Wednesday, October 20, 2021

My Job at the Newspaper 1992 - 2007

The other day my 4 year old great niece, Junie said she wanted to be an artist and a writer when she grew up. With great pride, I told her that I had been an artist and a writer for a newspaper for 15 years. Then I stopped and wondered if she even knew what a newspaper is.

Christina Fajardo
Working at the Newspaper
View from my corner office of the
Austin American-Statesman

My great niece Juniper Moon,
who will most definitely be an artist and a writer
when she grows up because she is
already a writer and an artist at the age of 4.

Five years ago, the year before Junie was born, the Austin American-Statesman presses at 305 S Congress Ave. ran for the last time. They moved their printing operations to San Antonio and Houston. It was a sad day for me and many others. I had worked at the Austin American-Statesman for 15 years and part of my job was to knowing and sharing the history of the newspaper. Watching the newspaper die a slow death has been heartbreaking.

My History At The Newspaper

My education was in graphic design and my career at the newspaper began on January 6, 1992. I had moved back to Austin from Los Angeles in 1989, where I had been working at the Bob Ahlman Advertising Agency. I wasn't ready to jump back into an office job so I started selling my artwork at the 23rd St Artist Market.

Spring, summer and fall at the open air markets were fun. I met lots of like minded people, however, when winter fell upon those of us standing out in the weather all day, it wasn't so much fun. I spent the bitterly cold winter of 1991 selling art in what is basically a wind tunnel on the dead end street at the corner of 23rd and Guadalupe, across the street from the University of Texas Tower. There were a few days during my kid's Christmas vacation when Christian was bundled up on a cot under my table with a long heavy table cloth on it that served as a tent. I was a volunteer on the board of the artist market and part of my job was to place the ads for the market in the Austin-American Statesman and the Chronicle. The week before Christmas, I went to the Statesman to meet with our advertising sales representative in his office on the 3rd floor, overlooking what was then Town Lake (Now Lady Bird Lake) My first thought was "I could get used to this heated office job. I'm a graphic designer, I could do this!" So the week after Christmas, I applied for a job at the Statesman, thinking I could work there for a year, until I decided what my next step would be. On January 6, I had the job in the Educational Services/Marketing Dept.

I wore many hats in the marketing department, which was great because anyone that knows me can tell you I get bored easily. So ultimately, my one year office job turned into a 15 year career.

When I started working in the Educational Department, I gave tours of the newspaper facility to classrooms of kids. Sometimes I gave tours to people from other businesses and other countries. I designed teaching curriculum for teachers to use in classroom. Occasionally on Saturdays we taught teachers how to use newspapers in their classrooms with our curriculum. Looking back, our curriculum was very cutting edge.

The Educational Service Department
Ginny, Christina, Frida and Mary Ann

It would be hard to cover everything I did at the Statesman in one blog post but I will start by saying this - I am forever grateful for learning that it doesn't matter how good you are at what you do, whether you're an artist, a musician or if you own a restaurant or a clothing store, if you don't know how to market yourself well, you will not be successful. Why? Because nobody will ever know who you are and what you do. I can't stress how essential effective advertising and marketing is. You would be amazed at how effective our Educational Services Department was at selling newspapers which is why it was located in the Marketing Department.

This 40 page curriculum taught students history,
culture and contributions of diverse culture groups. 

Newspapers in Education awarded
thousands of dollars annually to high school
juniors and seniors winners
of the scholarship writing contests.
I had my son, Christian design this cover
of the flyer when he was a teenager.

Every Wednesday 30 free newspapers were delivered to each teacher who had been sponsored by a local business to use the newspaper in their class to teach. It was a win-win situation because businesses paid for sponsorships in turn the business received advertising. The teachers also received teaching curriculum and tours of the newspaper. After a couple of years, Ginny Garrison left and David Pego became director of the Educational Services Dept. With that change came a little more freedom to do what I was best at.
I created a full page called "Scholar and Scribe" that was published every Wednesday with educational information for teachers, students.

Mary Ann, David and Christina
The Educational Serviced Department

It's Hard To Believe I Had a Full Page
Called "Scholar and Scribe" 
Published Every Wednesday.
Once Monthly "Christina's Craft Corner"
Was Featured.

New Fellow Fellowship

In 1998 I won a New Fellow Fellowship from the Newspaper Association of America. I would have to say that this was one of the few times in my life when being a minority woman was beneficial because it was a huge factor in winning the fellowship. There were 14 of us from news sources around the country who traveled around the country for a year brainstorming. Trying to collectively decided how to integrate the internet into the newspaper business. We spent our days brainstorming and our nights out on the town of many major cities around the country. It was one of the best years of my life. Here are a few photos from that year.

One of the most-loved and celebrated bookstores in America,
City Lights, in San Francisco. It closed at the beginning
of the pandemic but has reopened its doors
after teetering on the brink of permanent closure.

Christina Fajardo
New Media Fellow 1998
San Francisco

New Media Fellows having dinner 
In China Town, San Francisco

Ivan Martinez and Christina Fajardo
New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998
Out on the town in St Petersburg, Florida
After a long day at the Poynter Institute

At the end of the fellowship year I was to come up with an online project that would make the NEW Austin American- Statesman online project interesting to the public. I came up with a blog idea (before anyone even had blogs) I asked my friend Lana, Willie Nelson's daughter write an online diary with photos of being on the road with Willie, her dad, specifically in Europe. It was so successful that Random House offered them a million dollar book deal. When they finished their tour, I had Jimmy LaFave's drummer, Herb Belofsky write a blog on their tour. Not fully understanding the concept of a blog, Jimmy wasn't entirely happy with the idea. But later he did like performing at the noon time concerts at the newspaper. Once a month on Friday, I would hire musician friends to play a concert on the patio in front of the Statesman for the employees. We had it catered by local restaurants and the bands were paid well. When I look back now, it makes me smile to think of all the "marketing strategies" I came up with. 

I could go on and on with the service that the newspaper provided to the community. I'm extremely grateful for my fellowship and the knowledge I gain from the experience. Just being able to go to the Poynter Institute in Florida was priceless.The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a non-profit journalism school and research organization in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is a global leader in journalism. The school is owned by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the International Fact-Checking Network and operates PolitiFact. 

I am heartbroken daily at what has happened to honest, informed journalism of daily newspapers. Those of us in the newspaper business took so much pride in our jobs in the 15 years that I was a part of that industry. I think back on the days when we all had our Associated Press Style Book on our desk when I see the way people spell and punctuate now. 

I worked at the newspaper until 2007 and I have taken you through the first 7 years. There may be a follow up blog soon about the next years spent working as a graphic designer in Marketing.

The Austin American-Statesman Marketing Dept.

I will end with this... Please, when you read something on the internet, don't assume the information is correct. Check and recheck the sources. I love the internet. I was on the cutting edge of using it to provide information at a major newspaper and that is why it is so important to me to say it is your responsibility to check your sources. Please don't believe everything you see on the internet. 

Here is a link to a great place to check your fact: is an American nonprofit project operated by the Poynter InstituteIts journalists evaluate original statements and publish their findings on the website, where each statement receives a "Truth-O-Meter" rating. The ratings range from "True" for statements the journalists deem as accurate to "Pants on Fire" (from the taunt "Liar, liar, pants on fire") for claims the journalists deem as false or ludicrous. PolitiFact has won the Pulitzer Prize, and has been both praised and criticized by independent observers, conservatives and liberals alike.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month - Sept 15 - Oct 15

You're probably wondering why Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15 instead of at the first of the month. The beginning date is a nod to the anniversaries of national independence for a number of Latin American countries:

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua who all declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821.

Here's where my personal history comes in. On September 16, 1821 Mexico gained its independence from Spain. At that time, Mexico's northern provinces included California, New Mexico and Texas. I can only imagine the celebration when Mexico declared independence from Spain after being ruled by the monarchy for 300 years. It's hard for me to fathom that one of my heroes, my Great Great Uncle Lieutenant Colonel Lorenzo Labadie was born in 1825, just 4 years after New Mexico transformed from a colony of Spain to a territory of Mexico. 

American settlers began arriving in New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail. Then it was ceded to the United States in 1848 through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Then, finally on January 6, 1912, the territory was admitted into the Union as the State of New Mexico. 

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

This is when I start feeling like a gender-neutral trying to explain to someone how to formally address me and my flavor of Hispanic culture. I often feel the need to do so because the country in which I live, hasn't done a very good job educating us. The information handed to us in text books has historically been extremely one sided. The average American thinks all of our ancestors arrived on boats at Ellis Island or maybe if you are Hispanic, your ancestors came with Christopher Columbus on the Niña, the Pinta or the Santa Maria. I have news for you....Columbus didn’t “discover” America and he never set foot on the land of North America.

So once a year during Hispanic Heritage Month, I attempt to educate the readers of my blog of the Hispanic heritage of the very misunderstood southwestern United States. I've realized that the majority of folks who lead our country in Washington DC, are only interested in their history and the majority of them are descendants of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island. I am constantly reminding people that the Spanish settlers in New Mexico began to arrive in 1540. 

So..let me back up and tell you some of previous important dates of my Hispanic heritage: On November 8, 1519, my first cousin 10 generations back, Hernándo Cortés, landed in Tenochtitlán (present day Mexico City) with 500 Spanish conquistadors. They had conquered Mexico for Spain by 1521. Then on July 11, 1598 Juan de Oñate came north from the Valley of Mexico with 500 Spanish settlers and soldiers and 7,000 head of livestock, founding the first Spanish settlement in Villa Nueva de Santa Fe

Then in 1680, there was an uprising of most of the indigenous Pueblo people against Spanish religious, economic and political institutions imposed upon the Pueblos in the province of in Villa Nueva de Santa Fe called "The Pueblo Revolt." 400 Spaniards were killed and the remaining 2,000 Spanish colonizers went to El Paso de Norte (present day El Paso) along the upper Rio Grande River establishing the first Spanish base in 1680. It is easy to see this migration in my family, especially amongst my Padilla ancestors. Twelve years later many of them returned to Villa Nueva de Santa Fe Some remained in El Paso de Norte and just about a year ago I met a 5th cousin with the surname Padilla who lives in El Paso. 

The Hispanic culture of New Mexico historically identified strongly with their Spanish heritage yet have varying levels of Native American heritage as well. (Apache, Comanche, Pueblo, Navajo and Hopi) The majority of us are not Mexicans. On the average, the Hispanic population of New Mexico have approximately 70% Spanish DNA and 30% Native American DNA. I am personally about 62% Spanish, 24% Native American and the rest is a mix of mostly Italian and French.

This map shows where my
Spanish DNA originated

This map shows where my
Native American DNA originated

New Mexico didn't become a part of the United States until January 6, 1912, 3 years before the birth of my father. Needless to say, our history is somewhat different than the majority of the United States. New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, 47% of its population. 29% of the state's population speaks Spanish at home. So you can only imagine what it may have been like for my mother who's first language was Spanish, moved to Texas and was treated like a second rate citizen for speaking her native language. Both of my parents were born in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico, however my father moved to Guymon, OK after his mother died at the age of 3 and was schooled there. He had a Texas accent. 

So this is just a reminder... my ancestors didn't cross the border.... the border crossed us. We have been here for almost 500 years and Spanish is our native language. 

Okay, I am stepping off of my soap box and enjoying the rest of Hispanic Heritage Month in hopes that my readers have learned a little bit of history and will act accordingly.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Fine Spanish Colonial Art - Retablos


A gift from my niece Cayce
and her husband Mario from Santa Fe

Retablos, or in English alter pieces, is a structure or element placed on or above an alter, better known as 'laminas' in Mexico, are small oil paintings on wood and sometimes tin. They are used in home altars in respect of Catholic saints. The literal translation for 'retablo' is 'behind the altar.' This unique genre of art, deeply rooted in European history, was brought to Mexico with the arrival of the Spanish and then ultimately adopted by New World mestizo natives to become what is known today as the Mexican folk retablo.

Retablo was an art form that flourished in post conquest Mexico and reached its pinnacle of popularity in the last quarter of the 19th century. With some exceptions, mostly untrained artists created these sacred images.

Retablos were sold to devout believers who displayed them in home altars to honor their patron saints. There are virtually hundreds of saints, each invoked to remedy a different situation.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Mercado de Coronado - Puerto de Luna, New Mexico

Painting of My Grandma's House
by Christina Fajardo

In 2017 I wrote a blog reflecting back 45 years to 1972, when I was 16 years old. I was born and raised in Amarillo and had lived on Magnolia Street in the Hamlet neighborhood my whole life, up to that point.  I am sure when my parents moved there from Garfield Street, it felt like heaven. It was a new middle income neighborhood when I was born. North Amarillo was booming because of the airbase. We were in walking distance to the largest park in Amarillo. Thompson Park was my paradise. It had a Zoo, swimming pool and an amusement park called Wonderland. Life as I knew it, was pretty freaking good on Magnolia Street. We had a 4 bedroom house and my dad had a workshop in the backyard and we always had a beautiful yard due to the fact that one of my dad's favorite pass times was watering the grass, feeding birds and stray cats.

This is the house I grew up in at
1804 Magnolia, Amarillo, Texas

Both of my brothers and my sister had gone to the local north side high school, Palo Duro High. However the dynamics of the high school had changed considerably by the time I arrived there for my junior year. My best friend Regina's parents transferred her to Alamo private Catholic school. My parents decided to take me to Puerto de Luna, New Mexico to live with my 90 year old grandma on her farm. I realized later, this was simply to make a point, to show me how tough things really could be since I was seemly unhappy living in my perfect teenage bedroom with blacklight posters, walk-in closet and blue princess phone. 

Playing guitar in my bedroom

I had a cute boyfriend who lived down the street. We were either on the phone or hanging out at the swimming pool or Wonderland at Thompson Park.

Jay Spann and Christina Fajardo

Next thing I knew, I was, living with my grandma Rosita in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico. It made for a very interesting living situation since she was blind and she only spoke Spanish. My saving grace was that my Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Rita Padilla and their 8 kids lived next door. 

Me with my cousins who lived next door
 to my Grandmas Rosita, in Puerto de Luna, NM
From left to right: Percy Padilla, Christina Fajardo,
Mark Padilla, Rita Padilla and Michael 

Distributive Education Class
Santa Rosa High
Bottom Row - Christina Fajardo
Middle Row - Connie Campos
Back Row - Percy Padilla

I wasn't really aware that my parents had taken me to Puerto de Luna to convence me of how good my life in Texas really was. Needless to say, they were extremely surprised when they returned a couple of weeks later to take me home and found that I had settled into my new dusty New Mexico farm life very well. I didn't mind sleeping on a roll away bed in my grandma's bedroom. I found it comforting to hear her pray the rosary at night in the dark with an owl hooting in the tree outside my window. The 12 mile school bus ride to Santa Rosa High wasn't so bad because the radio station seemed to play Jose Feliciano's "Ain't No Sunshine" every morning at the same time. I loved being the new girl in school and the teachers thought I was brilliant. Especially my art teacher, Mr. Lopez, who bought me canvas and oil paints while everyone else was painting on paper. I loved that the school cafeteria served rice, pinto beans, potatoes and tortillas for lunch. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was really at home. I found a group of friends who have remained lifelong friends, unlike the majority of the kids I had gone to school with for the previous 10 years. And the icing on the cake is that I have since learned that most of them are my cousins.

I didn't miss spending my weekends going out with the party animals of Amarillo. In fact, there was a small co-op grocery store/gas station in Puerto de Luna called "Mercado de Coronado." My first cousin Percy Padilla and I worked there on the weekends. It was located in an old, light green adobe building next to what used to be the Grzelachowski General Store, established 100 years earlier, around 1872. 

Photo of the "Mercado de Coronado" It has been closed for many years
Grzelachowski General Store, Puerto de Luna, NM

There were a couple of young men who were VISTA volunteers who helped organize "Mercado de Coronado." The other day I received an email from Sam, one of the VISTA volunteers. He said he had stumbled across my blog a couple of years ago while looking for news of Puerto de Luna. It was so cool to hear from him. I have such fond memories of that little store. The front room had a cash register, shelves of essentials like canned goods, bread, crackers and the not so essential candy and a refrigerator full of generic sodas. Then there was a pool table in the other room. The regulars would come by with money in hand to put their quarter on the pool table to take their turn at pool and another quarter for a soda. We also sold gasoline as you can see by the rusty old Conoco gas sign still standing out in front of the building in the photo.

The church where my parents were baptized and married was in walking distance and across the road was our family cemetery where my little brother, Larry was buried.

Nuestra Senora del Refugio Catholic Church

At the time, I had not a clue what historic events had taken place in that very location a century before. My paternal grandmother Josefita Labadie Fajardo's family lived in Puerto de Luna as well. My first cousin (3 generations back) Beatriz Labadie was married to Juan Patron. They had been living in Lincoln but the Lincoln County War had broken out so they moved to Puerto de Luna to live on the Labadie ranch. Upon their arrival, Juan raised money to have the church, Nuestra Senora del Refugio (Our Lady of Refuge) built in 1982. Unfortunately, the first mass held in the church was for Juan Patron's funeral. He was murdered at a salon in Puerto de Luna.
He is buried under the nave of the church. He could have very well become the governor of New Mexico but instead he was needlessly assassinated before the age of 30.

The following year one of my all time favorite movies, "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" was released. I never thought twice about why I felt so emotionally attached to the movie and the sound track. 

Movie poster for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

There were very few remnants left of what a bustling little community Puerto de Luna was 100 years before. It was the county seat, so there was a court house, post office and a beautiful Catholic church. 

Court House in Puerto de Luna, NM

My cousin Juan Patron, a young, up and coming politician had raised the money to build the church. He was murdered in a Puerto de Luna saloon on April 15, 1884, just 
as the church was being finished. His funeral was the first mass to be held in the new church and he is buried in the nave. He was the son-in-law of my Great-Great Uncle Lorenzo Labadie, who was one of the most impressive characters in my family history during the 1800's. He had been a Lieutenant Colonel, a sheriff and when he got older he had orchards and vineyards. He had a license to sell wine and was the he was a very accurate census taker. While doing my ancestry research, I always know that if the census was filled out by Lorenzo Labadie, it is complete and accurate. 

Now, reflecting back, I wish I would have asked a lot more questions of the local farmers who came in to buy gas at "Mercado de Coronado." I wish I had know a little more history of this dusty little ghost town when I lived there. Bobby Gerhardt (my  second cousin) was one of my favorites who often came into the store. He was a tall, blue eyed rancher with the a golden farmer's tan. He always wore a grin and joked with everyone he met. He spent evenings at my grandma's smoking cigarettes and drinking a cold one with my Uncle Jose Padilla out in the screened in porch by the light of the moon. 

This is when a healthy dose of time travel would come in handy. William Bonney AKA "Billy the Kid" spent a lot of time in Puerto de Luna at the Grzelachowski General Store in the late 1800's. I was beyond surprised when I found his name on census 1880 census when I was researching John Gerhardt. Interestingly enough, John Gerhardt was my Great Aunt Doloritas Padilla Gerhardt's father-in-law and he was also my Great Uncle Hilario Valdez's father-in-law. This is where one of the branches of my family tree gets a little tangled. My mom's Aunt Doloritas Padilla, on her dad's side was married to John Gerhardt's son, Henry Gerhardt. AND my mom's Uncle Hilario Valdez, on her mom's side was married to John Gerhardt's daughter, Katie Gerhardt. John was the only practicing doctor in the vicinity. I remembered stories of my Great Uncle Hilario being the Gerhardt Ranch foreman for many years prior to marrying Katie. Later Hilario and 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 Spanglish (half English and half Spanish) conversations and private jokes that they had shared for years. 

Oddly, when I started doing ancestry research I adopted a cat named Katie and then another named Rosita. It was purely serendipitous. It felt like it was a little private cosmic joke on me from the Universe that they came with the names of my grandma Rosita and her sister-in-law, Katie. 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 floors of their adobe houses while their husbands, Hilario and Ascencion worked the sheep ranches.

So my time in Puerto de Luna was short lived. My parents made me go back to Amarillo for my senior year. When I returned to Amarillo, I went to school half day and worked half day, saving my money to get back to New Mexico the summer after I graduated. I rented a little adobe house in Santa Rosa that summer with Yolanda Smith. I had big plans to attend Highlands University in the fall. My parents had other plans. They snatched me up and took me to Austin where I would remain most of my adult life. 

My house in Santa Rosa
My cousin Barbara Quintana Baca's children,
Timothy and Kris Baca
In front of my macrame and
mural on the living room wall
in my tiny house on the hill, in Santa Rosa

Moving back to New Mexico has always been in the back of my mind...but for now my heart and soul live there and I just go back to visit every couple of years.

One of my favorite photos of Puerto de Luna

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Musica De Mi Corazon

A couple of  days ago I was scrolling through Facebook while drinking my morning coffee and came across an interesting post on:

 Everything New Mexico: Photos, memories, canciones, recipes, art, y mas

The video was of a band from New Mexico called  'Lone Piñon' performing a song called "La Julia."  

If you know this song, you are probably related to me. HaHaHa.... I'm only half joking. The song is from a collection called “New Mexican Folk Music: El Tesoro del Pueblo,” available from the University of New Mexico Press. 

So when I clicked on the video I was transported back to my childhood. It's crazy how this polka could stir such powerful subconscious childhood memories and emotion.

The song "La Julia"  brought back vivid memories of significant occasions, like family funerals and weddings. As a child, these events were one and the same. It merely meant the gathering of my siblings and first cousins at my grandma's adobe farm house in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico, staying up late and feeling totally connected. Meanwhile, my mom and my aunts cooked fresh green chile and squash, beans, rice and tortillas on a wood burning stove at my Aunt Rita and Uncle Gilbert's house. Next door at my grandma's house my dad and uncles would play music, drink beer and smoke cigarettes. Fun was had by all.

My dad, Felipe Montoya Fajardo

My dad and Uncle Joe played guitar, Uncle Guillermo played the accordion and they all sang traditional New Mexican music while dusty children ran in and out of the houses, down to the mora tree by the acequia. From sun up til sun down we played tag and chased pigs and chickens while eating fresh tortillas with butter dripping on the ground.

Some of you won't relate to this song on the level that I do because it's not a mainstream song but for me it's a little like hearing those old Beatle songs, James Taylor, Jackson Browne or early Willie Nelson. Hearing "La Julia"  was even more profound than that. It caught me off guard because I didn't even know the name of the song and until a couple of days ago and I only knew a few of the lyrics because I understand Spanish but I don't speak it fluently. So hearing the song for the first time since my dad died in 2001 was like stepping into a time machine that I wasn't prepared for.

My Uncle Joe had a band in Albuquerque
Grandma Rosita, my Aunt Connie,
Aunt Rita, my cousin Josie
and my Uncle Joe

My cousin, Paul Fajardo
with his dad's guitar and amp

As we all know, the relationship between music and memory is powerful. I saw the healing effects of music  first hand years ago when my friend, Billy Doss took me to see his aging father who was suffering from dementia. He couldn't remember what he had for breakfast that day but when Billy picked up his guitar and started singing his father's songs, he sang along and didn't miss a word. I realized then that music is an important mnemonic device. 

My Uncle Guillermo Padilla
in Puerto de Luna

My Uncle Guillermo Padilla
in Puerto de Luna

So let me back up and tell you how all of this connects for me and why it's of interest. I love music. Fortunately, am from a musical and artistic family. I realized sort of late in life that my family is somewhat unusual to have so many artists, musicians and generally a close knit family heavily influenced by our Hispanic family traditions. When I realized my family wasn't typical to those I knew in Texas, I dove head first into genealogical research as a hobby to learn more about my Spanish ancestors who settled in New Mexico in the late 1500s. I discovered that I'm related to half the population of New Mexico and now I've discovered there been some really cool songs passed down through the generations along with some great recipes that my son now serves at Taco Circus, his restaurant in St Louis. That's the good news. The bad news is that there's a rare disease that runs rampant in my family called Cerebral Cavernous Malformation or CCM1 also known as the Common Hispanic Mutation. It's been given that name because it is particularly prevalent among the Hispanic population of New Mexico. The defective gene has been passed down through at least 14 generations and the origin can be traced back to the earliest Spanish settlers, my ancestors on both my mother and my father's side of the family. Neurological issues are way too common in my family so I am constantly on a quest to learn how the brain works and how to improve brain function due to my own neurological issues. This new discovery is so cool because I have found that music is particularly healing on many levels. 

So without getting too technical, the hippocampus and the frontal cortex are two areas in the brain associated with memory. They take in a lot of information, however, as I've gotten older, I've found that retrieving information isn't as easy as it used to be. Science has proven that listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion and reward. Music doesn't just help us retrieve stored memories, it also helps us lay down new ones. A perfect example was when my granddaughter Jackie was a couple of years old, my son, Christian was trying to teach her how to say "Taco Circus" she was getting confused so he sang it to her slowly and she learned how to sing it immediately. Music provides rhythm and rhyme which helps to unlock and store information. It's the structure of the song that helps us to remember, as well as the melody and the images the words provoke.  

Music can also make us feel strong emotions so rather than just being able to recite the lyrics when we hear songs from our past, we feel the lyrics. For instance, when I hear old Bob Dylan songs, I remember sitting in my bedroom as a teenager, teaching myself how to play my dad's Silvertone guitar and talking to Jay Spann on the phone. That's a memory that I cherish.

The solemn teenager in my bedroom
learning Bob Dylan songs.

So here are the lyrics in Spanish and then below in English to the song "La Julia"  I hope you enjoy listening to it even half as much as I have. I can still hear my dad singing this song with a huge smile on his face.


 "La Julia" 
Su mamá le dice a Julia, ¿Qué te dijo ese señor?
Mamá, no me dijo nada, no más me trató de amores.
La vecina de aquí en frente se llamaba Maria Clara,
Y si no se hubiera muerto todavía se llamara.

La vecina de aquí en frente me mató mi gallo blanco
Porque le andaba escarbando las semillas de cilantro.

La vecina de aquí en frente tenía un gato muy barato,
Y le dice a su marido, Mira viejo, tu retrato.


"La Julia" 
Julia’s mom asks her, What was that gentlemen saying to you?
Nothing, Mom, he was just hitting on me.

The neighbor-lady across from here was named Maria Clara,
If she hadn’t have died she would still be named that.

The neighbor-lady across from here killed my white rooster
‘Cause it was digging up her cilantro seeds.

The neighbor-lady across from here had a really cheap cat,
And she says to her husband, Look, old man, it’s like looking at a portrait of you.
I looked up 'Lone Piñon' on Spotify to see if I recognized any of their other songs. "El Valse de la Grama" is my second favorite. Especially since it sounds like it was recorded at my grandma's house with the sound of an acequia flowing in the background with her rooster crowing in perfect timing.
My mom Agueda Padilla Fajardo 
and my grandma Rosita Valdez Padilla
eating mora under the mora tree
with the acequia flowing in the background
watering the chile field.
Gracias 'Lone Piñon' for keeping the traditional music of New Mexico alive. I hope to see you perform live some day. You have no idea what fond memories I have of my dad singing these satirical lyrics of old-fashioned New Mexican songs. I am deeply grateful.