MOONRISE, HERNANDEZ, NEW MEXICO, 1941.
I AM A NATIVE SON of New Mexico, born on a ranch homesteaded by my father and grandfather in the Chama River Valley. The ranch is 12 miles north of Española, between Hernandez and Abiquiú, bordered by the Chama River to the east and the mountains to the west.
Like many other youngsters growing up in that environment, I failed to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the surroundings, and could not wait to go elsewhere—which is what I did when I finished high school in Española. Jobs were very scarce in our area at that time, so I followed an uncle to Pasadena, where I lucked out and found an occupation that I would keep for 45 years and eventually retire from.
One day, in a Pasadena bookstore, I happened to pick up a collection of Ansel Adams’ photographs. As I turned the pages, one particular image jumped out at me—Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, one of his most famous photographs. It had special meaning to me. The church in the picture is where I made my first Holy Communion. The cemetery beside it is where my grandparents are buried, and the house on the right side of the picture belongs to my godparents.
Another very famous person I learned of while in California was an artist by the name of Georgia O’Keeffe who, it turned out, lived close to our ranch. I recall some of the young men on the school bus were always talking about how they made extra money by doing chores for “Georgia” in Abiquiú. At the time I had no idea who they were talking about; I only thought it would be nice if “Georgia” would pay me to do chores.
The sad part is that, all through school, I do not recall any of my teachers ever mentioning the names of Ansel Adams or Georgia O’Keeffe, though at that time they were at the zenith of their careers. Nor did they tell us about New Mexico’s rich history and the important part it has played in these United States of America. Now that I’m retired and living in Albuquerque, I have had the opportunity to visit a plethora of historical places and to study the very interesting history of New Mexico.
WHAT DOES ‘ONLY IN NM’ MEAN TO YOU?
Submit your contribution with name and mailing address to editor@nmmagazine. com, or mail to New Mexico Magazine, 495 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501. Letters will be edited for style and space considerations.