Tag Archives: Pilgrimage

Feliz Cumpleaños Dad…(Part Three)

IMG_7083

The Zuniga cousins – right before heading to the airport – at the end of our New Mexico journey.

This is Part Three of my pilgrimage to New Mexico after losing my dad in 2001.

Sunday morning, Oct 28, had us at the 8:30 Spanish Mass at San Jose Catholic Church.  It had been awhile since I had heard mass said in Spanish and it’s so beautiful.  We grabbed breakfast at Pete’s – again great green chile to top our eggs and tortillas!  On to Wal-Mart to pick up a birthday cake for Uncle Mando, flowers, and film for my camera.  (This was before I got into digital!)

IMG_7081

Running into Rachel Fernandez at the cemetery – here with Lisa.

We made another trip by the cemetery for more photos and a little more exploration.  And who do we run into?  Rachel Fernandez!  She invited us over for drinks that evening along with her two brothers, Jerry and Dan.

IMG_7082

Aunt Yoya singing Las Mañanitas to Uncle Mando as their son Orlando looks on…

We enjoyed spending more time visiting with Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando and listening to more family stories.  She looked really good that day.  We brought out the cake for Uncle Mando, lit the candles, and Yoya held Uncle Mando’s hand and sang “Las Mañanitas” to him – a traditional Mexican birthday song – and as she sang to him, she began to cry….which made us all cry.  So touching and so beautiful.  Later, Yoya showed us the “Our Town” newspaper with a picture of my dad and his brother Lorenzo (“Lencho”) as altar boys.  Such a treasure!  We left after sharing cake and promised to come by again before returning to Albuquerque.  Then it was on to  Vone and Raymond’s house for a feast of carne asado, tortillas de maiz (corn tortillas), beans, rice, potatoes and a great salsa.  And always the conversation turned to food and family!  Then it was on to Olivia’s for a short visit with her and her girls.

IMG_7088 (1)

A quick visit and good-bye to Olivia and her girls…

IMG_7078

Lisa posing with Rachel in her chili pepper kitchen!

The last stop on our whirlwind day was to Rachel’s apartment for drinks where we met her brothers Jerry and Dan.  More cousins!  We talked a LOT about food, especially tamales and Rachel remarked about how she was late in getting the tamale making started for the holidays.  Her entire apartment was decorated in red and black, thanks to her brother Bobby.  He definitely had an eye for décor and celebrating and would always help her with her Christmas decorating every year.  Upon leaving, Dan and Jerry invited us to their house for breakfast.  An offer we couldn’t refuse!

 

 

IMG_7075

Tia Maria’s house – now the home of her grandsons – Dan and Jerry Fernandez.

Monday morning, Oct 29, Kanista and I went to Argus to pick up some Carlsbad historic papers – one of the papers included the altar boy photo of my dad and his brother.  Then we headed to Dan and Jerry’s house.  We later learned it had been their grandmother Maria’s house.  Maria was my grandfather, Tata Polo’s sister.  Rachel came by too and we got to hear about their family reunions.  Maria had 10 children so you can imagine the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren she had!  I love hearing family stories and all the connections.  We were able to really fill in the gaps of our Zuniga family tree during this trip!  Before heading back to Albuquerque, we went by to say good-bye to Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando.  More crying…

IMG_7080

One last visit with Aunt Yoya and Cousin Rosie in Carlsbad.

IMG_7076Back in Albuquerque, we had to go by Old Town for a little shopping before heading back to Danda’s house for yet another fabulous meal – tortilla soup and stir fry vegetables!  More stories and we especially loved hearing about how Danda learned to cook from our grandfather, Tata Polo!  She learned by watching him and so many of her incredible recipes are from our grandfather.  At the end of the evening, Danda gave us each a recipe book from Albuquerque with a sweet inscription.  We finished out the evening looking through a box of old photos with Danda promising to make copies and send to us.IMG_7095IMG_7096

IMG_7087

Danda in her kitchen.

Tuesday, Oct 30, was our last day.  Danda prepared a breakfast of scrambled eggs mixed with tortilla chips.  I haven’t tried this at home but my sister has and cannot get the same result!  She also prepared caldio – a mixture of ground beef, onion and chiles.  What a treat!We were also thrilled to have a little more time to visit with Bobby Fernandez…he stopped by to say good-bye and we took the opportunity to get a few photos with him.  On our way to the airport, we stopped by Danda’s school to visit and see her in action.

IMG_7085

So glad we got to see Bobby one last time before we left…

We ended our trip together – cousins – at the airport – chatting and enjoying food – a cup of posole…and then heading to our separate planes and back to our lives.  This trip gave us the opportunity to walk where our father’s had actually walked, visit the places they had known as children growing up and reconnect with family we hadn’t seen in years or didn’t know at all.  I know we all felt closer to our dads as we boarded our planes.

IMG_7074

Danda’s front porch – I loved this bench when I saw it and a few years later my husband found one in Birmingham and bought it for me!

And I know our dads were walking alongside us throughout this incredible week…IMG_6908IMG_6907IMG_6906IMG_6903IMG_6902phonto (6)

 

Feliz Cumpleaños Dad…Part Two

Part Two of Feliz Cumpleaños Dad…my pilgrimage trip to New Mexico in honor of my dad.

IMG_6983We awoke on Friday, Oct 26, to the heavenly smell of coffee!!!  Thank you Danda!  Much needed after the wonderful and late night of reconnecting, food and drink.  After Danda headed to work, we got ourselves ready, packed up the car and headed to El Patio Restaurant for a breakfast of huevos rancheros and green chiles!  I think it goes without saying that the food on this trip was fabulous!

IMG_6982After dropping Cecilia off at her house, we were on the road to Carlsbad!  It’s about a four and a half hour drive and we enjoyed every minute of it, catching up and sharing even more stories.  We made a brief stop in Roswell to check out the extraterrestrials and arrived in Carlsbad late in the afternoon, checked into the Holiday Inn and headed directly over to Aunt Gloria’s house (also called Aunt Yoya).  We didn’t stay too long because she needed rest but we were able to sit with her in her bedroom for a while.  We then spent a little time with Uncle Mando and two of their children, Orlando and Rosie.

IMG_7072

Sweet photo of Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando on our second day in Carlsbad.

On Saturday (Oct 27), we went back to Aunt Yoya’s house for a longer visit and she was able to stay up a lot longer!  Maybe it was the excitement of having us there and all the stories she wanted to share that helped.  It was certainly a thrill for us as we looked through her wedding album.  We also got to meet Alfonso and Mary Noriega.  Mary, Aunt Yoya and Lisa’s mom, Mela were all friends…Mary remarked how much she saw of Mela in Lisa’s face.

After our visit we took a tour of Carlsbad with our fearless guide, Lisa!  She drove us by the Main Street house where our grandparents used to live, drove by an area they called the beach, and Lisa pointed out other interesting sights to us as she recalled Carlsbad as a little girl.  She even took us on the “weee” – a small hill in the road that always made them want to say “weee.!  That was such a sweet memory and now Kanista and I were in on it too!

We lunched at a little place called Lucy’s and where a woman walked by and recognized Lisa.  It was Rachel, cousin Bobby Fernandez’s sister!  Bobby had called to tell her we would be in Carlsbad so she must have been on the lookout for us.  From there we went by to see Olivia, Lisa’s late brother Ruby’s wife.  Her daughter Sylvia – “Syba” –  was getting ready for her birthday Halloween party and invited us to come back that evening.

IMG_6911

Our grandparent’s headstone in the older Carlsbad cemetery…Apolonio Guerrero and Norberta Sotelo aka Tata Polo and Nana Beta.

Meanwhile, we decided to head over to the cemetery to find our grandparents headstone.  After much searching, we realized we were in the wrong cemetery!  Turns out, our family is in the older cemetery and as we drove by we saw the Zuniga headstone.  Now let me explain something…we had been walking around the newer cemetery – all green grass and open – and could not find our grandparents.  But when we got to the older cemetery – brown dirt and no grass – it was chain-locked!  Really???  We couldn’t believe it.  But, I would not be deterred!  I told Kanista and Lisa I had come too far not to get in…so…I broke in!  Actually…I just pushed the gates and they opened.  So, we took a little time and walked around, explored and found some of our family headstones.

IMG_7073

Cutting a rug with Lisa at Syba’s Halloween/Birthday party! Not sure if this was before or AFTER the jello shooters!

After freshening up at the hotel, we headed over to Syba’s birthday/Halloween party and met a few more cousins – Danny and Johnny, grandson’s of Maria Fernandez – Maria was my grandfather’s sister.  We had a ball at the party – trying jello shooters, dancing, and laughing about being called “guera” by some of the guests.  Guera is slang for a white girl or light-haired girl, which didn’t really seem to fit me or Kanista at ALL!  At any rate, we ended day three of our trip exhausted but exhilarated by the people who seemed to be put in our path on our journey.  Kanista, Lisa and I all agreed our fathers seemed to have a hand in what was happening to us in Carlsbad.

Part Three concludes our Carlsbad Adventure/Pilgrimage to Carlsbad…stay tuned…