The Often Complex Identities of Cultural Brokers is Epitomized by Adelina "Nina" Otero-Warren's Story

Adelina "Nina" Otero-Warren: A Spanish-American Cultural Broker.


"What is in a name?" This is the oft-quoted question from Shakespeare's tragic clash of two family cultures, Romeo and Juliet. For Adelina "Nina" Otero-Warren the answer to that query might possibly be a transforming identity at the intersection of cultures in early twentieth-century New Mexico. It is telling that throughout her energetic and ambitious life, she utilized her various names as needed. In 1881, Maria Adelina Isabel Emilia Luna Otero was born into two of New Mexico's older Spanish colonial families. As a child, she was Adelina Otero, keeping her father's name while growing up in the mixed Luna-Bergere household in Los Lunas. As an adult, she became known as "Nina" to family and friends in their new home in Santa Fe. At the age of twenty-six, she married and became "Mrs. Otero-Warren," a name she kept for life, even though she quickly divorced. In the late 1910s to 1920s, she was "Adelina Otero-Warren" as Chair of the Board of Public Health and "Nina Otero-Warren" as Superintendent of Santa Fe county schools. In 1931, she was Adelina Otero as the author of an article in Survey Graphic, and Nina Otero when she published Old Spain in Our Southwest in 1936.

These shifts in her named identity are crucial for understanding the life and career of this woman who came to be seen as the epitome of the early twentieth-century cultural broker in New Mexico. Throughout her long life, she moved between and negotiated compromises with the Hispano, Anglo, and American Indian worlds. She was one for whom multiple levels of identity were not only possible, but practical, for they allowed her to identify herself to both the Spanish-American and Anglo American worlds in which she moved. As the multiple use of names suggests, to be a cultural broker or intermediary is to live sometimes in one world and sometimes in another, but often never fully in either.