Pueblo, New Mexico
any given week, tourists from around the world may knock at the
front door of the Paywa home in Zuni Pueblo.
with freshly baked Zuni bread, they are probably looking for something
more a unique tourist stop, information about a centuries-old
tradition, or a personal glimpse into a Native American home.
get all of those things when they stop by the Paywas house,
where they can see the largest bread oven in Zuni Pueblo, they can
learn about the Zuni tradition of bread making, and they can purchase
bread, fruit pies, and turnovers from the family home.
Paywas Zuni Bread is a family affair, run by siblings Jimmy
Paywa and Rose Seeyouma and Jimmys daughter, Karlene Paywa.
During a recent interview, the three sat down to talk about their
unusual livelihood that brings customers from down the road and
around the world.
to the family, the business was started in the 1970s by Jimmy and
Roses parents, Bowman and Louise Paywa, who called it B&L
Zuni Bread. Thirty years later, Jimmy, who once ran his own machine
shop; Rose, who retired from a long career at the Leupp Boarding
School; and Karlene, who used to work at the Gallup Head Start,
are carrying on a family business rooted in Zuni tradition.
a lot of hard work, but you get to meet a lot of people, Jimmy
days a week the family members work from about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
preparing and selling their bread, pies, and turnovers. Jimmy Paywa
oversees the outdoor oven and everything that goes with it
chopping the firewood, heating and cleaning the oven, loading and
unloading the bread and pies. Seeyouma, a lifelong baker, oversees
the kitchen work by preparing the dough, pie crusts, and fruit filling.
Karlene Paywa helps both her father and her aunt by kneading and
weighing dough, making turnovers, helping load and unload the oven,
wrapping the baked items, and waiting on customers. On Saturday,
Jimmy Paywa sells the baked goods at the Gallup Flea Market, while
Seeyouma sells in front of the Zuni tribal building. On Sundays,
Karlene Paywa and her husband haul more firewood for the next week.
to the family, they take two vacations a year during times of religious
ceremonies in Zuni Pueblo. One work break is in June, they said,
and the other is in December, right after Shalako.
rest of the year, the family sells about 180 loaves of traditional
Zuni sourdough bread each week, along with 80 loaves of yeast bread
and 24 loaves of raisin bread. The women fashion the sourdough and
yeast bread into one of two styles: flip-over, where
the dough is folded over like a taco, and fancy, where
the dough is cut, which forms horn-like shapes. Seeyouma said the
fancy style is the traditional Zuni bread style.
always been made like that, Seeyouma said when asked about
the unique shape. Zuni people call it bread with the horns,
she said, while Navajo customers call it bear claw bread.
contrast, Seeyouma explained, the people of Acoma Pueblo shape their
bread into big round loaves. We call them a big hamburger
bun, she joked.
family also makes and sells about 16 fruit pies and nearly 100 turnovers
each week. Seeyouma regularly mixes up apple, peach, cherry, and
pineapple filling, and sometimes apricot and blueberry.
In addition to the attraction of freshly baked goods, many visitors
to Paywas Zuni Bread stop by to see Jimmy Paywas huge
bread oven, which sits inside a three-sided metal building. According
to Jimmy Paywa, the average Zuni bread oven can hold about 30 loaves
of bread, and his familys old oven could hold about 55 loaves.
About a year ago, he said, he completed building the new oven, which
can bake 100 loaves at one time. Because of the ovens size,
the family was able to cut their work week down by one day.
beehive-shaped outdoor ovens, which were introduced into pueblo
culture when the Spanish introduced wheat into the American Southwest,
attract a lot of attention regardless of their size. According to
the Paywa family, tourists who have some knowledge of Native American
culture sometimes think the ovens are the Zuni version of a Navajo
sweat lodge, while other tourists think the ovens are Zuni dog houses.
amused by such comments, the family members said they enjoy meeting
new visitors. Karlene Paywa said the family ends up in a lot of
photographs taken by tourists and visiting school teachers. Two
years ago, they also ended up in a rodeo television program after
a film crew shooting a junior rodeo in Gallup took
a side trip to Zuni and ended up at the Paywas house. Rodeo
fans shopping at the Gallup Flea Market later told Jimmy Paywa they
had seen the family on television.
of their visitors keep in touch and send them postcards, letters,
and even some gifts. A customer from Texas mailed the family gifts
of jam and pecans, and a French woman sent them a postcard featuring
a photograph of Frances famous bread crepes.
non-Indian tourists arent the only customers of Paywas
Zuni Bread. Members of other tribes will frequently stop by, particularly
Navajo families needing bread for family gatherings, weddings, and
even have Apache people clear from Arizona, said Seeyouma.
Zuni people are also frequent customers. Not all Zuni families have
their own bread ovens, the family members explained, and those who
do have ovens dont necessarily bake their own bread on a regular
Paywas and Seeyouma agreed that although the business involves a
lot of work, it gives them time to spend together. Karlene Paywa
explained that she grew up helping her grandparents when they ran
B&L Zuni Bread, and she now enjoys working with her father and
guess it brings back memories of my grandparents, she said.
Paywas Zuni Bread at (505) 782-4849