The best thing about the holidays is spending time with my folks in Nuevo Mexico. Since my nephew is with his mom’s family this year, xmas has not been quite as exciting as it was last year. Kids make it so much better. For some reason, the holidays are not as exciting as they used to be when I was a kid and now I depend on other people’s kids to help bring the Christmas spirit. But other things have changed about the holidays too. Now that I’m a grown-ass mujer—even if I don’t always feel like one—I get to be the one in charge of the most important part of holiday meal preparation: making the chile. My grandma is usually the one who makes it, but now that she’s older, she revels in getting to relax while my mom and I frantically juggle pots and pans and too many people in the kitchen at once. My chile gets better every year, but it’s still not as good as my grandma’s.
Yesterday, I sat with my primos and my brothers at the table listening to my grandma tell stories. Grandma is a master-storyteller, and a chingona to the core. (And her stories often get overlooked because my grandpa is also a great storyteller, and since he’s a man, well…you know.) I can only hope that I will be as chingona a master-storyteller as my grandma some day. She is one of thirteen children, the third oldest of eight girls. When they were young, they moved between northern Nuevo Mexico and southern Colorado as migrant farm workers, and when my grandma was old enough, she decided to stay in Taos and finish school rather than continue moving back and forth.
Yesterday she told us about how she and her sisters used to collect photographs of the family. And how one day, there was a baseball game in town and they didn’t have any money to buy tickets. (My grandma is a huge baseball fan. And she likes the Mets, but only when Derek Jeter isn’t playing.) Anyway, my tía really wanted to go the game, so she sold all the fotos of my grandma for ten cents a piece. And there was not enough for my grandma to go too. “Who did she sell the fotos to?” I asked. “Well, just to anyone, anyone who would buy them around town,” she said. I’d imagine that the tourism industry back then was much smaller than it is now. But there was definitely a growing community of pre-WWII hippy-types—you know, just like there is now, white people—especially “artists” from the eastern U.S. seeking a “simplicity” among us, New Mexicans, or doing some kind of “health voyage” to the mountain deserts. So considering all the random photos of nuevomexicanos, both native and hispano, that got distributed around the country as artifacts of the “West,” I wonder what became of those photos of my grandma. Whose coffee table or photo album did they become a part of? Well, one thing I know for sure: whoever bought those photos, unless they knew my grandma and her family in Taos, I’m sure they never knew or understood that the young girl in the photos was so chingona!
¡feliz navidad, y’all!