Soy Doña Julián Workman, born María Nicolasa Urioste de Valencia,
After we talk, I welcome you to walk through the door of la casa,
where I live on both blossom and dying borders of flowering worlds. Since birth,
my life is a window, and I straddle the sill. While netherworld spirits hover over earth
red as blood turned to dust, halo frame protects and splits. Haunts me. Española y
india. Half-breed. Born natural in the pueblo of Taos, near the cusp of a century
marred and blest with waterfalls of baptism and holy unction bestowed upon
the very same land--España, México, Los Estados Unidos. Forgotten--
my mother’s people massacred, their ancient names avulsed and burnt. Ashes
to ash memory. Priest’s thumb on my forehead whips tattoos of crosses
afire with premonition. I was twenty when Spain abandoned New Mexico. Within
five years, Julián seared his presence into sacred eye of Taos. His voice—a foreign
country—invaded my heart, left numerous wounds. Antonia Margarita was born
in 1831 and Joseph Manuel in 1832, with unmarried parents. Scars covered worn
pathways of all his excuses. Julián became Catholic in 1828 but wouldn’t share
vows. He and John Rowland owned a mill, sold Taos Lighting in their store,
but it wasn’t enough. Those Americanos were often gone. Wandering
west on the Old Spanish Trail. Would they return from their trapping?
Worry grows strange in gardens of wives of wandering men.
Shared travail and gossip ensure weird blooms. In September 1841,
Julián severed the artery to mis amigas. New wound―twelve-hundred-mile queue.
Undulating human snake. First, Santa Fe north, then westward curve to Abiquiu.
Sidewind through desert punched by water holes like springs bubbling into that meadow,
las vegas. Liquid lure within the seventh belly of hell. Mohave. Then descend slow
into a casket they call Cajón Pass. I bled in Spanish all the way to California, until
a further drop into an endless valley. La Santa María delivered us near to San Gabriel
Mission, where we built our three-roomed adobe home on Rancho La Puente,
I thought this the last bridge of my life. We prospered. La gente
de Los Angeles embraced our family. In 1847, the threshold of nations crossed us, again.
Mexicanos―now Americanos. English and Spanish―official languages of this land.
But the scent of oranges changed. By the 1880s, an ocean of others washed west,
disdained our rich bi-lingual heritage. I hear whispers, fear my grandchildren’s best
nature will be fed unhealthy stories. Will mis hijitos y hijitas think Julián and I
could not speak to each other, a wall between his English and Español? ¡Ay!
Flee from my presence, those who spread lies to my children’s children, May your
tortillas be shaped like the United States. I am American, but I was born to a mother
who lived in ancient Taos Pueblo. I am a manita de Nuevo México, former
province of México, former province of España. We did not leave. The border
folded us into a new kind of skirt. Over and over, we were spun like yarn used to make
a beautiful colcha. I proudly wear my mantilla and peineta. Most people say
my food is better than any they’ve eaten in years. This American home was built
on multi-lingual land―Mexican, Spanish, earth native to Los Gabrieleños. Guilt
should be like ravens picking one’s scalp. Do not lie to my kin. When the end
comes, cut hair from my head. Plait a mourning locket for my daughter. Send
more strands to the fire, and gather what remains. As Anglicized ashes, as penance,
it will be my way of feeding red willows in Taos Pueblo. Throw them over the fence,
near the Río Hondo. After my body is nestled in dirt in El Campo Santo, remember me
as liminal rain, one who mends aching edges of riverbanks, birth-torn countries.
© 2017 Karen S. Córdova