By Pat Martinez-Lopez
My soapbox is “Conserve local culture.”
You know what “Conserve local culture” means, don’t you?
It means honoring our collective memory of Ernest Silva and Hank Rivas and the many years they sang on stage at La Cantina Bar in Pagosa Springs, or at the Pino Nuche Ballroom in Ignacio, or at Ben’s Lounge in Chama.
It means purchasing locally-dried carne seca, locally-roasted pinon nuts or locally-baked horno-bread from a roadside vendor whenever we drive by the Santa Clara Pueblo or the Navajo Reservation.
It means listening to tales of yore— including the, “By the time I was 12 years old, I was roping wild mustangs on Caracas Mesa, sheepherding all summer below Nipple Mountain, and getting stuck in mud so deep that it took three trucks and a bulldozer to pull me out” variety — while forgetting that we have to be somewhere else, soon.
It means venerating la Virgen de Guadalupe during the whole month of December, cleaning the church when it’s our turn to be majordomos, and purchasing whatever raffle tickets the Guadalupanas of Pagosa Springs or the Carmelitas of Ignacio and Arboles happen to be offering at the time.
It means buying a pair of boots from Goodman’s Store in Pagosa Springs, counting the dollar bills on the ceiling while drinking a gin and tonic at the Teepee Lounge in Ignacio, and blowing more than a few nickels in the slot machine at Sky Ute Casino.
It means eating a mouth-watering, green-chili-smothered tortilla burger at Francisco’s Restaurante in Durango, gnawing on costillas de borregito at Angelina’s Restaurant in Espanola, savoring a hand-held breakfast burrito at Dorothy’s in Pagosa Springs, and honoring the memory of a “Super” from Billy Lynn’s Dairy Crème.
It means buying a fish dinner from the Knights of Columbus during their annual fish fry, or a benefit-dance ticket from a teenager whose face looks familiar but whose name we couldn’t remember if our life depended upon it, and showing up to clean a grave when we say, “I’ll meet you there.”
It means cutting wood for an invalid, washing the windows for a senior citizen, hauling potatoes from the San Luis Valley — or pinto beans from Dove Creek — for a neighbor, and taking in a soak at The Spa or The Springs or at a private ojito in Chromo before we head home.
It means removing a hat before entering, saying “Buenos dias le de dios” instead of just “Buenos dias,” and not getting offended when the little viejitos ask, “Who’s your dad?”
It means saying “Tia” even when the lady in question is your mother’s cousin, or your dad’s second cousin, and not your aunt, at all.
It means abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, praying the rosary daily, and walking in the procession during the annual feast day of Santiago, San Juan or San Frances.
It means giving directions that include “Jan’s Cafe” or “The Elkhorn” or “The Truck Stop” or “The Sawmill” and knowing that the driver will know where we want to go.
It means pointing with our lips, dancing with our fingertips, and singing our throat raw while we drive.
It means knowing the exact point in time being referenced when someone says, “Back when we had to put a Kleenex on our head if we didn’t have a mantelito ...”
It means making “pastelitos” with our tias, chopping “palitos” with our tios, and hoping to hear the sound of “the bolillo” on the counter when it’s time to eat dinner.
It means fishing for trout at Echo Lake, Mundo Lake, Navajo Lake, Hatcher Lake or below the Quality Waters, and stopping to drink some cafesito with a primo or tia whom we haven’t seen in a really, really long time.
It means sitting on mom’s porch to wave at Tia Carlota Archuleta or Primo Eddie Archuleta, and knowing each and every one of Primo Eddie’s vehicles.
It means … all this and more.
I could write for five days straight, day and night, and still not cover it all. But, in short, I guess you could say that, “Conserve local culture” means, “Honor the people and traditions you know, get to know the people and traditions you don’t know, and always thank God for the opportunity.”
Know you are loved.