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“Yo sé que viví muy a gusto [I Know I Lived Very Comfortably]”

by Taida Sánchez-García

Oral historian Nasario García interviewed many elders from the Río Puerco area of New Mexico. In the excerpt below, Taida Sánchez-García describes living on a ranch and growing and conserving chiles and other foods. She speaks in casual, New Mexican Spanish.

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Well, the rancher’s life was such that everybody had to work for themselves. Because that’s just the way it was over there [in Guadalupe]. Everyone worked for themselves with whatever they had: corn, pinto beans, or whatever you planted. That was the beauty of it over there.

Well, do you know that whenever we had a dry year, what we did was to plant late in the summer until the rains came? And we were able to harvest [a lot of] crops. That’s what we did.

We enjoyed them, what was harvested, and then we also sold some of them to other households. Why, some of the people themselves bought right there and then we sold some of the crops ourselves. We even threshed some of them and brought them to Albuquerque to trade in exchange for food or whatever we could get; but we sold for money also.

We also canned a lot, I would prefer not to even reminisce about it (starts to cry). Because your mom and I would stay up till one o’clock in the morning canning. We'd put up to four dozen jars in one night. Your mom and I. I still have my pressure cooker. The other day I told my children, “I think I'm going to sell it, because I don’t want anyone fighting over my pressure cooker.” Because one is going to pull one way and the other the other way. And if I sell it I’ll be happy, I still have it. I used to can chile in it... and it’s one of the good ones. Another thing, I went around a lot in Guadalupe canning, to different houses. I don’t know if you still remember.

We weren’t without anything....Well, it was a matter of cooking beans, potatoes, and preparing good meals. Why, we weren’t all that bad off! We'd make a lot of custard, a lot of cheeses, chile, and all kinds of foods... farmer’s cheese [requesón]. Cheese. One would milk the cows. Then you’d make the cheese and from there came the requesón [hung in cloth to drip until solid]. The whey. You’d put it in a canning jar and from there you took some and put it in the milk.

“We were never without anything while we lived over in Guadalupe. [No nos faltó lo que estuvimos allá.]”

Why say anything but the truth! We were never without anything while we lived over in Guadalupe. And if we needed a little flour, we helped one, we didn’t fare badly. And we had a lot of food canned. We had plenty of everything. Take the flour box [homemade wooden box, ca. 4 ft. long by 3 ft, wide, higher in back], like recently when I went to Guadalupe, because it hasn’t been too long since I went, I said to my kids: “My flour box...this flour box was always full of flour. Always!” Now, as for now, what one brings home from the store is ten pounds of flour... they say that it’s because it gets weevily. It doesn’t get weevily, not true...nothing happens to it. Nothing happens to it. Nothing happens to it. But I don’t use as much flour for tortillas now as I did then. In Guadalupe we used it for bread, for cakes, for pies....

At least, ah, I for one, while I was in Guadalupe, I was very happy. I can’t say that I was unhappy. Very comfortable...all I can say is that we lived very comfortably. That’s all there is to it. (crying)

Well, at least, I don't know what else to say, understand? In ’44 we came to Albuquerque, but still there were quite a few people left. Quite a few people. I can’t tell you exactly when people started to move out, because my comadre Adelita [Gonzales] departed much later than we did. By and large, many of the people started to leave because of the school. You see? We started to bring the kids to school [here in Albuquerque].

Because when you left, you were very small. And now, well, thanks be to God that He’s giving you the strength so that you can do something for your country [the Río Puerco Valley]. Because that’s where you were born...and I also thank you for remembering something about the place where you were born, because you must not forget your roots. Even if there are no people left, one must remember. One must remember. One must remember. One must not become too proud because, well, that’s where we were born, that’s where we were raised. Whatever one’s own essence, we brought it with us from over there [in Guadalupe]. That’s what I say; I don’t regret it. I know that I lived very comfortably. We lived very comfortably there. Because the days that we spent over there, we spent them very comfortably. I don’t deny it; and here I say it wherever I have the opportunity.