Gathering Thoughts after Gathering Memories

In the middle of  summer 2018, when the land was bone dry and we dreamed of summer storms, the Gathering Memory: Object, Photos, and Story Community Workshop was held at the Questa VFW Hall. How many people would come on a Sunday afternoon, organizers wondered? Twenty? Fifty?

On July 8, 2018, the VFW parking lot filled to overflowing and more than a hundred people filed in with objects of significance – photos, shoes, lamps, quilts, love letters – along with their stories.

Participants sharing their objects and photos on July 8 at the Gathering Memory Community Workshop. Click photo to enlarge.

Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, former New Mexico State Historian and native son of Questa led the event, inviting participants to bring a special object that held a memory about a person, moment or place, or a photograph that could be used to tell a story. He asked that people bring the name of one ancestor whose life held special meaning to them. The idea behind these particular requests is that storytelling engages and strengthens a community’s sense of itself, that we all hold a piece of history, and that community members are community historians.  

Left: Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, presenting an eloquent introduction. Right: Room full of workshop participants.

At the height of the event, the wished-for rain arrived; everyone applauded until their sounds were drowned out by the drumming of the torrential monsoon. The wealth of stories, and the depth of individual and community history shared that day was as heavy an outpouring as that summer rain.

Questa Stories was there as well, to collect local stories for the online community archive. (Thank you, Sarah Parker for your diligent recording and editing – pictured at left.) We scanned images, recorded audio and took photographs of people with their objects. Now our work is to collate this collection and release individual stories as blog posts.

The day after the event Gaea and Claire sat together in Claire’s yard to reflect on this experience and the potential and purpose of the Questa Stories Community Memory Project . They recorded this audio.     

Audio Time Stamps
00:00 – Introduction
00:30 – Where did you grow up?
01:00 – What do you love about this place?
02:15 – Love of New Mexico, Discussion of Place
04:15 – What is Questa Stories?
06:20 – July 8 Gathering Memory Workshop, Rainstorm
06:45 – Extending an invitation to contribute stories, more description about Questa Stories
10:00 – Community Archive
10:30 – Diaspora Community
11:00 – Questa Stories includes surrounding communities – Cerro, La Lama, Costilla, Amalia
11:54 – End

The July 8 event was hosted by the Questa History & Community Trail (QuestaTrail.org) and its sponsors: New Mexico Humanities Council, Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area, and the National Park Service. The Questa History & Community Trail is a project of the Questa Creative Council, a non-profit organization (QuestaCreative.org).

This post has been re-posted on the Manitos blog, a digital Resolana (gathering place) for people, histories, and stories of northern New Mexico.

Oral History of Kate Cisneros, Part 1

Kate was born and raised in Cerro, NM, went to school in Cerro, then Questa High School, was married at 18 and soon after became a mother of two children. She worked as a cashier for much of her life and then went into cooking, which she loves. She takes seriously her responsibilities as a mother and with her volunteer work in her community. At the time of the interview, she was the co-director of the North Central NM Food Pantry.

Date of Interview: June 14, 2018
Interviewers:
 Gaea McGahee and Claire Coté
Location: Home of Kate Cisneros, Questa
Topics: Life story, family, food pantry, community, traditional foods, family traditions, local traditions, traditional foods, food preservation, early memories, school, then and now, creativity with food

Oral History of Flavio Cisneros, Part 1

Flavio Cisneros is a retired history teacher, veteran, community leader and wonderful cook, committed to recreating traditional foods from his childhood in Questa.

Date of Interview: May 31, 2018
Interviewers:
Gaea McGahee and Claire Cote
Location: Home of Flavio Cisneros
Topics: Life story, family, local oratorio, 1918 flu pandemic, traditional foods, local traditions, early memories, military service, education, life philosophy

(1 hour 24 mins)