You’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t go home again?” Well I’m here to tell you that you can.
This past weekend, La Voz sponsored and I as publisher along with a 17-committee group organized a community reunion of an estimated 2,000+ that included the communities of Costilla and Amalia, New Mexico and Garcia and Jaroso, Colorado and surrounding communities. Costilla is my hometown, and although some could label it a ghost town today, for those who were born and raised there it is a place where the heart lives. A place where your parents, your elementary school friends, apple and plum trees, huge vegetable gardens, blue skies with afternoon rains, piñon and hornos, country roads and New Mexico music still live if only in a corner of your heart and soul.
We pulled it off, all with minimal resources, generous donations and the strong will to deliver, ruled the day. The committee oftentimes met via virtual/physical meetings with former Costilla-Amalia residents 250+ miles away from the reunion site, in Costilla’s, Plaza de Arriba.
Just about two years ago, I joined the Families of Costilla-Amalia Facebook, a closed group to gain better knowledge of my New Mexico family line and ancestors. The site provided old photos and posts from people trying to connect with their New Mexico/Colorado relatives.
A reunion idea popped into my head and never left until its completion on Sunday, July 7th, highlighted by a Catholic Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Costilla, New Mex. served by His Excellency Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Los Lunas, New Mex. There, his message of family, love and forgiveness touched the parishioners who completely and comfortably filled the Church.
With an awesome parade that included many floats on Saturday, July 6th, family banners, classic cars and more, the ceremony’s festivities soon followed. Attendees came from as far as New Zealand, California, Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and more. They longed for the days of Costilla High School and Costilla and Amalia Elementary school days. They ordered t-shirts with their family names and ordered banners to walk in the parade in honor of their family name or parents gone before them.
They longed for the foods familiar to their palate, like tamales, frito pies, apple empanadas, chicharrone and bean burritos, capulin jelly, sopaipillas, little green apples and much more. They absorbed the history of Costilla and surrounding communities given by Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez. They relived and participated in cultural traditions like La Marcha (Wedding March) and were reminded of the 100-year+ first Hispanic organization known as the S.P.M.D.T.U (Sociedad Proteccion de Trabajadores Unidos). They learned of Los Penitentes (A Catholic group of men who practice religious rituals during the Church’s holy days like Lent. They heard verses sung by Henrietta Arellano known as La Entrega (wedding day ritual). They listened to familiar folklore verses from Natividad (Tiva) DeHerrera who received a standing ovation.
New Mexico music was provided by New Mexico’s own star, Roberto Griego and northern New Mexico’s Johnny Rodriguez and Familia. Gustavo Vallejos and Johnny Rodriguez were both honored and presented with a music award. Later in the day, they were entertained at the 3rd Annual Chris Arellano Music Festival on the Torres property.
Inside the plaza was a first-class photo exhibit with a military, education, community, chamacos, couples and wedding photos themes representing different families and generations enjoyed by the crowd. Top rate artwork depicting Costilla, Amalia, Garcia and Jaroso veterans were highlighted as a proud people found their family veterans, professionals to include teachers, and seniors 80 years plus.
It will be remembered as a once in a lifetime experience left for the history books, drawing an estimated 2,000 participants. Thanks to the many sponsors like Kit Carson Electric, Smith’s, Taos Mountain Energy Bars, El Monte Sagrado Taos, La Voz, the Chris Arellano Music Festival, Dennis Santistevan Farmers Insurance, Val Vigil’s Tax Service and a special thank you to the many, many generous donors.
Cliches come and go. Never let anyone tell you differently that, “You can’t go home again” is a phrase for wimps, because if you plan things with care, emotion, organization and passion, you can go home over and over again.