujan and Larry Abbott served on staff, leading hikes and excursions, introducing new foods, and taking students to local celebrations. As Elder notes, “People who arrived not knowing how to spell sopapillas soon couldn’t live without them.”

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For 19 of its 25 summers, Bread Loaf/New Mexico has been housed at the Santa Fe campus of St. John’s College. Perched above that “City Different” in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the campus’s distinctive earthy buildings and brick courtyards are punctuated by piñon trees beneath vast blue skies. From 1996-2000, Bread Loaf/New Mexico relocated to the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, New Mexico. In 2001, the school moved to the Institute of American Indian Arts for one summer then returned to St. John’s College. Bread Loaf/New Mexico’s connection to the converging cultures of the locale, with a distinctive curricular emphasis on Native American, Latino/a, and Southwestern literature, has remained a hallmark of the program across all locations.

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“At 25, Bread Loaf/New Mexico has come of age in Santa Fe,” reflects longtime faculty member Jesse Alemán. “And in turn, students and faculty have brought their own brand of learning, teaching, curiosity, and commitment to the campus, cultivating the richness of a Bread Loaf education under the New Mexico sun. It’s humbling to think Bread Loaf/New Mexico turns 25 in a city founded in 1610 and in a region inhabited for much longer. Yet in its short time, it has lived up to the spirit of the place—captivating, rugged, and beautifully inspiring in and out of the classroom.”

We’ve developed a website devoted to Bread Loaf/New Mexico’s 25th Anniversary. Find photos, facts, videos, details of celebratory events, and more at www.middlebury.edu/blse/news/nm25.