Monday, January 23, 2017

An Open Letter from a Brown Writer to His Brown Daughters

 Women's March - January 21, 2017
Austin, Texas
I went to the Women's march on January 21, 2017, the day after perhaps one of the saddest days for America, if not the world. I thought the timing was a little off and I didn't know what to expect. What I experienced was possibly one of the most uplifting and healing days of my life. It was in perfect timing. I experienced solidarity and love. After the march, I sat under a tree on the Texas Capitol grounds and listened to Lloyd Doggett, then the next speaker was announced. There were hundreds of people in front of me so I couldn't see the stage, but like the voice of an angel, it seemed that Joaquin Zihuatanejo spoke to me and me only with his open letter to his daughters. It was as if the 18 year old version of me was hearing his words. I found myself wishing that someone would have said these words to me as a child. It touched me on a very deep level. Tears flowed down my face. I felt like a brown girl, in a sea of white friends, who never really felt like I belonged because the stories I read and heard my whole life, were not my stories. Texas history books didn't interest me, they didn't tell my story. It wasn't until I discovered Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me Ultima" that any story came close to telling my story.

Luna Chick
By Christina Fajardo

For the past 3 years, I have been researching my very rich Hispanic history that spans over a 500 year time period from Spain to New Mexico and then finally, in my generation, to Texas.  I thought that in a couple of years I would have all my information collected and organized, I would write a book about my ancestors to pass down to the generations that come after me. I have come to realize that I will never be finished collecting information, however, the information keeps coming to me and I will continue to write until I leave this Earth. I have come to realize that I am the chosen one of my generation, the spirit and the words of my ancestors come through me and I must respect that. I have a responsibility to write. My mother was the one of her generation, my son Christian keeps our heritage alive by cooking our native food at his restaurant and now I see that my great-niece Ava is at prolific writer. She wrote a story about her trip to Big Bend and presenting it to her grandmother for Christmas.


Christian - Taco Circus - St Louis

Ava writing on the floor at our Christmas family gathering

I am taking Joaquin's advice. I am just going to write. Thank you Joaquin from the bottom of my heart. You will find the transcript of his essay/poem written to his daughtersAiyana and Dakota
And 50,000 of his closest friends in Austin, Texas, as read from the steps of the Texas State Capitol Building for Women Rising

Click here to see the---> video of Joaquin Zihuatanejo
speaking at the Women's March
Produced by ZGraphix Productions
An Open Letter from a Brown Writer
to His Brown Daughters
Who Both Dream of Writing

JOAQUIN ZIHUATANEJO·
Father, Teacher, Poet
© 2017 by Joaquín Zihuatanejo

1. Write. Just write. Be it poem or prose, true or false. Get it out of you and onto the page. I firmly believe we would have more Brown readers if we had more Brown writers. You have a responsibility here, as do I, not to ourselves but to that skinny 10 year old girl from the barrio or from the fields who has read 27 books from beginning to end in her short life and never loved one of them completely because she has yet to read a story that sounds like hers.

2. For every white male writer a teacher assigns you to read, find a Latina writer to read as well. Don’t let anyone tell you the numbers will never add up. I’ll get you started with a short list here:

Julia Alvarez, Sandra Rodriguez Barron, Sandra Benitez, Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chavez, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Angie Cruz, Cynthia Cruz, Natalie Diaz, Laura Esquivel, Christina Garcia, Ada Limón and Esmeralda Santiago

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.....
Estos son sólo algunos entre la multitud.
These are merely a few among the multitude.

3. You don’t have to go to far off galaxies in your mind’s eye for ideas for poems. Start in your grandmother’s kitchen, en el jardin de su madre. Listen to lovers quarrel at the taquería, watch closely as the tortillas bubble and blacken on the comal, feel your tía’s hands as she returns home from the fields, or the classroom, or the office. There are poems and stories all around you just waiting to be found. Sometimes you don’t even have to look for them. We are a loud people. We argue loudly. We love loudly. We live loudly. Sit in the middle of all that noise. Silence yourself, and the poem will find you.

4. In many stories they, and in some instances we, assign our women characters to the role of curandera, or field worker, or maid, or nanny. And they are those things. Those things are honest and good and worthy of being written about. They should be written about. But I challenge you to remember that they are also poets, and teachers, and doctors, and senators, and dreamers, and song singers, and majority vote getters in Presidential elections. When you are creating your characters, many times inspired by living breathing women, you must remember who you come from, who you are, and who you are destined to be.

5. When writing a story or poem you must know that sometimes the word for what you want to say does not exist in English, in those moments I implore you to fall back en la lengua de sus Abuelas, the tongue of your grandmothers. A little white cross beside the road to mark the spot where someone has tragically died, is sixteen English words trying to say one thing, one undeniably tragic and poetic thing, but even with all those words, it still falls short. Pero la palabra in Español, but the word in Spanish...descanso...yes, that says it all perfectly.

6. It won’t always be this way, but for now, many editors, many publishers, many men will see you as Brown. See you as woman. Before they see you as equal. Before they see you as anything else. Perhaps for your daughter or theirs it will be different, but you must know at times the fight is rigged. Unfair. But you are your mother’s daughters, even before you are my daughters. If that means anything, it means this: you will fight. You will write.
You will write the wrongs of this world.

7. You come from women who grew things from the land. Food from the earth. Food for their people. Something from nothing. Photosynthesis is a fancy word they made up to define our magic. A magic that exists in you. Remember that magic when you stare at the blank page. Remember that magic when they try to make you feel less than. You, strong Brown women, were born to rise. 

8. Your strength is stronger than their ignorance.

9. Trust your voice my daughters. It took me a lifetime to learn that. Don’t let it take you as long. Know that the world is ready for your voice. Your time is now. We are listening. I am listening. I am listening to every single one of you. I’ve grown weary of my own voice. I want to hear yours. Like you, I hope that my writing changes someone, heals them, charges them to act. But I’m too close to my own writing for it to have that affect on me. I’m waiting for your poem, your story to save me in every way a person can be saved. So speak, sing, write. Press the pencil down hard when you do. Trust me when I say, you will leave an impression on things you were not intending to impress.

10. Your heart is free. Have the courage to write from that place inside you where love resides, where beauty resides, where freedom resides. When you do, you will come to the undeniable truth that no man can ever build his wall around your voice.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Billy the Kid in Puerto de Luna - Part Two

I am hoping that one day my family's story will become a book. It makes it all that more interesting when you have a character like William Bonney woven into every corner of the story in the1880's when Puerto was a lively community. I only wish my mom and dad were alive so they could see it on paper. 

As I mentioned, William Bonney spent a lot of time at the Grzelachowski General Store. When I was 16 years old, living with my Grandma Rosita, there was a small store/ gas station next door to what used to be the Grzelachowski General Store. My first cousin Percy Padilla and I worked there on the weekends. It was a 2 roomed adobe building painted light green on the exterior. There was a pool table in one room and canned goods, sodas, candy and gasoline that we sold to the locals. The locals would come by to put their quarter on the table to take their turn at pool and another quarter for a soda. I didn't have a clue what had taken place in that very location a century before. I would have asked a lot more questions of the old men that came in for cigarettes and gas. Bobby Gerhardt was one of my favorites. He was a tall, blue eyed rancher with the a golden farmer's tan. He always had a grin and joked with everyone he met. He spent evenings at my grandma's smoking cigarettes and drinking a cold one with with my uncle Jose Padilla out in the screened in porch. 

Bobby Gerhardt's nightly visits meant a little more to me when I realized William Bonney also spent time on a ranch just down the road from Puerto de Luna in Los Ojitos. The ranch was owned by Dr. John Gerhardt, a German immigrant born May 23, 1830. There were twenty children in his family. He and two of his brothers landed in New York before he moved to New Mexico. He lived in Fort Sumner for a year working as baker-pastry maker, the profession for which he had been trained in Germany. He then bought a ranch in Guadalupe County and spent the remainder of his life as a rancher and physician. John was the only practicing doctor in the vicinity. I remembered stories of my Grandma Rosita's older brother Hilario being married to Dr. John Gerhardt's daughter Katie, however they didn't marry until February 1900. Hilario was the Gerhardt Ranch foreman for many years prior to marrying his daughter. Later Hilario and his wife Katie had a ranch in Los Ojitos and Grandma Rosita Valdez Padilla and my Grandpa Ascencion Padilla had an adjoining ranch. I'd heard the old folks speak of all of these characters my whole life but didn't pay much attention to the half English and half Spanish conversations and private jokes that they had shared for years. When I started doing the research I adopted a cat named Katie and then another named Rosita, it wasn't planned, they came with the names of my grandma and her sister-in-law. Often, as I drank tea engrossed in my late night research, I imagined the sister-in-laws, Kate and Rosita, cooking posole together as they tended to fire in the wood burning stove and the children playing on the dusty wooden floor of their adobe house while their husbands, Hilario and Ascencion worked the ranch.


Los Ojitos Ruins more than a century after the flood

My grandparents later moved to Puerto de Luna because the ranch in Los Ojitos was flooded.
It took me years to piece together immensely important information in a collection of the 1880 census documents and one page of the 1890 census. All of these census documents were filled out by my 3rd great-uncle, Lorenzo Labadie and since he was related to many of the people in the area, all the information was extremely accurate. These documents gave me not only the timeline for the family history but a birds eye view of the the closeness of the small community that my mother and my father's family lived in.

Needless to say, in the wee hours of the night while doing research, I felt like I came to know Lorenzo and grew to respect him as a person. He was a key player in helping me piece together my family history. Our family history. Because of him, I have been driven to do the same for those that go after me.



Lorenzo was described as a handsome, honorable man who wore many hats. He was the grandson of my 4th great-grandfather, Dr. Dominique Labadie, an immigrant from Gascony, France. Lorenzo married Rayitos Giddings, a beautiful blue-eyed 14-year-old called "one of the fairest daughters of the territory," in February 1852. Rayitos was just as colorful in her own right. She was raised and educated by her great aunt, Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, AKA Madame La Tules, an intriguing, free-spirited woman who dominated Society in Santa Fe. She was known as one of the best professional gamblers in New Mexico. Rayitos later became a well known doctor. On the day of their wedding, as a wedding gift, Lorenzo received a commission from Governor James S. Calhoun as colonel of the territorial commission. In 1851 he was the Sheriff in Valencia County where he served 3 terms. Like his friend Kit Carson, he was a sympathetic and a loyal friend to many of the Native Americans. In 1855 he was appointed as a U.S. Indian Agent and served for 15 years. He gained respect and confidence seldom obtained by the Native Americans as an Agent. Under his watchful eye, the Native Americans worked side-by-side with soldiers, damming the Pecos River to irrigate crops, planting trees, and building a slaughter house. They had 94 gardens spread over a 100 acre area and grew melons, pumpkins, chile and green beans. He was removed as an agent because he protested against the Native Americans being furnished unwholesome food by the government.

Lorenzo was also the Post Master of Santa Rosa from 1884 until 1898. In 1885 he signed a petition to get Rifles for Puerto De Luna. On February 2, 1893 he won a case against Celso Baca for cheating on the Election for seat on the 30th. Legislation Assembly of New Mexico as representation for Guadalupe County. Lorenzo was elected. On June 29, 1896 he wrote a letter concerning the Agua Negra Land Grant. Juan Patron, his son-in-law who had been killed, owned part of that land grant.



Page 2 - June 1 and 2, 1880
Census Taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Santa Rosa, NM

So without the census that was recorded of 1880, in Santa Rosa, Puerto de Luna, Los Ojitos, Cedar Springs and Ft Sumner I would just have some scattered stories. However, on June 1 and 2, 1880, Lorenzo recorded the census of Santa Rosa which included himself, his wife Rayitos and their children including Beatriz and her husband Juan Patron. (There's a book called "Juan Patron: A Fallen Star in the Days of Billy the Kid" Juan was a hero of the the Lincoln County War and was killed at a young age)



Page 22 - 1880 Census taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Ft Sumner, Cedar Springs and Los Ojitos

On June 17 and 18, 1880, he recorded Charles Bowdre, Manuela Bowdre and William Bonney with the two men stating that they worked in cattle. On the same page John Gerhardt and his family is listed (my Uncle Hilario's wife not listed because she wasn't born until 1882.) It took me over a year to find the next page of the census showing that on the next day, June 19, 1880 he was in the home of my Great-Grand Grandparents Febronio and Maria Valdez recording the various details of their home and 6 of their children (my grandmother wasn't born until 1884)



Page 23 - 1880 Census taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Puerto de Luna




The census for Puerto de Luna 1885 above shows many of the residents of Puerto de Luna. My Great-grandmother Dorotea Chavez is shown to be the wife of Juan Labadie y Sanchez, my great grandfather. My grandmother Josefita Labadie wasn't born until 1894. My Great-grandfather died in 1898, when my grandma was only 4. Interesting because my grandma died when my dad was 4 too. Anyway, on this census there is a boarder at the home of Alexander Grzelachowski named Antonio Montoya. He married my Great-grandmother Dorotea Chavez after Juan Labadie y Sanchez died.

Lorenzo Labadie was also the census taker in 1900 in Puerto de Luna. This was probably the most important discovery of all for me on my journey to discover my father's past. My father's name was Felipe Montoya Fajardo. We were always told that my paternal grandmother's last name was Montoya, I never knew her because she died in Puerto de Luna when my father was 3 of the Spanish Influenza.



1890 Census taken by Lorenzo Labadie
Puerto de Luna

On the 1900 Puerto de Luna census, Lorenzo recored Antonio Montoya as head of household with wife Dorotea. I thought I had hit the jackpot, finding my great-grandparents but with further examination I saw that the six children were listed as step-children to head of household and their last names were listed as Labadie. That was when I discovered that my grandmother Josefita was in fact a Labadie not a Montoya and this started my long journey down the Labadie branch of my family history. My great-grandfather Juan Labadie y Sanchez died before my grandma was seven and she was adopted by her stepfather Antonio Montoya. I've often wondered what kind of relationship Lorenzo had with Dorotea, his deceased older brother's widow and mother of his nieces and nephews listed as Montoya's stepchildren. On the 1880 census Antonio Montoya was not yet married to Dorotea and and working as a "servant" at the Grzelachowski General Store.

Lorenzo died on his birthday, August 10, 1904
In Puerto De Luna, New Mexico.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Billy the Kid in Puerto de Luna - Part One

In 2014 my friend, Danny Santos sent this song to me that he had written about Billy the Kid. It prompted me to compile written documentation and photos that surrounded the life and times of Billy the Kid, as it pertains to my family history. Working on my genealogy and learning about these characters has been fascinating. Thanks for sharing your song with me Danny!

Billy he rode that New Mexico line
There was no truer friend of mine
There was no truer friend of mine

Billy Fandangoed and loved the ladies too
But to only one heart was he true
But to only one heart was he true

(Chorus)
Outlaw with notches on his gun
Outlaw were more than twenty one
Outlaw but when his days were up
Billy the Kid died for love

Billy he laid sheriff Brady in his grave
To honor a promise that he made
To honor a promise that he made

Billy he busted his Lincoln county chains
To see his senorita again
To see his senorita again

(Chorus)

Billy rode to Puerto De Luna that night
To Paulita's casita to hide
To Paulita's casita to hide

Billy yelled quien es who goes there my friend
A pistol his answer did send
A pistol his answer did send

(Chorus)





Billy the Kid's legend parallels that of such ancient rogues as Robin Hood. In my personal history books, his actions have been condoned and his loyalty to the Hispanic community of New Mexico is treasured in affectionate memory. My personal favorite story is that of William Bonney teaching my Great-Uncle Hilario Valdez how to speak and read in English. Until recent times, I thought that happened when Hilario was an adult. After a couple of years of research I realized William Bonney was about 20 and Hilario was about 7 and they lived on neighboring ranches. That makes him an even more endearing character to me. You can always trust the innate instincts of children and dogs to gravitate towards the kind hearted souls to hang out with late in the evening, when the working day is done.

"Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," the movie, was released in 1973, the year I graduated high school in Amarillo, Texas. The previous year, as a high school junior, I lived with my 90 year old grandmother Rosita Valdez Padilla in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico. PDL, as the locals call it, is on the Pecos River 12 miles southeast of Santa Rosa. It is hard for me to grasp that my grandson Dylan had just finished his junior year in high school in June of 2014, when I started seriously trying to piece together the parallels of "The Kid's" life and that of my ancestors in New Mexico. Yes, my grandson is named after Bob Dylan, partially because "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" was one of my favorite movies and albums. I was touched on a level that I couldn't explain. I listened to the album day and night and watched the movie a hundred times. A very young, handsome Kris Kristopherson played Billy the Kid and Rita Coolidge played his girlfriend and they to me, were very cool. The sound track is still hauntingly beautiful to me. I actually fell in love with someone once because he danced with me in his kitchen to the soundtrack on our first date. Now Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty" is my grandson Dylan's favorite song and even though the song isn't about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the story is similar. One of my favorite Willie Nelson movies is "The Red Headed Stranger" so I have this deep-seeded belief that the memory of those days in Puerto de Luna is a memory that my grandson and I carry in our DNA. It seems that we live in a parallel Universe and it bleeds over into our reality on occasion.

One evening in 2014, I was looking for a green chile recipes on the internet while my cats Katie and Rosita played on the floor at me feet. I started my search with "Hatch Chile" and the thought what the heck, I should search "Puerto de Luna Chile." It's a pride thing, sort of like having your favorite football team. My family has been growing "Puerto de Luna Chile" for generations. One thing lead to another, finding out that "Hatch Chiles" and "Puerto de Luna Chiles" are basically one in the same -Anaheim Peppers. While wine lovers celebrate wines from different regions, for whatever reason, the hot days and cool nights and red dirt does wonders for the flavor of the chiles in New Mexico and until recent years most grocery stores sold Anaheim peppers from California and Mexico  Now at the end of every growing season, every HEB and Central Market in Texas has a "Hatch Chile Festival." So....an hour or so into the search forgot about the chile recipes when I discovered that an autographed tintype photo of William H. Bonney was being auctioned for millions of dollars. The tintype is believed to have been taken in 1873 in New Mexico when he was 14 years old. The article said that researchers believed Bonney had a crush on a young girl named Dona Valdez, who took food to him when he was in the custody of Sheriff Pat Garrett's jail in San Miguel County, N.M.
The back of the 2" X 2" photograph
bears a faint engraving reading:
"To Dona Valdez  Love, William Bonney

This peaked my interest because my Grandma Rosita's maiden name was Valdez and according to my historian cousin, Davy Delgado, Dona Valdez was probably a relative. After much research I realized it couldn't have been my grandmother because she wasn't born until 1884 but I thought there might be a chance that it was her older sister Carmelita.

It's a well known fact that Billy the Kid spent a lot of time in Puerto de Luna, the thriving County Seat of San Miguel County, NM in 1880. There were an abundance of sheep, cattle and horse ranches occupied by my maternal and paternal ancestors. There were gardens, apple orchards and vineyards along the muddy waters of the Pecos River. The gathering place was the Grzelachowski General Store, owned and operated by Alexander Grzelachowski, (Gre-ze-la-hof-ski), also known as Don Alejandro or Padre Polaco. Everyone in New Mexico obtains a nickname, especially if you have a surname like Grzelachowski.

Grzelachowski General Store, Puerto de Luna, NM
Grzelachowski General Store, Puerto de Luna, NM
Alexander Grzelachowski  (Don Alejandro)

Don Alejandro was a big blue eyed, bearded, hospitable Polish immigrant who had been a Catholic priest before settling in Puerto de Luna in 1872. He married Secundina Cabeza de Baca and they had eight children. Their daughter, Leticia Grzelachowski was married to my Great Uncle Adecasio Juan Padilla, my maternal grandfather Ascencion Padilla's brother. Both Garrett and Bonney frequented the Grzelachowski General Store and Don Alejandro had instructed the store clerks to allow Bonney to take whatever supplies he needed without interference. My father's step-grandfather, Antonio Montoya, worked at the Grzelachowski General Store.

Grzelachowski died in 1896
of injuries suffered when he was thrown
from the wagon he was riding
on the way to his Alamo Gordo ranch.

It has always been a dream of mine to invest some time and money in the tiny community to bring it back to the glory days of the 1800's, before the decision was made to build the railroad through Santa Rosa. In 1991 my parents along with several hundred people attended the the unveiling of "The Grzelachowski General Store Historical Marker" in Puerto de Luna. I was hoping a surge of artist would discover PDL at that time and move away from the over priced Santa Fe area, but nothing ever came of it. I was busy raising 2 children in Austin, Texas.... dreaming of someday returning to New Mexico.

Pat Garrett

Pat Garrett and William Bonney were friends of the Grzelachowski family. Bonney loved visiting Don Alejandro because he spoke at least six languages, including fluent Spanish. He told stories about Europe. Bonney attended the dances at the Grzelachowski General Store and Garrett was known to often stop by the store to talk and eat dinner. Grzelachowski is best remembered by historians as the Puerto de Luna merchant who served Billy the Kid his last Christmas dinner. December of 1880 was a bitterly cold in New Mexico. Bonney was being transported to jail in Las Vegas by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, the lean, tough, 6-foot-4-inch sheriff of Lincoln County.  He was nick named “Juan Largo.” He and his posse arrived at Grzelachowski's General Store on Christmas Eve, 1880. They rested their horses in Puerto de Luna that day while defrosting themselves with mesquite fires and whiskey. On Christmas Day Grzelachowski served Christmas dinner. Bonney was sentenced to be hanged on May 13, 1881 but he escaped.

On July 14, 1881, Garrett told his deputies that he had killed the Kid. Some historians have questioned Garrett's account of the shooting, alleging that Billy the Kid was never shot. There has been much dispute over the details of the Kid's death. There were also popular stories that Garrett and Billy had once been friends, and that the shooting was a kind of betrayal. Legends persist that Billy the Kid was not killed that night, and that Garrett staged it all so the Kid could escape the law. Although Garrett was trying to help the community, most people in the area saw him as a villain for killing a favorite son.