Archive for ‘recuerdos’

March 5, 2012

dancing woman, part dos.

by la rebelde

This weekend I was at the Rose Bowl for a 5-mile run.  My group meets there once a week as we train for a half-marathon.  It is both exciting and daunting, having never run more than 4 miles at one time.

Earlier that week I had been thinking about when I used to run regularly — not since 2007, when I first moved to LA following a summer of regular running with Manito D by the river in ‘burque.  It was during that time, when I was first getting to know LA, that I started this blog.

So there we were, all of us in our team running shirts, warming up together.  We mostly just meet together to stretch, learn about nutrition and injury prevention, or hear announcements and the like.  But once we get started, we are each on our own.  And I am a slow poke among the runners, barely jogging faster than the walkers, so it only makes sense that we each go at our own pace.  I blame my short legs.

As our coach was talking about proper form, I couldn’t help but look over her shoulder at the joggers and walkers who were already out on the path.

And there she was…the dancing treadmill woman!!

I’d seen her almost 5 years ago at the gym and wrote about her on this blog.  She was amazing.  She’d set the treadmill to a slow pace and instead of running, she danced.  I remember looking to the others on the treadmills next to me and noticing all of us smiling while watcher her dance to the music in her ears.

Dancing woman was going slowly up the hill along the path, swaying to the right and to the left, moving along with the rhythms that played through her ear buds.  Arms outstretched.  A little hip hop, a little salsa.  Every now and then, she’d stop and move her hips.  She was really into it.  Dancing, as they say, like no one was watching.  Joggers and walkers kept passing her with smiles on their faces.  I looked to the others in our circle, but no one noticed…or if they did, they didn’t show it.

So much has happened in the 5 years since I last saw her.  I did a ton of research, wrote lots and lots of pages, weathered some academic storms, finished a degree, started a career, went through heartache, found love, made new friendships and cherished old ones.  I have grown as a teacher, a scholar and as a person.  The last few weeks I’ve been contemplating my future, feeling the strain of a tight job market, hoping for a gig that will be nurturing and enable me to reach my personal and professional goals…goals I have articulated and re-articulated over and over, even now.

At that moment when I saw the dancing woman again, I knew I was doing what I need to be doing.  I hope I see her again sometime soon.  Perhaps on another path, when I need reminding that I’m right where I need to be, dancing to the rhythm of the music in my ears.

August 30, 2011

one year ago.

by la rebelde

On this day, one year ago, I filed my pinche dissertation.  Over the last month I have thinking a lot about where I was, spiritually, this time last year.  My soul had been bruised deeply, but still I kept writing, kept reading, kept thinking, kept feeling.  Read. Write. Read. Write.  Everyday.  Make the deadline.  Cite the right books, articles, and arguments.  Prove you are worthy of their approval.

Be the scholar they say you can’t be.
Be the activist-scholar they don’t want you to be.
Be the love you imagine it possible and necessary to be.

On my birthday last year, my friends pleaded with me to take a short break.  “Even just two hours to celebrate over brunch!” I finally gave in.  “But only for 2 hours!” I’d said.  Manito C came to keep me company for a couple days.  He read novels while I wrote.  Friends who live far away called to check in on me, read my writing, helped me hold on to what I had earned.  They are phenomenal.

All you need is a signature.  The only way I finished was to write from the heart.  I’m still learning how to do that.

On this day, one year ago, I became a Doctor.  It was confirmed with the small, but not-so-small, email  from my U, attached to which was a .pdf of a certificate saying I’d completed all the steps, jumped through all the hoops, checked off all the boxes big and small, to attain the degree.  It was the most anti-climactic moment of my entire educational experience.

And then I slept for three weeks.

Today my friend and I were making small talk with a woman at a coffeeshop.  She asked if I was a college student.  Before I could reply, my friend said, no she’s a professor!  Sometimes my friends are more excited about it than I am.  I still feel weird saying I’m a professor.  But I am one.  The woman said I look “too young to be a professor.”  Funny, my abuela said that to my profesora a few years ago. I guess professors are supposed to be stuffy white-haired old men with tweed, instead of spunky 30-something brown women in mini-skirt, hoop earrings and purple nail polish.

Healing is a long process.  Along the way, I realized the process is as much about the events of the last year as it is the historia of my Self, and the recasting of my spirit from a stronger place, a place of love and community.  I’m glad to be here, no longer there, moving toward where I want to be, and creating new stories.

July 7, 2011


by la rebelde

My jalopy is dead.  It died last week, where the 215 meets the 10.  I was in a pretty good mood because I was on my way home from a reunion lunch with old friends.   And then…the AC suddenly stopped working.  I drove back to Alhambra in 100+ degree weather facing the afternoon sun.  I was drenched when I got home.  Yick!  My mechanic says the AC is connected to more important stuff like…you know, transmission, power steering, etc. The repairs are not worth the value of the car, so he didn’t want to charge me anything.  Thank goodness!

My first car — the one I had at the end of college, that got me through my tejas years — was my all time favorite.  I know…I say “all time” even though I’ve only ever had two cars.  Its name was “Gadget.”  It was a beige 1989 Mercury Tracer hatchback.  I loved that car.  I drove it all over Austin, and to and from ‘Burque a few times.  It was small and zippy, and it could hold tons of stuff.

This one, I’m not so attached to.  It was my dad’s old car — a Ford Taurus boat of a car.  And I’m a small-size person, so it makes the car even more gigantic.  This car got me through three winters in small-midwestern-college-town and five years in LA.  Five years!  It has been good to me, but I will not be sorry to see this car go.  It’s time to drive a car in which I can actually see over the dash!

But, car-shopping is a big ole pain in the booty!  This is the first time I’ve shopped for one as a real adult.  Cars are freakin expensive, y’all!   Wish me luck.

June 13, 2011

tortiller@s at sunrise.

by la rebelde

One morning during the weekend of my abuelito’s funeral, over 2 years ago, Manito D and I got up super early to go to my Tía Rafaelita’s house.  It was still dark outside when we pulled up in the driveway.  Tía Rafi, of course, was already up and looking beautiful as always.  I can only hope that I will look as wonderful as she does when I turn 92.

Tía had invited us to join her, her novio, Manjo, and my older prima, Eva, for breakfast.  As the oldest of thirteen, my tía had been responsible for much of the cooking at a young age.  She is still the best cook and baker of all of them.  And over the week prior, she visited my abuelita daily, always with a cake, or a pot of pozole, or chile and beans, in hand.

That day, she’d invited us over, so that she could teach us to make tortillas.  Now, we’ve made tortillas many times before.  In fact, Manito D has become quite the tortillero extraodinaire over the years.  Tortilla-making is a favorite activity that he and mi sobrino do together, whenever Sobrino visits, which unfortunately is not very often these days.

We stood in front of the oven watching the sun rise, a soft yellow glow over the sage-brush-covered llanos from the kitchen window.  Tía pulled tin canisters and bags from the pantry and began throwing handfuls of ingredients into a giant bowl.  Her voice still sings in the way that the voices of viejitos in northern New Mexico do.  Spanglish, always.  I could barely keep up, she was moving so quickly.  Before I knew it, she had 4 comales going at once and was expertly flipping tortillas, warm and fluffy and fragrant, with an energy I’d never witnessed in person, but only imagined.

After an amazing breakfast consisting of the usual — papitas, huevos, frijoles y chile, and of course, tortillas — we sat in the living room with our cafecitos.  Manjo had been talking non-stop.  Like my abuelo, he was a WWII vet.  He told me that he had recently been declared “legally blind,” but that many people didn’t believe him.  From his shirt pocket, he pulled out a tattered letter from his doctor and handed it to me.  Sure enough, the doc said he only had less than 8 percent vision.

Not before too long, Manjo got up from his chair and said it was time to go home.  His house was just up the street from my tía’s.  I motioned to Manito D to walk with him home.  But Manjo, insisted, “no, no, it’s not far and I go home by myself all the time.”  We hugged him goodbye and Manito D sat down, as Manjo walked out the front door with his white cane outstretched ahead of his steps.  Before we knew it, he folded up his cane, shoved it in his pocket, and hopped in his truck and was roaring out of the driveway!   We laughed until our sides hurt.

A few months later, my prima Eva passed after a long battle with cancer.  And just a few weeks ago, Manjo got very ill.  He had been in the ICU at the veterans hospital for weeks.  Manito D went to see him and they’d talked for a while.  To my surprise, Manjo always asked about me, even when he wasn’t completely lucid–your sister who lives out in LA.  For some reason the viejitos always ask Manito D about me, even if they don’t always know who Manito D is.  Strange.

Early morning phone call from Manito D today.  Manjo passed away last night.  Our elders have been leaving so often lately.  And I am just so grateful to have shared these small, but joyful, moments with them over the years.  From them I have learned so much.

A Manjo y Prima Eva, I send my love to the heavens and cherish the love and warmth you gave us in this life.

[Okay, you got me — this photo is of sunset, not sunrise.  I am just not enough of an early bird to get a good photo of sunrise…or to remember my camera when I do get up early.  I still think it’s an amazing sun photo, even if it *is* taken through a bug-splattered windshield.]

April 17, 2009

the sun always shines…

by la rebelde


Cristoval Daniel Quintana, 1925-2009

“I miss his hands,” Manito told me a few weeks ago.  Me too.  My grandpa had the best hands.  Big hands that were worn from work and war. Hands that were graceful and precise with their movements, when he was tying fishing wire onto a fly he made out of rooster feathers, or when he would show me how to play jacks on the dining room table, or when he packed our lunch to go for a hike down into the Río Grande gorge.

When I was a little girl, he would come home from working at the mine, his hands black with soot.  I liked to run to meet him at the door.  But he wouldn’t touch me until he washed his hands with some thick dirt-and-grease-cutting gel stuff that he always kept by the sink.  It smelled like car oil.  Then he would swoop me up in his arms and take me to the doorway of the living room in the house that he built out of adobe and vigas from our part of the mountain.  That was where he kept his collection of bells—lots of bells on strings—and we would ring them together.

That morning, as I left mi manito’s casita in ‘Burque to catch a flight back to Los Angeles, I bent down to my grandpa’s eye level so I could say goodbye.  It was the last time I would see him before he left this world for another, some place better.  He was in a wheelchair, barely able to speak anymore, his body tired from years of hard living.  So very tired.

My grandpa gave me many blessings in this world.  And one of the last ones, he’d asked to see us for Valentine’s Day weekend.  Manito had called me a few days before and luckily, I was able to get a plane ticket right away. On some of those nights, when I’d go to his room to check on him, his eyes would be wide open as if he was looking for something, someone.  And I’d press his forehead with my hand to help relieve the pain—at least for a moment—before I held his hand until he fell asleep.  I never realized, not until he was sick in the hospital, that the tables would change, that my hands would be comforting to him as much as his were to me.

“I’m going back to Los Angeles today, Grandpa,”  I’d said, trying to be cheerful.  As I hugged him, he’d said, “The sun always shines in Los Angeles.”

Que descanse en paz and live always in our hearts.

August 16, 2008


by la rebelde

“I’m tilting! I’m tilting!” was all I could say as I gripped the handlebars of mis amigas’ lowrider…I mean, recumbent…bicycle last weekend. Tocaya jogged alongside me on the bike path as I tried to stay upright, both of us laughing our asses off. Since I never learned to ride a bike, my amazing amigas—who I’ve known since our first year of college when we were roommates in the “Latina quad”—decided they would be the patient ones who would teach me…before I turned 31 the following Monday. I’d had other lessons before. A few years ago one my colegas rented a bike for my birthday, but they didn’t have any small enough for me, so I left that parking lot with bruised shins and bruised crotch. Ay.

In the springtime before I turned 8 years old, my parents got me the best bike ever! It was pink like strawberry milk, with a white basket in front and red, pink and white tassels on the handlebars. Strawberry Shortcake—my favorite—graced the basket. I rode it up and down our street—a dirt road with a dead-end—but I was afraid to take off the training wheels. A few months later I got real sick and spent a week in the hospital. “No climbing trees, no riding bikes,” said Dr. Pinkerton who looked like the Pink Panther. “Not until we’re sure you are better.” The next summer we moved and I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike on the street because, for some reason, cholos liked to have their drug deals go down right in front of our house. And, well, I was a girl. My brothers got to explore the neighborhood in ways I never did, even though they were younger. In the meantime, I got to read books…lots of books. So I never learned to ride and Strawberry Shortcake sat, rusting in the shed out back.

Last weekend, mis amigas and I decided that if I learned to ride the recumbent, we wouldn’t have to rent one. And besides, it’s the only one mis amigas had that could adjust to my very small stature. After a brief trial run, we changed our minds and headed to the rental place where the hipster dude recommended a cute little pale blue bike—just my size.

I’m not sure how much time passed—maybe 2 or 3 hours. But I learned how to ride. I had great teachers. And while there wasn’t enough time for me to master the ability to ride in a straight line so that we could hit the bike path, I felt the wind in my hair…as I rode circles and circles in a parking lot. I almost fell off a couple times, but I never once fell on my ass!

31 is different than 30. 30 is exciting—it’s almost not even not-twenties. 31, however, is definitely, firmly in the thirties. It’s sort of anti-climactic really. But 31 is going to be a great year, I can feel it already!

* This photo was taken from Mount Tom in western Massachusetts. I don’t have a photo of the bike path, but I took this photo looking toward the bike path. I know…I really think ahead with this blog thing.
**I am, of course, reminded of Cindylu’s love for the number 31. I wonder what she will write when she turns 31.

July 17, 2008

albuquerque pajamas.

by la rebelde

I picked them out at Zodie’s. Yellow pajamas that I was only allowed to wear during summertime. Yellow pants and a button-down top with flores or something like that printed on it. The fabric had teeny holes, which made them light and airy. My grandma used to call them “Albuquerque pajamas” because Albuquerque is “so much hotter than Taos.”

They were my favorite, though, because I just hated those pastel blanket pajamas with the plastic-covered feet attached and the zipper that went from one ankle all the way up to your neck. Those were wintertime pajamas. I didn’t even care that there Strawberry Shortcake (who I loved) stitched over my heart. I must have been four years old then.

The worst thing about those pajamas was that it made me feel much too hot to go to sleep. Like summertime in the wintertime. Yick! When we’d finally outgrown all of the blanket pajamas, my mom and mi manito made a quilt of them. Even now, it looks like a hot quilt.

I was not allowed to wear the yellow pajamas in the winter—only those blanket ones. So I’d roll up my sleeves as high as I could and keep turning my pillow over to feel the cool of the fabric, unheated by my skin. My mom and my grandma rolled blankets and laid them next to the adobe walls, so we wouldn’t get a chill in case we rolled into it. The heater in the bedroom where mi papá and mi tío used to sleep, gushed hot, dry air. I always had trouble falling asleep in the wintertime. When I heard the music from the opening of M.A.S.H., I knew I was awake way past my bedtime.

But in the summertime? My yellow pajamas left my feet bare and I’d press them against the wall and feel the chill of stucco-covered earth. And I’d fall asleep quickly.

July 6, 2008

two years.

by la rebelde

Almost two years have passed since I moved to Los Angeles. When I decided to make the move, I’d only been to L.A. once—back in 2002 for a wedding. Before that, my knowledge of the city was based on information from movies, songs, books I’d read in Chicana/o and Asian American Studies classes, and the after-dinner-stories told by my Papá and Grandpa.

“There’s a lot of Taos people in Los Angeles,” my grandpa still reminds me, whenever L.A. comes up, which is often. “A lot of our people over there, New Mexico people.” During WWII, my grandpa had been in Los Angeles briefly before his troop was shipped to Burma. According to his story, he was among the troops ordered to beat Mexican youth who wore zoot suits. It was during one of the raids that he was walking down the street when someone called his name. “Hey, primo! What say?” “Nothing, primo. Let’s have a beer!” I guess he decided to have a beer with his cousin and some other folks he knew from home, instead of joining the riots. He told me later that he knew he was caught in a strange position, one that he didn’t agree with—a Chicano soldier. I still wonder what it must have been like for him in that moment.

Over 25 years later, my 22-year-old father came to Los Angeles, wanting to experience new places. He lived in Lincoln Heights and drove an ambulance at night. His favorite memory was of walking from Union Station after work in the morning and grabbing breakfast at a taquería near the placita. He only stayed in L.A. for a year or so before moving back home to New Mexico. That was in the late ‘60s. Even though he hasn’t been to Los Angeles since, I think he imagines it as if it hasn’t changed.

When I last suggested that I should take a train back from Albuquerque, my papá protested. “That area around Union Station is not safe for young ladies,” he’d said…or something like that. Actually, it’s not just Union Station that he thinks is “unsafe for young ladies,” it’s all of Los Angeles. He thought the same thing when I’d moved to NYC several years ago. If he could have his way, I’d live in Albuquerque, which is actually just as (un)safe as Los Angeles, only more familiar. This is clearly a gender issue–obviously, he wouldn’t be concerned if it were one of mis manitos living out here. He forgets that Union Station and the surrounding area (100 years ago)–the site of my dissertation research—is what brought me to Los Angeles in the first place. And I wanted to get to know and become a part of the communities that live in the legacies of the people whose lives I study.

I knew four people in L.A when mi manito and I moved my stuff into my new apartment. Friends told me it was a “brave” move—maybe it was just crazy. I remember thinking, “if I hate it here, I can always pack up and go home.” I can’t front, those first few months really sucked. L.A. is a difficult place to be a newcomer. Now, after two years spent meeting new folks and exploring in the city—in person and amid dusty papers in multiple libraries—it has become more and more familiar. And I like it here.

Someone recently asked me whether I could finally call L.A. my “home.” And I surprised myself when I thought, there’s nowhere else I’d rather live right now…. But on the real, though? I’m not sure I can really call it “home” until I find some of the New Mexico gente my grandpa keeps talking about, who know how to make a great bowl of green chile. If you know some, hook this nuevomexicana up!

Hey everyone, I’ve been asked to contribute to LAEastside blog. It’s bien cool, so check it out! This post is cross-posted there.

March 23, 2008

good friday.

by la rebelde

Yesterday. Good Friday. A perfect spring day. Better in northern Nuevo Mexico than anywhere else. Manito and I drove up to Taos to pick up my grandparents so we’d all be in Burque when Sobrino arrived.

The going was slow because so many people were making the annual “pilgrimage” to the Santuario de Chimayó. Families, couples, individuals, all walking along the side of the highway to pay their respects to the dark brown Cristo and the Santo Niño. Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to do the holy week walk. Maybe one of these years, I will. You know, once I get past my nine years of Catholic School trauma and remember to plan ahead for Lent and stuff.

The going was also slow because it was a nice Friday afternoon. And nice Friday afternoons are perfect for cruising in Española. The Santuario and lowriders seem to go together–like in this photo from the Smithsonian exhibit. It seemed like everyone who had a hot lowrider was out—and everyone who didn’t too. It took at least 30 minutes to get from one end of town to the other because even if you didn’t mean to cruise, there’s only one main drag through town so everyone has to cruise. Espa has been called the “lowrider capital of the world.”* (For all you non-believers, see here and here.) My favorite this trip was a glittery light blue ’63 Impala convertible with shiny, shiny rims. I’m no car whiz, but it was amazing!

We weren’t sure if my grandparents heard our car as we crossed over Rio Lucero at the entrance to their driveway. My grampa built that bridge with steel beams and railroad ties, just like all the rio crossings in their barrio. It makes a lot of noise when you drive across. But my grandparents are hard of hearing these days.

I hugged them hello. My grampa even tried to stand to greet me, with his big smile that spreads his wisdom lines across his face. His eyes were twinkling, the way they did when I was a child. He used to swoop me up in his arms and walk over to the entryway so I could ring the bells he liked to hang there. Recently, my Spanish instructor mentioned that she thinks I look a lot like him because our eyes sparkle in the same way when we smile. No one ever said I look like him before. When I told my gramma what my instructor had said, she replied that she agreed and I should be happy because my grampa was “very good looking when he was young—very good looking. You better believe it!” Yea—Gramma’s still reveling after all these years because she got a catch. He did too, she just doesn’t realize it.

We drove back to Burque that evening to meet my papa for torta de huevo (aka the “Lenten special” that I always thought was called “tart” de huevo). Not sandwiches, more like panqueques de huevo…with red chile of course. As I exited at Paseo del Norte going toward the mesa, the sun shone so brightly I was practically blinded. I struggled to shade my eyes, while driving directly into it during Friday evening traffic. Finally at a stop light, I looked over at my grampa who sat pensively in the passenger seat, occasionally trying to adjust the shade on the car ceiling, despite his bad arm (WWII injury). “How are you Grampa? Is the sun bothering you a lot?” “No,” he said. “I just can’t keep the sun out of your eyes.”

The truth is, he has always been and will forever be keeping the sun out my eyes.

Lowrider photo credit: Smithsononian Institution, Photo by Jeff Tinsley, Negative #: 95-3340

* I made a mistake in my original post, which stated that “Espa is the birthplace of the lowrider” and the links did not actually say this. It seems that the birthplace of the lowrider is up for debate. See here. I need to do more research, but the historia I grew up with credits Española for the lowrider. That’s my historia and I’m sticking to it! Muchas gracias to the anonymous commenter who pointed out my mistake.

February 20, 2008

archive meme.

by la rebelde

JustMe tagged me with this fabulous archive meme. And reading hers, I got to see a bunch of the posts I never read before because she wrote them before I learned of her great bloga! It kind of reminds me of how sit-coms used to do those “best-of” episodes. When I was a kid they used to drive me crazy because I thought they were so boring. The best thing about this meme, though, is that the process of putting it together takes you down memory lane. And at least for me, it reminds me of where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to go. So, a best-of of your own bloga? It’s like daaaang, that’s hot!

Archive Meme Instructions: Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you’ve written. … but there is a catch:

Link 1 must be about family.
Link 2 must be about friends.
Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are… what you’re all about.
Link 4 must be about something you love.
Link 5 can be anything you choose.

Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least TWO of the people you tag must be *newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better….and don’t forget to read the archive posts and leave comments!

1. Familia: Mi sobrino teaches me something new every day I spend with him. And this one about my mama got tons of hits for some reason.

2. Amig@s: They help you keep it real.

3. Yo: Childhood dreams change and then we must define our lives in new, more complex and perhaps stronger, ways.

4. Things I love: Silly people and the little things.

5. My pick:
My quirky profa and the shame meme.

Okay, so I haven’t been straight up taggin folks in a while, but since I like this meme and because the instructions are so specific, I tag:
The artist, kt.
Not Quite Grown Up.