When I begin to laugh, I know I’ve found a book worth reading. In the case of the The Milagro Beanfield War it did not take long. The images, characters, and situations were so compellingly real and filled with emotion I could not put it down.
Milagro is a place in New Mexico, supposedly near the Fruitland Ditch. We drove through a small community called Espanola several years ago on our way to Santa Fe and visited a restaurant set just off the road called. Matilda’s was well settled in and pictures of family lined the wall. It is very hard to find a community’s heart but this one wore it’s heart on it’s sleeve. It could have been the fictional small town Millagro that the book was named after. After the short while I spent with Matilda, I could see the novel come to life. The story may have been fiction but the people are indeed very real.
John Nichols wrote The Milagro Beanfield War as part of a series set in the mid-1970s when hippies and flower children do-gooders were in the spotlight around the nation. It seems only natural that all those characters would appear in this first book of The New Mexico Trilogy. When you add a pig named Pacheco you have the perfect story.
The story centers around one man’s rebellion against big business. The people in the small fictional community of Millagro are banned from using the water from the nearby acequia (ditch) to irrigate the bean fields. The Don Quixote of New Mexico, Don Mondragon, begins tilting at the “windmill of progress” to draw water from the ditch to irrigate the field that was his means of support. Although the story always makes you laugh, you will find yourself feeling the outrage that our main character endures. That is when the story comes to life.
I know this is not a “new” book but sometimes it turns out the book with its cover tattered and torn tells the best story. The Milagro Beanfield War is one of those books! Humorous, gentle and beautiful!