top of page
  • Margarita E. Pignataro

Following the Manito Trail: Braiding Querencia Via Questions (Concluding Entry)

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Margarita E. Pignataro, Ph.D.

University of Wyoming

School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice

A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the LORD directeth his steps. (Proverbs 16:9, IAV)

In my previous blog entry, I stated: “I hope to have acquired some digital images from the pieces seen in this teaching wall for the next set of blog entries” and that was accomplished; thank you, Raechel Cook: dot connector, experience constructor, and Curator of Academic Engagement at the University of Wyoming Art Museum. Raechel Cook was the advisor during the selection process of images presented to students in First Year Seminar: Latina/o Popular Culture Spring 2019 (LTST 1101) in the Pat Guthrie Teaching Gallery at the University of Wyoming (UW) Art Museum and also facilitator during the lunch time talk concerning the Pat Guthrie Teaching Gallery art pieces. Contact faculty and staff at the UW Art Museum.

Planning for the wall, I imagined pieces that were part of the Following the Manito Trail 2017 exhibition, as seen below. The mosaic collage “Faces of Wyoming” and the “Quilt” for example.

In this blog there are University of Wyoming archival images of the 2017 Following the Manito Trail Exhibition. The photographs were taken from either the UW American Heritage Center or Art Museum. If they are American Heritage Center (AHC) photographs, AHC Photographer Rick Walters is to be credited. Ginny Kilander, from the AHC, provided me with details related to the images in this blog entry. Link here for more information about those working with AHC.

I would say this blog entry has precise images, unlike those seen in the previous blog entry; however, the thought still remains: “The exhibition, the murals, the covered collaged wall—big framed, little framed, digital canvases—popped vibrantly for all to glance for a second, to look for three or five, but for those who were intrigued, ahhh!, to gaze, ponder for a minute or more, and bring the images alive in conversation that lasts a lifetime” stated in the May blog, and here we are in 2021 still conversing. For more info on the exhibition click the links below:

First Year Seminar (FYS) Latina/o Studies Wall in Pat Guthrie Teaching Gallery at the University of Wyoming Art Museum

In 2019, when I inquired after the art pieces from the 2017 Following the Manito Trail exhibition, they were not available; they were either returned to the owner, on loan travelling elsewhere, or belonged to another institution. Below is the Pat Guthrie Teaching Gallery at the University of Wyoming Art Museum space; the right background wall theme relates to First Year Seminar (FYS) Latina/o Studies course. The pieces serve as an expression of querencia. A digital framed image of the “Quilt” is seen on the wall, as frames of Wyoming land, home, and sheepherder with sheep; all pieces were used for the teaching activities in the museum.

The event was open to the public when I spoke about the Following the Manito Trail wall. Other faculty were there describing their walls or pieces selected for their classes. Part of the experience for my class, which relates to the theme of migration/immigration, was the migration from classroom to teaching gallery. What is it like to migrate to a different space for a class session? How does one interact differently with the space and with each other? The conversations were different in the lobby; the gazes and reactions were different to the words being stated about artwork, photographs, and purpose of the venture to the art museum. In addition, the look and feel of a framed digital image of a quilt may have a different interpretation than the real quilt hung on a wall. Nevertheless, what does a quilt mean? What sentiments are stirred when viewing a framed quilt image in a museum, compared to a physical quilt on your bed, or in the second-hand store, or on the street covering someone on a sidewalk under a bridge to keep them warm? What does this particular digitalized quilt represent?

Closeup of the Pat Guthrie Teaching Gallery at the University of Wyoming Art Museum Teaching Wall, Spring 2019

Braiding the images: the left image has a tree in the foreground of a prairie land. What would be out in the landscape, and what one could do in that space, are questions we can see answered in the middle image. The sheepherder accompanied by dogs is reflected in the middle image; big sky, open space, a forever land. How did he arrive there, and by what means? The right image is a wagon, the mode of transportation, way back when. Each piece has a title. Braiding the images together, we see that the wall has a quilt to the right of the wagon image. Tying squares together, sewing fabric together, structuring life is constructed on our journeys. What are the images you remember, and why? Current UW Art Museum Exhibits

Questions to Students During Our Museum Time Together

  • How do you define "home?"

  • How do you gaze upon and interpret the images?

  • What do you feel when viewing the images of the sheepherder, the sheep, the home on the prairie, and the open land? Explain.

“QUILT” Digitalized

The questions asked of the students while viewing the digital picture of the quilt were in reference to the value of the quilt being in a museum. What would your perspective be if the quilt was in a store? What places value on quilts? Is it personal attachment? Sentiments of an heirloom? Does a quilt in a museum engage you the same as in a second-hand store (a local thrift store, for example)? Why is this quilt so special? And then the research begins: why was it sewn? Who contributed, and what are their stories? What is the purpose of a quilt? Where can one find a quilt when it's needed? What would you think if you found one under a bridge, on a park bench, on a sidewalk, or in the middle of a trail? Being in Wyoming, home prairie scenes are familiar to students and on those cold nights, quilts are necessary. Having a quilt thrown over a couch or bed may be traditional in some homes or in a culture: a decorative touch in the home, especially in those winter months when the temperature drops and keeps dropping.

“QUILTon view in 2017; returned to its owner. The side wall labels explain the quilt and the story. Dimensions not received.

The next image brings one back to the previous blog entry. The color photographed arborglyphs on the wall are framed and the description are on the labels that accompany the set of four. New questions abound: why would one carve on a tree trunk? Does the carving solidify the presence of heritage? Have you ever carved on wood? Why? How would you preserve your tale on the trail? What messages did the Manitos want to give the viewers or those seeking a path yonder? The sheepherder’s picture was placed looking at the picture of homes on the prairie, wide space, and then to an expression of the nature of trees; what does your hiking path look like?

Presenting in Colorado and Expressing Research in the Wyoming UW Art Museum

I attended the National Association for Chicana Chicano Studies (NACCS) annual conference that took place in Denver, Colorado, during Spring 2016. The Following the Manito Trail project directors presented. Listed below are three directors who were part of a panel of four presenters in Session 1.8 NACCS Proceedings:

April 7th 2016, Session 1.8. Crystal, I. Colorado and Wyoming Raza Communities: Foundations, Empowerment and Stability

  • Fonseca, Vanessa. University of Wyoming. “Following the Manito Trail: Manitas forge their Own Paths.”

  • Romero, Levi. University of New Mexico. “Following the Manito Trail: Los nuevomexicanos en Guayomin (Wyoming).”

  • Romero, Eric. New Mexico Highlands University. “Nuevomexicano Land Loss and the Economic Foundations of a Manito Diaspora.”

A wall is dedicated to the founders: their images and bios are centered with side video looping the “Riverton Project” and the leftmost label explains the project in its entirety.

Thank you, founders or project directors, for that querencia of creating. For that desire of creating, researching, and investigating Manitos in Guayuma. The querencia that you have for nuevomexicanos, the care of conversing with your fellow man and learning of their voyages, their navigations of survival, to arrive in a new land and what that land could offer, the fruits of the land (and in turn, what the Manitas and Manitos, all siblings, could offer humanity or community). Thank you for planting seeds or searching for trees and digging to the roots of connecting migrations. Without your work, what world would I be wandering?

California, Chile, Empanadas, and Wyoming

How does the Manito Trail smell, I wonder? What are the sounds, the textures, the tastes of the food made for journeying, or after arriving at the destination? The sights of arborglyphs and home elements bring the sense of querencia. Just like the smell of fresh pine, or bread, or the aromas of the sauteeing of pino, the filling of a Chilean empanada. I wrote in June blog entry I would expand more on the story of finding my querencia in Laramie, of empanadas chilenas, in the next set of entries. Here it is, the next set of entries is now: what happened that night that I discovered that I was placed on the Manito Trail? How did empanadas chilenas and pebre arrive on a table in downtown Laramie near the railroad tracks? I wanted to find out.

“Who made them?” I asked.

“A Chilean,” they said.

A chileno in Wyoming? How did that happen?

Of course, there were Chileans migrating to the West. The Pacific Coast up north in the twenty-seven miles of Oregon coast, Lincoln City to be exact, proves the similarity of rock formation and coastline. The Seattle Fish Market gives an air of Valparaíso’s offerings of seafood fare. A migration of Chileans from Chile to California occurred in the late 19th Century, voyaging north to the coast of Califas in search of gold.

Even before I knew that story of Chile-to-Golden State migration, I imagined a life there.

I was fifteen years old, working my first job as a librarian assistant in Massachusetts, stacking the bookshelves and handling John Ritchie’s City of Nights. The protagonist migrated from El Paso, Texas to New York City. I wanted to migrate. I wanted to go West. My Ecuadorian boyfriend said he would go with me, wherever I desired to study. I thought of going to college. I said “California.” He said okay. It never happened. Choices. Migration has its travails and rewards.

When I studied in Arizona State University, where Chicano, Mexicano, and Mexicali professors were my mentors, I traveled to California. I had friends in Big Bear, California at that time. I had traveled the I-5 and up the coast. I had family in San Diego. Back and forth through Yuma, Arizona to get to San Diego, to be near family. Back on the university front, hanging around los Chicanos, mis compañeras mexicanas thought that I was Chicana. Thank you. Honorary Chicana, if I may, and again, here I am La Chilena Chicana writing you my final Following the Manito Trail blog entry.

Back to grand empanada querencia night: after an evening of Following the Manito Trail, I was invited to a local downtown establishment by colleagues. Walking in, I saw my colleagues and that there was pebre on the table. A friend of a friend had made them. Empanadas chilenas. I had to repeat the surprise expressional words thrice, empanadas chilenas !!??!! Empanadas chilenas !!??!! Empanadas chilenas !!??!! Yes. Yes. Yes. Who? What? Where? I needed digits and confirmation that there was another compatriot in the vicinity. The baker of empanadas had left his mark on a table and in the bellies of fellow colleagues in Laramie. Laramie! I needed to know. The desire to find out became a necessity, a lifeline to my country. Mi patria. Mi país de corazón. Search. Seek. How do I navigate my next steps? To whom do I speak my next words?

The three ladies —one from Laramie, one from California, and one from not sure, but she was important in economics or finances at the university, an Asian— told me to inquire with a geologist colleague. Cosmopolitan everything, no? He told me that he bought them and did not have the Chilean’s number. The ladies then introduced me to a Cuban worker at the establishment. I asked him about the empanadas chilenas and he said he knew the Chileno and had his number. I asked el amigo cubano to call and see if I could connect with el chileno. I waited in the establishment from nine-ish p.m. until midnight. The place became packed, I began to dance, and would dodge other dancers to find el cubano for updates on the estimated time of the chileno’s arrival. “Is he still planning to be here? It’s getting late.” The response was, “Yes.” And sure enough, around midnight I asked again and was directed to him through the crowd, going upstairs and from room to room until I located him. That night, the encounter with my compatriot changed my Wyoming experience. Kinfolk. Distant kin, but still kinfolk. Culture. Language. Way of Life. Highways, byways, parkways and throughways. Paths made journeying in the world.

Where is the trail that you are to follow, mi Manito?

I welcome you to explore the trail. Follow the Manito Trail and see where it leads you when critically thinking about demographics, spaces, places, and people who have migrated, or your own migration to and from one location to the next. Where do you place your bed, your head, to rest and say "I have arrived?" How long will you stay, and why? When will you leave, and to where? Following the Manito Trail is about Raza. Courage in settling, and resolving unsettled factors while one creates home, creates life in Wyoming.

Thank you for the opportunity to share. I am grateful.

For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith YHWH, so shall your seed and your name remain. (Isaiah 66:22, IAV)

30 views0 comments


bottom of page