Jimmy Gutierrez / Questa

So my name is Jimmy Gutierrez, I grew up in a very small town, in Questa (New Mexico). The crazy/interesting thing about Questa is its hugely Hispanic, and not only Hispanic, like there is only a few family’s that really run the town and as it runs the village of Questa is incorporated, which means they have a tax pay, they have a mayor, they have a town council, um, they have a whole lot of tourism. My family is from that family, it’s the Gallegos Real family, they are very uppity mobile, very core thinkers, a lot of them now are, (for example), my cousin Donald Gallegos is the district attorney in Questa, Taos County. So anyway, that’s why I grew up with a family that was very Hispanic, looking back, in a position of privilege, in that I had no fear for my life, and I had no fear of being hurt or harmed. Everybody knew us; we knew them. Like if something was to happen (at school), the principal would call my grandma, my grandma would be upset that I was being naughty, so it was very community oriented in that way.

So looking back that would be my outlook especially when you look at things, especially when I got out of high school. So after I got out of high school I went to live with my grandma and my thinking was that I would go to school while I would take care of my grandparents and when I got to Taos I realized there’s only Taos Education Center there, and no University there. Taos is a pretty decent size. So I started asking around and I was actually committed looking to establish Taos, UNM Taos. I got in the committee and we just did a lot of work and really made it happen, to install itself as a branch, the difference was the branch you could do two to four year degrees there. At the education center, there was nothing there.

It created a lot of opportunity. Even holistic part, right now, even in Taos, has a whole program dedicated to the holistic science. So I’m just really ecstatic that I was part of the group who laid a foundation for that. Anyways I think it get’s back to me in that position of privilege of really not seeing and getting a lot of those obstacles expect to interact with people and have them treat me equally. I think that was very clear when I was working in D.C. or Congress for the White house you know, it was amazing work, at any rate, it was a lot in a room full of white men, older white men, and when I got the position I met them and they newly taped me out. At any rate, during the interaction they expected me to be their kind of winter and you know this is not going to happen. It was very clear that I saw myself as not equal to them, if that makes sense.

But anyway, I didn’t see, that not where I grew up.

You know it was nice, and I knew a lot of my neighbors, we went fishing often and it was very much built on agriculture. My grandpa, he had a huge farm. A lot of fruit trees. They had a pig.


So I do this pilgrimage this year, it’s called the Pilgrimage for Vocation, it’s probably in its 45th year. It started by Father Anastasio and the whole point of it was to pick the vocation of the Catholic Church, so they, Anastasio and five others, managed men and women, they were very separate the men had their routes the women had their routes.

Vocations… it was started by father Tom, anyway, and Anastasio has been going every year, my favorite route is when you walk from Costilla. Costilla, it’s got quite by the border of Colorado and you walk through all kinds of little towns my family is from, and every community feeds you get the hermanos or the guadalupanos the female branch of that, the Catholic daughters, and we stay wherever they have us really. Most in the (inaudible). It is very powerful.  If you want to see New Mexican culture, I mean if you want to get intensive New Mexico course, like crash course 110 to five thousand in one week, which is the pilgrimage. It’s seven days, so you wake up at two in the morning a rising bird without risking our lives, and you start morning prayers, and they do it the old way, the cyclical, we have two sides and you pray and you sing back to each other and all those psalms. They sing back to each other.

They all live a contemporary lifestyle. There are doctors, there are teachers, lawyers, but they all live in communities, so everything is shared in a socialistic way, where that one pot of money, everybody gets a stipend, it’s very, Jesus like. Everybody works because whether you are a doctor or whether you are, you know whatever, a janitor, whatever you do, you still get the same amount of stipend, a rural home and food.

My spiritual director is father Graham, you have to connect with him. Father Graham, he works the Catholic Foundation. The Catholic Foundation is… the Catholic Church, but anyway, so we are doing a whole analysis to see if what they are saying their goals are, are resulting in funding, They say economic justice is related to education, so how are you funding those programs, or not? How many requests you have, how many…what percentage of funding…that way…does that make sense?

I was at work with hundreds of grants that came in, some of the grants are basic things (for example) there is a Head start out in Chama. And head Start because of funding issues, they got money for the bus driver but not the gas. Like, how would you fund that, but seriously, we are going to pay for the staffing but not that (gas), it is just the way they grant us structure, so anyway, lots of stuff happened and they needed like 15000 for gas cause it is a big county and now the low buses hit the goals all over, so they didn’t have money for the gas. They applied to the Catholic Foundation and there was a very small amount for access for 40 kids. Cause then what happens is that it will continue, they do a lot of that, they do a lot of food pantries, and they did a lot of sharing they try to really facilitate ways people are sharing, for example here in this valley, in this valley here, they give you funding based… so if you qualify it’s 200 and if you go to Walmart they just give you a check for the receipt, so they buy their own food, show their receipt ok 200, here you go, (The Church of San Miguel).

That pilgrimage, my family is from there, so we sold everything north of Taos County, everything north of the Land Grant, and when the U.S. came in they charged us 50 dollars an acre and at that rate; like, they had never been taxed that way. The way the Spanish tax system was based on how much money you make that year so if you sold a lot of cattle, your tax rate will be higher, if you sold fifteen/twenty cattle your taxes would be much lower. After Hidalgo the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and when that changed we could only keep not that much, so what we did is we formed a nonprofit land cooperative to keep as much land as we could because if you put it into a non-profit entity you could keep a lot more, does that make sense?

You know, it’s this crazy, I’m very fortunate, families up there are very uppity mobile, they are very forward thinkers in that way, anyway, we have the land grant, the land association, they have an area near the border with lakes. Altogether, we want to keep the most pristine land that we have.

So there’s this one place, I have never seen this before, with herds of buffalo up there. Yeah, there were a few of them that were hanging out. I thought it was an earthquake, felt the ground shaking and we looked and we saw a huge herd of buffalo coming through, I have never seen that.

There are at the top, three out of the four lakes out of the nine lakes are above the tree line, so they are very steep, there are mountain goats that go back and forth, herds of elks, everything is wild, black bear, brown bear, it’s near, you know where Vidal is at? It’s just on the side of the Vidal. So Vidal, when they needed to replace populations like the Montana bell, they take it from there (Vidal) over to the area in need, it’s just a very diverse area.

You know, honestly it was the mines, but when the price goes up they hire a lot of people because they can make a lot of money but then the world market, you know goes down and, so it’s really kind of a boom or bust. Really unhealthy, recently closing down because the cost to extract is just too high. So now they hire, supposedly, federal contractors to clean up the aftermath, but I don’t know, a lot of the wells are testing polluted. It’s a big concern of how far you going to go. Last time this came up they went bankrupt, they sold to Chevron so they got away with all kinds of things that they should have not have, but when you file bankruptcy all the liability goes to zero, so I don’t know how to stimulate something up there. There is a lot of skilled labor, but if you were talking about going to the gold mines in Alaska, So I don’t know if it’s a similar process…

It was very nice in the sense knowing that I was cured, I had food, I had everything I needed, it was very much felt, like looking back, we are always looking back from a position of power, knowing that, my uncle was, I mean, my cousin was the police, my other cousin was the Mayor. Safety was not a concern at all, nor was food, nor was a lot of things that, looking at kid’s now, there are so many anxieties around you know, if there is going to be enough food, am I safe. So I think that kind of experience would be to different thinking to similar experience seemed very odd, the whole, why wouldn’t you want to go to University? There’s not one in your town? Well, let’s make one. What’s the deal? Let’s get on the boat, let’s go talk to the president, which was my way of thinking.

This thing with this church, there was a priest from Africa, Nigeria or something. Anyway, he came in and he plastered the walls and the walls they were adobe and they rotted, the adobe rotted. They were going condemning the church, with a rotted foundation there is not a whole lot you could do. The community came together and raised the money and they have done several community barbeques, two million dollars, they got some matching grants, but anyways that’s just for the material, that’s just the mud and all that. He would stop every weekend, I kid you not. I would say ten to twenty people every weekend in our rotations. Be building, took down all the walls brick by brick then rebuild the wall brick by brick. Made it solid. For five years, since they found out it was rotted to now, like five years.

Oh yeah, it was the church that everybody used. We re-plastered it about every three years, not that often. Just took off the old roof and put on a new one. When we were done it was very much like how Medieval church’s are, so everybody would get together at their church.

Yeah and that is very interesting, going to different parts of the state being Hispanic. Like I go to Roswell and expect to be discriminated against and that hasn’t been my experience. I have gone to one restaurant, steak house, on Roswell, it starts with a “T,” but anyways I left a really bad review because I was really upset. Number one, I don’t know if it was because I was Hispanic or gay, but they gave me shitty super service, to the point that I was just like really, just take this food. That had never been my experience in Taos, even Chama, like the little tiny towns that has never been my experience. I know Roswell, a decent sized town, everywhere we went it was just, and it felt very different. The looks the stores, it was a very odd place. It’s just different quest of…

Los Alamos is not a good place if your Hispanic. When you go to White Rock, especially. You go to the service station coming in and people won’t service you.

I think I am a little more fluid, as in I am older, and the more educated around my identity, I think in the past, I identified as Chicano, now I am more open to Latino/Hispano. I think the way cultural divide is the way some of the people are trying to break it down, are you Puerto Rican, are you Mexican, Latino brown people is now a more fluid, I’d say, as a Hispanic/Latino. And also Greek, my Grandma was Greek. Mostly Latino. Mostly Hispanic, that, and I would say, very Catholic. I grew up Catholic, I remember as early as eleven, and I was doing that pilgrimage. My first year I had blister’s from my toe to my heel. I ended up in the hospital, it was a mess, and they cut off all the skin of my feet and I went back, like a crazy person. Now that would not be allowed, now it is all safety. But back then it was just walk, sacrifice, if you have a lot of penance, like if you were a very naughty this year.

I think I am very fortunate in that I’ve been able to find liberal pockets. I think my church where I grew up was semi open. We had Father Terry who was a lawyer and was a priest. He is a very educated man and is open to a lot of things.

When I went to UNM, the UNM Newman Center was very open and I was able to grow them that way many ways. I was very fortunate, that when I moved away from UNM I went to work with Jesuits. Yeah they are like the Marines of the church. To be Jesuits is like getting an M.A. or Ph.D. program because you know, most orders require Master’s to get in, the divinity to even apply to the commitment, Baptismal records, that’s where the people were. How many people that gave birth got baptized? How many got married? If they didn’t get married they probably left.

They have a lot of stuff on social justice here talking about as religious people how you really be able to call to be social justice folk. Also, I think there was a large document on social teachings, traditionally it has been used very conservatively around marriage, birth control, around the traditional catholic guy’s. This one that I had on was around social justice and care for the planet, our home. So at any rate they held a whole seminar on that at the Abby at the sacristy around if you are called to religious how that also means you are called to making the planet to be green, sustainable.  So anyways, I am very catholic, and I felt like I have been blessed and I have been able to find those liberal veins of the church.

At first it was rough. What I would get was very rough, but I think, part of it is my family has a lot of love, and it is clear whether they love me or they don’t. Not a grey issue here. If you don’t love me that’s cool, don’t be part of my life. If you do, ok, lets barbeque!

It is what it is, you know like if you don’t want to hangout I’m going to the lake by myself with my friends.

I think up north there is a lot of… it’s very Catholic and it is very liberal. Again, several gay couples live out and there are hippies. I think, sometimes they aren’t incorporated but I think it is very accepted just to be weird. In the north there is a bunch of Budapest that live up there.


There is a Mosque, a huge one, up in Abiquiu, you know they got the two; the Sikhs, it’s the biggest one in the world outside of India. They are pretty mobile, several of their representatives, Sikh representatives in Taos County. They have the private security with the sword, they have a whole franchise of security that is their requirement. That’s my cousin, we met not too long ago, and we met at our grandma’s funeral.

The church still plays a big roll. Just a very much small town feel in that way. My family is still pretty strong there. Yeah, a lot of people are moving out because of the job market. I really hope that something takes up there, sustainable energy. There was a time when they were talking about building condos out in Sunshine Valley. Sustainable condos but I never found out. But that would be a great boost to the economy. They are now a really nice area that gets a lot of sunshine really. They have a lot of alfalfa, the high quality dairies want the alfalfa from that valley. My uncle drove a semi for one of those farms and they paid like a thousand dollars a barrel, they would fly him out. It was crazy, high quality, and they measured the vitamins in the hay before they bought it. Anyway, there is a lot of farming.

I would say the association, they are solid. You pay your dues and you are part of it and that’s it. It’s not so much that people have their own land or water rights or not. I think my parents have land now, we have a pump, so we learned how to use pumping water and the pump.

I think it is more of a hobby (agriculture). My mom’s a nurse. There are jobs but there is this other side. There is this more sustainable stuff and to sustain yourself you have to be… there is a lot of components to sustain all this.





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