Flower Power era recalled in stories

Museum project recalls pivotal counterculture time in New Mexico


“Turn on, Tune in, drop out” is a phrase that can trigger stories about the raucous and raw counterculture movement spanning the 1960s and ‘70s. This same sentiment brings together a community storytelling project in Taos happening Thursday (Nov. 9), from 6-8 p.m. at the SOMOS Salon, 108-B Civic Plaza Drive.

Participants in the project will be telling first-person stories inspired by the counterculture era that share commonalities and weave a rich fabric of themes that include transformation, resilience, commitment and respect for the community.

The New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe is collecting and publishing these stories from five communities in Northern New Mexico for archival purposes and community-building in an exhibit titled “Turn On, Tune In: A Community Storytelling Project.”

Co-curator Meredith Davidson said, “Sometimes museum exhibits only live within the walls of an institution. This program is a way to expand those walls and bring the history of our state to the communities who lived through the times. This is local history at its best, hearing the voices of people who come from your community, your neighborhood, your block.”

The storytellers applied to participate and were then selected on a first-come basis. They attended a two-day workshop with seven other locals. During the workshop, participants were groomed for recording and presentation with storytelling techniques that include storyboarding and active listening exercises. In the end, each story is recorded and edited to eight minutes. Taos storytellers include Seth Brown, Liz Cervio, Tiffany Jama, Rick Klein, Margaret “Peggy” Nes, Maye Torres, Enrico Trujillo and Megan White.

The project includes stories from people who weren’t alive during the era, but connect to the ideas and legacy of the counterculture. Nes, a longtime resident of Lama near San Cristóbal, said about the workshop and process of telling her story; “It gave me an appreciation for listening. We may chit-chat with each other, but we don’t often listen to each other’s stories. The listening part is very moving.”

Nes arrived in New Mexico when she was 18, and said she remembers a feeling of homecoming, and a desire for a “much more hands-on life, physical rather than mental existence.” Her youth was spent in Morocco, Libya, and Vietnam, as the daughter of a career Foreign Service Officer. The topography and the arid climate of New Mexico were familiar, and her upbringing in communities overseas prepared her for the hardships and joy of living and working the land in Lama.

“I feel some grief or sadness from the changes that have transpired since my days at Lama,” she said. “You walk into a store, and don’t know each other. It’s endemic all over the world. When I moved to Lama, I viewed my neighbors as people I might get old with. The sense of family and community was foremost, not economic advancement. I always tell people who move to Taos get to know your community. When you are working in your studio, and your neighbor’s pasture is on fire, you don’t keep painting, you go help put out the fire.”

Retired Santa Fe psychotherapist, now a part-time educator, Liz Cervio, began her time in Taos in January of 1970, arriving from New York City. Her boyfriend was a member of the Reality Construction Commune, one of many utopian and spiritual collectives including New Buffalo, Morningstar, Lama Foundation and the Hog Farm.

“We were young,” she said. “We were escapees from the 1940s and 1950s. It wasn’t all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but some of it was.” She said she never actually lived in the commune. “It wasn’t my thing,” but her story reflects the hardships and rawness of a lifestyle with stories that include “the eight-seater outhouse and the sex. Life was amazing and hard.”

Cervio added, “Stories to me are the connective tissue that lights us up.” She added people should to come to the storytelling event because “many of us are dying off, many are gone, if you have any interest at all in this history, show up.”

Enrico Trujillo’s story spans the last seven or eight years working with Taos Gay Pride. “My story is about bringing Pride to Taos with Robert Quintana, a Taos gay rights activist who passed away suddenly two weeks before the first official Pride event in Taos in 2010.”

Trujillo was born in Taos, left for several years, and returned in 2007 to build his own home with his father who owned a construction business. He said, “Taos is a place that is very accepting, we have a strong community here.” Trujillo said he got involved with the project because “you don’t always have an opportunity to work out how you feel about things and tell your story, Taos has its storytelling vestibule, events like Pecha Kucha, which develop community, seven or eight people are there sharing their passion … and it makes me excited to be alive … and in Taos.”

Judy Goldberg, a co-facilitator of the community storytelling project, is an educator and radio producer for stories about the human condition. She said “by working with our memories and reflections, we have the opportunity to find our commonalities. Our hope for the project is to plant the seed for on-going recordings of local stories, for public history collections and for sitting around and sharing. In the age of social media, we hope people revive the traditions of being present with one another, to encourage listening and respect for one another’s difficult and remarkable times. We want to fan the fires of inspiration, for people to re-commit to the hard work of kindness and caring for all people. Storywork, at its base, is about connecting.”

Admission to the storytelling event is free and the public is invited. Afterward, a potluck meal is planned during which more stories may be shared. For more information, call SOMOS at (575) 758-0081.