Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Road to Taos – Part 2


The directions were easy enough.  Take a left at Allsup instead of a right.  The grounds were on the right about a mile.  For the price of five dollars, I was granted permission to enter and park.  Various Nations from Colorado, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, and beyond were represented.  During the opening ceremony, the Native American announcer used the term “Indian.”  It was a loaded word.  I had been taught by a Navajo that it was not an acceptable term to use so it left me a little confused.  Everyone was asked to stand as an elder carrying the flag of Taos Pueblo walked in behind a dancer covered head to toe in blue and white feathers.  Singers cried out to the beat of huge drums surrounded by five to six men.  Much like the Olympics, participants danced single file past judges and spectators.  The line became a swirl.  Children as young as two paraded alongside their parents.  Everyone was moving and singing.  One little girl in the circle, about three years old, had on a bright blue costume with feathers on her back and head.  She watched as a man dressed in bright red feathers and bells danced around in a circle to the beat of the drums.  Unselfconsciously, she began to imitate him by bouncing up and down like a bunny.  She never questioned what he was doing or why she should join in.  It was, for her, natural.

Before the judging began, the announcer asked all non-Indian people to come into the circle and dance to the beat of the drum themselves.  It was a gesture of welcome, to make the visitors feel like a part of the festivities.  At first, two or three people walked out to the middle and started to dance.  They were very aware that all eyes were on them.  Watching the spectacle, it became apparent how difficult it must be to live under a microscope.  To have the world stare at you as an object and not a person.  The privacy Tony talked about on his “Indian land” was perfectly understood in that moment.  I watched as Native American families talked excitedly to each other in their various languages.  Smiles and laughter came easily.  I decided to try Indian Fry bread and laughed when I realized that it was a big, flat pizza-shaped Mexican Sopapilla.  It was so good that I ate two of them.  I tried to engage my vendor, a young girl, in conversation.  She just stared at me with a nervous expression on her face.  I wasn’t sure if she heard me so I asked about Fry Bread again.  It was not until I turned around to walk away that I heard her talking to her mother in Tewa.  It had never occurred to me that she might not feel comfortable talking to a stranger.  I also noticed that nobody was mixing together.  I walked around the entire circle and observed how people were interacting.  Native Americans sat next to non-Natives under the cover of the circle.  It was strange to watch two worlds in the same space not mingling together.  Was it shyness?  Language barrier?  Those in costume, however, were very open to questions about their costumes and dances and were happy to pose for pictures.

….to be continued….

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The Road to Taos

Heading north on 84/285, while listening to singers belt out lamentations of love in Spanish on 89.1 “New Mexico Radio,” the flat roads out of Santa Fe broke into a carnival ride through the mountains that, for a “flat lander,” presented a navigational challenge nonexistent in the sunny state of Florida. The terrain was rough but the traveler was willing.  Rocks of every shape, size, and shade of brown, threatened those curious enough to venture down this two lane stretch of highway.  Cars with the Texas state flag waving proudly in the breeze were hell- bent on passing the driver in the green Buick Skylark who could only think to say, “Wow!,” as each bend in the road presented a new glimpse of a southwestern world that previously existed only in Ansel’s black and whites.  The sidewinding snake curved along the base of the mountain and demanded that the driver pay attention for fear of missing the turn and careening off into oblivion.  The test was worth it because the end of the journey led to the beginning of another.  It was the road to Taos.

 There were no signs or banners announcing the 14th Annual Taos PowWow.  The signs to the right of the main road pointed straight ahead to the reservation.  As this was the only indication of any kind of celebration, I proceeded due north.  Within two minutes, I became aware of the fact that I had actually driven onto the reservation itself, with no PowWow in sight.  The only house around was on the right and , as it had a sign hanging from a tree that read “Indian Shop-since 1950,” I felt certain that my asking for directions would not be a first time occurrence.  I opened the screen door and my ears were immediately bathed with soft music coming from a CD player to my left.  Looking around the shop I saw that there were stone carvings and pottery to the left and cases of jewelry to the front and right.  Every space, including the walls, was used to display instruments, dream catchers, belts, weapons, paintings, photographs, and newspaper clippings,  Like Dorothy in reverse, I realized that I had entered a world I had known before. 

“Hello.  Excuse me.  Is anybody here?,” I asked to no one in particular.  I heard nothing and turned to leave.”Can I help you, young lady?”  An elderly gentleman had come from a back room to greet me.  I told him that I was looking for the PowWow.  “You’re lost,” he said with a grin.  Not wanting  to appear rude, I asked about the store itself and decided to stay awhile and chat.  Five minutes into the conversation I introduced myself.  His name was Tony Reyna.  “That is my white man’s name.  My Indian name is Cheto, “Hunter’s Talk.”  He looked to be about 70 years old.  A friendly man, he was open to answering questions I had about the objects on display in the house-store.  I began to ask questions about specific words, “I’ve never driven around this part of the country, I noticed signs that said “pueblo” or “reservation.”  “Is there a difference?,” I asked.  “I don’t use that word.  I call them Indian lands,” he responded.  His back stiffened and the look on his face grew more serious.  Having never met a Native American, it was difficult to know which were the appropriate words to use.  As it happens, Tony Reyna was a former Taos Pueblo Governor.  I began to ask more questions about his life and he could see that I was genuinely interested so he began to give me a tour of the store.  He explained with obvious pride that there are 19 different groups of Pueblo people.  He belonged to Taos.  Pointing to a spot on a yellowing photograph, Tony showed were he was born and where he now lives.  He said I couldn’t go there.  From the back room he brought out a photograph of a younger Tony standing behind his parents.  The faces seemed quiet and did not reveal the spirit behind their eyes.  They were neither happy nor sad.  “My father.  He was a good man.  This music.  My mother used to sing this song to me in the kitchen when I as a little boy.  My nephew is playing that song on the flute on that CD right now.  Here is a book of pictures and poetry that he wrote called A Song for Mother Earth.” 

The shop was filled with Tony’s family history.  It was alive and real.  I couldn’t get enough.  I asked more questions and Tony looked at me and said, “You’re a happy little thing, aren’t you?” We both giggled and he took a postcard with his picture on it and signed it for me.  “You should go to the PowWow now.  You will learn many things.  You’ll have fun.” After purchasing some earrings for my nieces, I said good-bye with a wave of my hand.

……to be continued…..

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The Golden Child -For Whitney, My Niece



Where lives the child up in a tree,

Down from up dear Whitney jumped,

Hands up in flight, mouth crying, “Wee!”

She lands on her head,

Her forehead she bumped!

She’ll dance on a lark,

She’ll sing on a whim.

Come away! Dear Child!

To the waters and the wild,

With your Tia, hand in hand,

For the world is still a happy place,

That you will come to know.


We giggle and wiggle and bounce on our toes,

I am of the opinion,

God made you for me.

A sprite little Clown,

For you I can see,

In my heart,

 You are old.

Now give us a “kish”,

And please make a wish,

I thank God to see you so bold.

Come away! Dear Child!

To the waters and the wild,

With your Tia, hand in hand,

For the world is still a happy place,

That you will come to know.

Note:  Written 23 of July, 1998 at Bread Loaf School of English-New Mexico- Teaching, Reading, and Enjoying Poetry.  Bruce Smith, professor.  My niece Whitney is an explosion of energy and fun and I thought of what she would be like as a young lady when I wrote this for her. 


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Florida- A Poem



She stood, in silence, listening to voices in the ground, 

Of tiny crabs, those shells that walk,

Surrounded by the ocean’s sound,

The edge of Earth where Dolphins talk.


The clouds reclined on airy thrones,

That drift along and stay awhile,

Relax their shapes, remain unknown,

with puffy cheeks that gently smile.


Above the tide some seagulls glide,

To drink the comfort, warmest sun,

While children on their kneeboards slide,

And girl, with waves and sand are one.




Note:  This poem was written as part of an imitation exercise in my poetry class in 1998.  I’ve recently discovered old poems and writings that I would like to share with you.  I am not a poet by nature so this was something new for me.  I have to say, it was fun to revisit the memories of my Summer in the New Mexican High Desert-writing poems, going to Taos to see a Pow Wow in July, experiencing the Zuni Pueblo, and spending the fourth of July in Las Vegas, New Mexico- the first bilingual celebration I had ever witnessed.  I was so proud to be an American Latina that day.  I have very special memories of 1998.

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The Beauty of a True Friend

To my friends.

 The ladies I have known for many years and some for just a few.  I don’t know how people go through life without that special group that supports you no matter what happens in your life. 

If I’m crying and need to talk, they are there.  They don’t judge me or make me feel silly.  They listen.  And listen.  And help me through the pain.  And I am well again inside. 

When I am happy and need to celebrate they are there.  They laugh with me and dance  with me and we smile and clap our hands like children let loose at the playground. 

How lucky to have such love and caring in my life.  I love you all so much.  I know I tell you all the time.  But today, I say it again.  I love you.  I thank you for being in my life.  And for allowing me to share everything with you. Thank you.

I love you!






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