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Courtesy Anita Rodriguez

'Querencia'

Only generational Taoseños will get all the codes in this painting.  El Santo Niño in una carreta pulled by la muerte, San Francisco flinging Mexican parrots into the sky,  Veronicas, Nuestra Señora with Jesús and Saint John The Baptist, Crypto-Jews and costumed dancers – all in the same procession, crossing an arroyo somewhere around Taos – bearing our precious traditions, symbols – our querencia

My father had “Querencia”: Querer means to love; and herencia means heritage.  Querencia means love of one’s cultural inheritance.   

We had a 1941 Studebaker and Sundays we would cruise the villages.  Trampas, Ojo Sarco, Truchas, even Arroyo Seco and Hondo were far away in those days.  Daddy knew everyone from his drugstore on the plaza.  He was a born storyteller, a terrible driver, and while he told stories we wandered wildly across lanes, missing horses by inches and terrifying Mother.  He would talk to everyone in our country Spanish, people invited us in, gave us piñon, tamales, showed us their santos, gardens and animals.  Era muy gente.  

But history has made us a secretive, invisible people (refer to my series of Tempo articles, “How La Raza Became Invisible.”)  After 1680, when Po'pay drove some of my ancestors out of New Mexico, the successful religious revolution of the Pueblos taught Hispanics respect for the value of secrecy. 

Additionally, after 1847, the Penitente Brotherhood was driven underground by people like Mabel Dodge Lujan, who crept through the chamiso to observe ceremonies that were none of their business and to steal our religious art. And the Crypto-Jews came here to hide – thickening the soup.

Furthermore, we are a colonized people, our land was been confiscated by an openly white supremacist culture that is the dominant political force in our country. We are naturally on the defensive.

Our secrecy and invisibility are both a form of resistance and an oppressive external force with consequences – like not being included in the future projections of [town of Taos project] Strong at Heart, and consequently not getting any of the CARES money to address our survival needs – as if we don’t exist.

So our beauty, our depth, our richness, our tragedy and the miracle of our survival, not to mention the sheer complexity of our story is a secret.  The tourist industry has fabricated a false narrative for an elite market, purged of any unpleasant historical facts.   

People don’t even know what to call us.  Even we have internalized this unique identity ambivalence and members of the same extended family can insist they are Latinex, Chicano, Generational Taoseños, Mexican, Hispanic, Indo-Hispano, Chicanex, Mexican-American, Spanish-American, Raza, Genizero, or Mestizo.   

Even our language is a unique, colloquial code nobody can pin down. We have a vocabulary that Spanish speakers from anywhere but Taos can’t quite get, variously called “archaic,” “a dialect,” “New Mexican Spanish” or “Spanglish.” It’s a humorous, pungent patois, with words from Tiwa, Nahuatl, English, archaic Spanish, prison slang and the creative imagination of a people who love double meanings.

Another “only in Taos” nuance that contributes to the elusive identity of my plebe: Historically, we are sandwiched between former enemies.  On the one side are the “Americanos,” who conquered half of Mexico, Taos town and the Pueblo included, in an ongoing conquest that is reaching the final stage of gentrification and driving the last of whateveryouwantotocallus off the land.  

On the other side are the Pueblos, who we conquered in a brutal, violent war, who have historical reasons to resent us. (And the stupidest among us are prejudiced against our relatives and neighbors.)  

But who is “us?”  In the village of Abiquiú more than 20 Native languages were once spoken. Abiqueños became “Hispanic” because Spanish was the obvious way to communicate. In 1680, when the Pueblos drove the Spanish out, families were split because of so much intermarriage. The Naranjo family from Okay Owingeh Pueblo for example. And what about the 300 Tlaxcalteco Indian families from Veracruz that settled in Chimayo? And, when Kit Carson drove the Navajos on the Long Walk – 70 percent of the militia were Pueblo Indians. So the “sides” in Hispano-Pueblo relationships are not simple. 

To further blur the difference, remember that for 250 years the medium of exchange among tribes and Spanish settlers was horses, women and children. This fuzzed the genetic and cultural boundaries between Indian and whateveryouwantocallus still more. Native women of diverse tribes, whether as slaves, concubines, mothers or servants, raised, bore and profoundly influenced generations of whateveryouwantotcallus, Indianizing Hispano-American consciousness from infancy.  

In real life, historically and genetically, culturally and personally, the Native-Hispanic boundary is so permeable that it has almost become a connection.  Just who is really indigenous?  And who does it benefit to reduce the number of Indians as much as possible, whether by genocide or bureaucratic erasure? 

Follow the real estate.

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