Maria "Mama" Montoya is the late mother of Josefina Montoya. Josefina refers to her as "Mamá."



Mamá had pale skin and dark smooth hair, with what Josefina describes as rounded beauty. She had a voice that was high and breathy like a flute.

At the start of the series, Mamá has been dead for over a year, and died when Josefina was eight[2]. This implies that Mama died sometime before Josefina's ninth birthday in March 1824. In Josefina's Surprise, the girls also mention how last Christmas was different without Mama, and Ana mentions that Mama died shortly before Christmas. This implies that she died before Christmas 1823. But it is clear she died after the caravan arrival Late Summer 1823, as in Meet Josefina, it was Ana's first time in charge of the fandango. One of the Teacher's Guides confirms that she died in July 1823.

It is never stated how Mamá died. The family mourns her and misses her greatly. She is buried in the church graveyard in the village.

Mamá is a lasting influence on her four girls. With her she brought out the best, and without her the family has been lost and sad. She protected Josefina from things she feared and disliked, and Josefina feels lost and unsure without her. She owned both the goat herd that Josefina doesn't like and the wooden box Josefina keeps in her memory.

Unlike her sister Dolores, she never learned to read and write. She was a skilled seamstress and embroiderer, a skill she passed on to her daughters. She liked lavender soap and was good at cultivating flowers and plants. Autumn was her favorite season. Swallows were her favorite bird. She had a very easy going manner with the people of the village nearby and always remembered names of everyone in the village, asked after others, and gave good advice on many topics. She was beloved and respected, and pretty much was a partner with Papa as she ran the household while he ran the rancho. She also organized the fandango for the caravan's safe return. She was full of various sayings and poems which Tía Dolores has written down.

In the Books

Meet Josefina: An American Girl

Mamá is first mentioned while the sisters are washing clothing; when Josefina remarks that the day is fine for washing, Ana agrees, saying that Mamá would say that God has brought a good washing day and Monday is laundry day even in heaven. Francisca then says that she would have also told them to pull their rebozos up to shade their faces. The girls laugh softly and then go quiet. Mama died a little over a year ago and the memory of her death is with them. Francisca breaks the silence by pointing out evening primroses growing on the other side of the stream and how much Mamá liked them. Clara agrees and suggests that Josefina pick some for her memory box--a wooden box of Mamá's Josefina is keeping small things that remind her of Mamá, such as her lavender soap. Mamá has left the goat herd to her daughters; Josefina does not care for the goats and Mamá had always protected her from them. She had told Josefina that the goats were everything Josefina wasn't--bold, loud, disagreeable, and mean.

Tiá Dolores sent flower seeds to Mamá from Mexico City on the caravan, from those Mamá cultivated a lovely flower garden in the back courtyard that Josefina now tends. She said that Josefina and Papá were quite alike in mannerisms. When Tía Dolores arrives--shocking the girls--Josefina compares Tía Dolores's looks to Mamá's; she is quite different, but has the same laugh.

Josefina Learns a Lesson: A School Story

Josefina's Surprise: A Christmas Story

The girls recall last year's Christmas being sad due to Mama's death shortly before Christmas. Josefina recalls Mama singing her the lullaby the town sings in Las Posadas and is still saddened by it. Clara, still missing Mama, believes that this Christmas won't be the same without her doing old traditions like bringing chiles for Señora Sanchez, arranging the church's decorations, or making new outfits for Niña. Clara keeps Niña, a doll Mama made, as a reminder of Mama, but she hands down the doll to Josefina by the end of the book. The altar cloth their Mama made is ruined, so the sisters decide to stitch on items their Mama loved. Dolores gives the girls a silver thimble their Mama gave to her.

Happy Birthday, Josefina!: A Springtime Story

Josefina Saves The Day: A Summer Story

Changes for Josefina: A Winter Story

Josefina's Song

Thanks to Josefina

Just Josefina

Again, Josefina!

A Reward for Josefina

Secrets in the Hills

References and Footnotes

  1. While in most Spanish-speaking countries of the time a woman would generally not drop her maiden name or change her name (see Spanish naming customs on Wikipedia), for the purposes of categorization Josefina's mamá will have the last name "Montoya." It is also highly likely that she would have had "Maria" as part of her name, given naming patterns of the time.
  2. An American Girl's Family Album, pg 11
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