|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 the same block in the Hamlet neighborhood my whole life, up to that point. It was a new middle income neighborhood when I was born. We were in walking distance to the largest park in Amarillo. Thompson Park had a Zoo, swimming pool and an amusement park called Wonderland. Life as I knew it, was pretty 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 climate had changed at the school 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 Padilla
|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
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
|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.
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.