The Christmas season is a perfect time to reflect on Nuevo Mexicano holiday traditions and consider the depth of the Manito Trail as it connects people to one another from near and far. It is the time of year for tamales, posole, biscochitos and empanadas, all Nuevomexicano holiday foods that are found in places outside of New Mexico where manitos reside. Women begin to pray their novenas as an expression of faith that carries on throughout the generations. Across the Manito Trail families and friends gather to celebrate la navidad. Luminarias light up the pathways, kids laugh and play, while New Mexico Spanish music echoes throughout the hallways. These are scenes common in New Mexico, as well as Wyoming.
After my family’s return to New Mexico from Cheyenne, we would visit relatives and neighbors throughout the village of Valdez stopping to visit and eat traditional New Mexico dishes. The holiday season brought in family and friends living in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. One of my favorite places to visit was The Mountain View Bar and Lounge, owned by our familia de Garcia. It was the popular gathering place where family and friends would get together to catch up on the latest. Some of my most cherished memories are when the primos would play their guitarras and everyone would join in singing los cantos. Even more of a blessing was when Uncle Ralph would lead us in a popular New Year’s tradition of going house to house to sing “Dando las Dias”.
The carrying on of family traditions provides the comfort of home despite one’s geographic location. Many of the traditions that I now enjoy in New Mexico, I learned when I was growing up in Wyoming. Even just eating tamales when I lived in Michigan, generated memories of home. This time of year also reminds us of people who are no longer with us. Yet their presence lives on with each new memory made during the holiday season. The Manito Trail is much more than a migration corridor for Nuevomexicanos, it is a passage of memories that reminds us who we are and where we come from. It is also the route that brings our relatives home for the holidays.