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This is a holiday week, when we celebrate being an American in our own New Mexican way.
I give the floor to Paula Tackett, retired director of the Legislative Council Service, who described what it meant to be a New Mexican during the recent Centennial banquet of the Historical Society of New Mexico. Here are her remarks:
It means often feeling like there is only one degree of separation from each other, because New Mexico is geographically large but really a small community.
It means that although I was born in Albuquerque, I am privileged to have roots and be a part of this land. My mother was born on a homestead at Three Rivers, right next to the A.B. Fall ranch, and my father came to San Marcial, south of Socorro, as a small boy.
It means being the city cousin but getting to ride in the summer roundup and help with branding the cattle – and never forgetting the smell.
It means missing the shades of brown when I lived back East and getting claustrophobic when surrounded by all that green. It means being able to see for miles, big flat-bottomed clouds in the summer, amazing sunsets almost year-round, and understanding why O’Keeffe came here because of the light and the luminosity of the sky.
It means learning at a young age to watch the sky for rain: Where’s it coming from? Will it stop at the property line?
Will it actually hit the ground? I learned all this from my uncle, a rancher who always wanted to know why the rain stopped at his property line.
It means walking beside an arroyo as the sky clouds up and suddenly hearing a roar as a 12-foot wall of water comes down – and then understanding what the signs on the road between Hatch and Deming mean by “Watch for Water.”
It means the indescribably wonderful smell of the desert after a rain. And the sweet smell of the Russian olives in bloom around the Capitol in the spring. And of course, it means the smell of chiles roasting in the fall.
It means growing up in a state where politics is in the water, and creeping out of bed as a kid of listen to the politicos plot and plan in the kitchen. And handing out campaign cards that, on the back, listed the counties by their numbers, 1 to 32 – Cibola did not yet exist – back when you could tell what county someone came from by looking at their license plate.
It means being exposed at a very early age to at least three different cultures – learning Spanish in elementary school, knowing what an horno is (knowing that it was not a fancy dog house like some tourists thought it was), understanding “getting down from my car,” going “up” to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, and knowing why we say “these ones” and “those ones.”
It means understanding the difference between the fence-out law, which New Mexico has always had, and a fence-in law, and understanding the dismay of a freshman legislator from Deming who got snookered by another member into signing a bill to change that law and finding all the ranchers at home mad at him.
And finally, it means as a child believing that we were three cultures side by side and hand in hand.
And although I learned later that those cultural relations may not have been quite so sanguine, being at a statewide conference dinner where Dr. Sam Suina and his family (of Isleta Pueblo) give the blessing epitomizes and reflects for me the great tolerance of this state – tolerance arrived at over centuries, tolerance which has served as the creative cradle for what is for me the undeniable character that is New Mexico.
New Mexico Progress