Enlightening Eileen

Name: Eileen Espinoza

Location: Chimayó and Pojoaque, New Mexico

Topics: Hispanic, Labor, Traditions, Santa Fe Capital Roundhouse

Quote: “I just completed 27 years working here at the Santa Fe Capital Roundhouse. We do everything here in the building. We clean it top to bottom!”


My name is Eileen Espinoza and I am originally from Chimayó, New Mexico. I live in Pojoaque since 1985.

My dad was a Teamster and a rancher. He worked at the labs in Los Alamos. I have 6 siblings, there is 7 of us. There is now 6 of us, my brother passed away 3 years ago. He was my oldest brother. Growing up in Chimayó, my dad worked Monday through Friday and then he ranched, he planted chile, corn, sweet peas, all the vegetables you can think of. He also had an apple orchard. We had bean cherries, the red and the yellow. He sold all of that to make a living.

My family has been in New Mexico all their lives are far as I know. They worked a lot, they were all workers and were always working. We were a big family, so had to work a lot to support us. Me being the youngest, I was probably the spoiled one (laughter). Growing up with them, I think they try to get me out of the way, because I was the youngest and everybody was working.

My dad was also in the Morada. That was an organization composed by a lot of men for the 40 days and 40 nights of lent. After work he would go to this casita of all men and they would pray or do whatever they do. I really can’t tell you what they did because it they kept a secret. And my mom was a Carmelita to the church in La Cuchilla in Chimayó. A little church there composed by all the community around. They had the mariachis, the matachines and grew up walking to the Santuario. My mom and all the Carmelitas and my dad with La Morada. My dad with all the men would meet at the arroyo and do a reenactment, they would carry the cross and take turns. And we would pray until we would meet up together. That was a big tradition of ours, and now it has died since my dad passed away we don’t do that anymore.


But I still do walk to the Santuario from Santa Fe. I have been doing it for many years that I really can’t tell you for how many. For sure I have dedicated the last 10 years. It takes me almost about 9 to 10 hours to get there.

I pray and look around. It gives me a lot of peace to do the walk each year and gives me time to think of what’s going on in the world.

I pray for everybody, even my enemies believe it or not.I can’t really say enemies, but people I don’t get along with. It’s just about peace and think about what’s going on. I pray for the best.


From Chimayó to Pojoaque

I dated this man, John David Romero from Pojoaque, and we decided to move in together. We are getting married at the end of May of this year!

I have been in Pojoaque since 1985. I have always been busy working. I have had 2 jobs or have had many side jobs. My mom would tell me all the time, “You don’t visit now.”

It’s nice and peaceful in Pojoaque. I am in the middle of everything, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Albuquerque, and Taos. I like where I’m at, I really do. The casinos are what started Pojoaque. There are dollar stores popping up everywhere, I guess we are getting bigger. Even Chimayó has grown. It’s just too bad that they give a bad name to Chimayó because of the drugs and everything else that goes around. But the way I see it, it’s everywhere. It’s not all the people in Chimayó. It’s coming from somewhere else. That’s the only downfall of Chimayó that it’s known for that.

Chimayó is totally different now. Everybody has sold their land and it’s all new people out there. It’s not the same.

I use to walk to school from my house or to the little store or the church. To go to high school I had to take a bus. I wouldn’t walk at night there anymore at night. Actually I wouldn’t walk at night anywhere now. It happens everywhere, not just Chimayó.

Many people have sold their lands and moved away there in Chimayó. There are a lot of strangers and people I don’t know. As you get older, your parents get older, and your kids move away, it’s not the same so I don’t visit Chimayó anymore. It’s sad to say. But I do have my siblings there.



A Lifetime at the Capital 

I just completed 27 years working here at the Santa Fe Capitol Roundhouse in December. I worked 5 years at night, working custodial, and now I have been here for 22 years working during the daytime.

We do everything here in the capitol building. We clean it top to bottom.

Everybody thinks we are kicking back, when session is not on, but on the contrary we are there cleaning walls. Everything you see here we do. The brass, the windows, the vents, the wood work, cabinets… we do everything! And then there’s the night crew, what they do is take over for the Secretary of the State, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the night crew will take over that. We shampoo the chairs, the windows, the walls, the pictures, the stalls in the bathrooms, the dispensers, we do everything!

I have had my ups-and-downs being here 27 years. It has gotten better for me. It’s like family here. You fight with family. I like working here, it’s a beautiful building, it’s clean. The majority of the people here are friendly.

When I first started working here it was Governor Carruthers, right at the end of his 4 years. They were renovating the building at the time, so we were at the PRA. And then Governor King came in. For the majority everybody is nice.

They [politicians] treat you with respect. They do acknowledge that I have been here a long time. It makes me feel good.

Cleaning this building up and down, and by the time we realize it, session is back on! The brass; that’s the worst job ever [laughter]! You have to do it over and over. It’s a lot of work! You need a lot of materials. If it doesn’t come out right, you have to do it all over again.

I like going all over the building. I did have a desk job before and it wasn’t for me. I like to do walking and taking care of the whole building.


I’ve been through too many legislative sessions to say I get excited anymore. I don’t. By the 40th day, I’m like, “Ok get out of here!” I am tired of picking up after you [laughter]!

During the legislative session our busiest times are the 30 or the 60 day sessions. And of course it’s the 60 day session this year! We have to set chairs, banners, and ‘clean up on isle 4′(Laughter). One of the busiest day was a few weeks ago for the Women’s March. We had  close to 12,000 people, that was a pretty busy day for all of the maintenance departments.

I do side jobs as well… I clean houses. I’ve done security for Zozobra. Things like that to get a little extra money. I clean houses in Santa Fe or close by.


Family Life 

My daughter, Leann, is 42, my son will be 40 in March. I have 7 grandchildren. 4 from Leann that include 2 girls and 2 boys. 3 from my Son, Henry,  1 boy and 2 girls. My oldest one will be 21 in February and the youngest one is 9. My oldest granddaughter is in college in Arizona. The other 3 siblings are in Rio Rancho. And the other 2 from my son are in Albuquerque. And the 9 year old lives in Nambé.

Christmas Eve is always spent at my house with everybody. It’s been at my house for the longest time.

During session is the least time that I get to see my grandkids. We are here automatically 6 days a week.

I now catch my son when he is lecturing his son and it reminds me of when my mom would lecture us.

When I worked at nights… OMG! It was from 5 in the afternoon ‘till 1 in the morning and when it snowed, it was crazy! I can’t believe I did it. Now when it snows I carpool with my nephew. The older you get, the more fragile you become. It’s scary for me to drive in the snow now. I am all tense when I get here. I have to unwind when I arrive at work. Even though it’s only a 20-minute drive. When it gets really bad, it’s about a 45 minute drive.


Cultural Practices 

I identify culturally as Hispanic. Growing up when they would do a matanza, that’s when you slaughter a pig and you invite your brothers and sisters, everybody gets together and they help shave the pig and get water boiling. Everybody partakes. The women are inside, they’re all cutting up the meat that they took inside. The chile, chicharrones and the sangre [blood], we ate everything! Even the tongue, but not me [laughter]! But that’s how we were raised, we had sheep and goats, cows and horses.

I heard a while back that they say we come from Spain. I can’t tell you for sure, but my siblings do say that. But I really can’t say, I haven’t really taken interest in it.

I’ll be retiring here in 3 years and I plan to visit a lot with family. And make up time.


Photo Credits: Bobby Gutierrez

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