Living the Manito Trail: Rural New Mexico Blessings
The Manito Trail, is a point of connection, a pathway between people and places that continues to evolve. “My family is from northern New Mexico but I was born in Wyoming,” a shared trajectory or life story among descendants of Manitos whose parents or grandparents traveled abroad to pursue employment opportunities. My family history and ties to the land propelled a yearning for me to return to Nuevo. So, I traveled back down the Manito Trail to pursue graduate school at the University of New Mexico. Perhaps, it was more of the connection, the familial roots that pulled me back and inspired a deeper learning and passion for my history and culture. Needless to say, it has been a journey of gained wisdom and knowledge, derived from experience, trials, and accomplishments. There are many stories to share, between enrolling into my first graduate studies course, to where I am now, drinking my cafecito, blessed with the view of the east mountain in Valdez, also known as la Sierra de la Mosca. Though, I think it is wise to save some of those cuentos for my book 😉.
Stories, history, and research tell of the lives of Manitos who worked hard, maintained social and cultural values and persevered. Familial roots and life ways embedded in northern New Mexican villages, and dispersed throughout a diaspora – fashioned by the frequented trails Manitos travelled as they partook in seasonal migration patterns to pursue wage labor opportunities. This was the essence of my dissertation titled “Living the Manito Trail: Maintaining Self, Community and Culture.” A research study that encapsulates my family history, village ways of northern New Mexico, and migration stories, particularly as they pertain to Wyoming and the livelihood and contributions of the state’s Manito community. I remain in awe of how the momentous opportunity for achieving my family’s first doctoral degree, literally built upon the lived experiences of my paternal grandparents. Therefore, the Manito Trail is a thread of history that connects my identity, the pursuit of my education and career, to my passion for community and culture.
Manitos de Valdez, migrated to survive and provide for their family. A story of sacrifice, that entailed leaving everything familiar behind. My great-grandfather, José Victor Sanchez worked as a sheep herder in Wyoming, later for the city, along with other relatives, who worked in the sugar beet fields and on the railroad. In time and to make life easier, entire families decided to settle where the men found employment. My ancestors took residence in Cheyenne, Wyoming, telling of how my own Wyoming roots came to be. In fact, that was the case for many families from Des Montes, Arroyo Seco, Valdez, Las Vegas, Ledoux . . .who migrated to Wyoming and decided to settle in Cheyenne. A bittersweet experience as home in Nuevo became more distant, and as a result life outside of the homeland has become the only home some primos are accustomed to. Me personally, I feel blessed as my paternal grandparents have been able to hold onto their land in northern New Mexico with the intentions to pass onto their children who desire to live there.
I concluded my dissertation manuscript with a chapter titled, “Mi Tierra Querida” that conceptualized the significance of returning to the land in northern New Mexico. A fitting chapter to ponder upon, as I have recently returned to the valley. A temporary visit for now, but I recognize how blessed we are to be here. It is intriguing to consider how the very appeal of city life - security, ease and accessibility - that allured Manitos among others, is negated during this novel time of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a current resident of Albuquerque, I found great peace and reassurance embedded in my ability to return to Valdez - the land of my ancestors, home to my grandmother, the very place my father has strived to keep us connected to; a God given dream and pursuit that has become more of a reality since the Romeros de Hondo arriba built my dad’s adobe brick casita, con vigas, y todo. While one can easily appreciate the value of a nice electric stove, I am enjoying the luxury of warming up a tortilla on top of the wood stove, toasting it to a crisp, making it a delicacy with butter and some choke cherry jam.
No longer concerned with the proximity of a thousand plus residents in my one block radius. Rather, I am pacified by the snow-covered trees on mountain peaks, the flowing stream of the river, and vast fields filled with horses, sheep, chickens and cattle. Helping to prepare this year’s garden and tending to the trees growing in the orchard, carry a weighted significance, as the shelves in the grocery stores fluctuate in supply. Blessed to know that we like our ancestors, can survive from the abundance that grows from the ground, the meat of the animals, and bartering with fellow neighbors for fresh eggs, and alfalfa as needed. For generations, Manitos have operated on a land-based, compartido system built upon the foundation of respeto y carnalismo. A way of community, and internal structure of support that flows through the blood ties of our ancestors, el oro del barrio, carried forth through traditional practices of laboring, praying, and sharing - stories, songs, and helping hands. Holding onto the sacredness of my ancestral roots and their village ways propels my purpose, my drive, and understanding for survival. So now more than ever the daily grind of rising with the sun to tend to the animals, mending the ground for this year’s crops, and protecting the trees from the early morning frost remain essential. Los Manitos de Nuevo Mexico left a legacy, we as descendants are entrusted with, and blessed to inherit.
Almost every morning for the past few weeks, my daughter, Faith, is the first one with her boots zipped up, coat on, and out the door. She runs across the property, laughing and smiling, covered with dirt and carrying a posta longer than the length of her body. The boys remain busy helping my dad with daily chores - grooming the animals, and building a corral for the new horse “Black Eagle” now named “Black Eagle de Aqui”. My dad, aka Grand-Dad jokes around with them, while inspiring the kids to learn the ways of the land. He provides them with experience that allows for them to be able to reflect upon one day- when they tell their own stories to their children about memories in Valdez. It’s an ongoing story line that many are blessed to pass on. For some, those experiences remain a thing of the past, and for others, daily workloads fill their schedules with opportunities for more stories and time to be one with the land. Despite the chaos of this world crisis, I am at peace, knowing the good Lord has me right here. I pray, reminiscing on my own journey and the path that leads ahead; fully trusting in the goodness of God to direct my steps, bless and protect our land, our family and friends.