Friday, October 6, 2017

Simple Things -- Nasario remembers the Rio Puerco

¿Crees que las piedras nos recuerdan?

About five years ago, soon after we moved to New Mexico permanently, we happened to meet Nasario Garcia, PhD, at a book fair not far from our home. After retiring from a long-time academic career, he had returned to New Mexico, his place of birth, and became a noted oral historian.

His focus was and is recuerdos of the viejitos of the Rio Puerco Valley where he spent his formative youth.
Do the ruins remember us?
I've written several times about the ruins that are found throughout New Mexico, some of them dating back to prehistory (ruins left by the vaunted Anasazi, for example), but most are much more recent. The ruins of the Rio Puerco Valley are a case in point.

Nasario's family were among the pioneer homesteaders in the area, and he lived there from the age of six months until his family was forced to leave (along with nearly all the rest of the Hispano settlers) in the late '40s due to drought and increasing physical and financial hardship.

Nasario remembers a simple, hard, and happy life along the Rio Puerco, filled with activity, adventure, and rituals, rituals which in some cases could be traced back to Gypsy Grenada in Spain. Was that where his people came from? When he visited Grenada, he couldn't get over the similarities in song and spirit with what he knew as a child growing up in the Rio Puerco in far, far distant New Mexico.

When we met Nasario and his wife Jan at the book fair, they were promoting his most recent volume of recuerdos -- I forget which one it was now -- and as new permanent residents of New Mexico, we were fascinated. These stories are important, and Nasario was afraid they would be lost if they weren't collected and preserved. So that's what he set out to do.

Almost casually, he mentioned that a play was being developed from some of his stories, and he invited us to attend a staged reading of the script to be presented in Dixon a couple of weeks hence. At the time, we didn't even know where Dixon was (there was a Dixon in California we were familiar with, but not the one in New Mexico). Nevertheless, we thought it sounded interesting -- after all, new play development was one of our primary interests and activities in California for many years -- and marked our calendar for the date.

On the date, we found Dixon (off the road up to Taos) and were quite taken with the nascent play based on stories Nasario had collected from the vecinos y viejitos of the Rio Puerco. It showed much potential, and we became supporters of the project -- financially, artistically -- through its completion and sold-out presentation at venues in Santa Fe and Albuquerque a year or so later.

"When the Stars Trembled in Rio Puerco" was quite the triumph, I think to the surprise of Nasario as well as the playwright and director Shebana Cohelo. Of course they were happy about it, too!

Shebana was more comfortable in film and television production, but she thought a play would be the appropriate form for presenting the stories of the old ones, and we tended to agree. Discussing it with her, though, I mentioned almost in passing that what I longed to see was Nasario's own story of his life in the Rio Puerco, though perhaps not in this particular vehicle.

Her eyes seemed to light up. And a year or so later, we got notice that "Nasario Remembers" was going into production. It would be a filmed project for presentation on New Mexico PBS -- if they were so inclined. If not, maybe it would wind up as a DVD.

Long story short: the NM PBS premiere of "Nasario Remembers" is slated for October 12 at 7:00p,

We saw a preview in Albuquerque on Wednesday, and I have to say, it's wonderful.

Simple things indeed.

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