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American Girl Wiki

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


Mamá had what Josefina remembers as rounded beauty, in contrast to her sister Dolores. She had pale skin and dark smooth hair, with a voice that was high and breathy like a flute, and the same round cheeks and small hands that Josefina has.

At the start of the series, Mamá has been dead for over a year, having died when Josefina was eight[3]; the Teacher's Guide confirms that she died in July 1823 after Josefina's eighth birthday. It is never stated how Mamá died, and she is buried in the church graveyard in the village. The family mourns her and misses her greatly.

Mamá is a lasting influence on her four girls, husband, sister, and parents. She brought out the best in everyone, 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, the flowers she raised from seeds her sister sent her, and the wooden box Josefina keeps in her memory.

Unlike her sister Dolores, she never learned to read and write, but taught her daughters with songs and sayings. 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; many women remember her as a close friend. She was beloved and respected, and ran the household while Andres ran the rancho (though she deferred to him as the patron and did not get involved in business or trade, the way Dolores later does.) She organized the fandango held in celebration for the caravan's safe return. She was full of various sayings and poems, several of which Tía Dolores has written down. She was a skilled seamstress and embroiderer, especially colcha embroidery. She started the tradition of a doll that each of her girls received when they turned eight, gifting it to Ana first and making it a tradition that she made a dress for Niña every Christmas as a gift and, when the next girl turned eight, making sure she took ownership of the doll.

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 that 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 still fresh 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 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. In most Spanish-speaking countries of the time, a woman would generally not drop her last names given originally, other than to possibly drop her mother's last name in place of her husband's (see Spanish naming customs on Wikipedia). However for the purposes of the wiki's categorization, Josefina's mamá is listed with the last name "Montoya." It is also highly likely that she would have had "Maria" as part of her first names, given naming patterns of the time.
  2. American Girl Teacher's Guides
  3. An American Girl's Family Album, pg 11