Friday, 27 December 2013 19:10

Our Tia Mercedes Trujillo of Centinela/Chimayo

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Mercedes Trujillo of Centinela near Chimayo was affectionately known as Tia Mercedes to those near and dear to her.  She was the sister to Jacobo Trujillo, master weaver and father of Centinela/Chimayo Historian Patricia Trujillo Oviedo and award-winning master weaver Irvin Trujillo of Centinela Traditional Arts, as well as a grand-Tia to LA IT Director, who created the beautiful Santuario photo we used as a Voces Christmas cardVictor Archuleta, all Voces members here.  
Mercedes' mother and my great-grandmother, Epimenia Ortega Jaramillo, were sisters.  Adored by the family, Mercedes was known to many of us as "Tia".  My mother was very close to her her whole life.  As a child, I would love to sit and just hear the two of them converse in Spanish.  I appreciated the preciousness of those special moments as they discussed their lives growing up in Chimayo--la gente de antes, como concinar la comida, y caminando de carro a Santa Fe*, all special memories to the two of them. I also enjoyed that, since she was many years older than my mom, it made my mom feel like the child in their shared memories long ago.  We visited her often in later years as my two sons were growing.  They had a gifted opportunity, in the long journey that was her life, to know her well--a life in that area of Norte New Mexico which is rapidly becoming extinct.   They will forever hold dear those memories spent with Tia. 
She never married and lived in the same house she was born and raised in all her life--a thick adobe farm house in Centinela, next to Chimayo, with a large property of apple orchards and fields of chile and corn she labored over.   Tia Mercedes is the story of that area and of that era.   
(In these two photos she is working near her family home as she did her entire life.)
In later years, Tia primarily used a few rooms of the big farm house.  You entered through her large kitchen, the room where people gathered to socialize in days gone by.   She always had a large pot of food cooking on the stove ready for the many visitors who stopped by to visit with her.  In later years, her bedroom, which also served as her "parlor," with bed covered with homemade colchas and small sofa and chairs, was where we sat and conversed only in Spanish, her primary language.  Those who visited her were close friends and family, some living nearby and others who had moved to far regions of the country, all wanting to just be in her presence--our humble yet powerful Tia, representing the journey and the story of our heritage.
Always neatly dressed in her long dress and apron, hair nicely twisted, Tia always wore her silver earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, ready to greet her visitors.  On her bedroom walls, she displayed dozens of framed family photos, including the annual family Christmas photo I would send her each year.  I once asked her how she arranged her wall with those photos.  There seemed to be some logical order.  She replied with a smile, "Bueno, aqui en esta pader, estan todos lo que todavia estan vivos; y en la otra pader, los que estan muertos." ("Well, here on this wall, are all who are still alive; and on the other wall, those who are deceased.")  Later, I would tease her upon visiting telling her I had come by to make sure my photo was on the right wall.
We visited her often, a must for us, during long summer and Christmas visits from California, where my two sons, Ben and Zachary, were growing up.  Now both living in NYC, amongst their most cherished childhood memories are visiting Tia Mercedes, visiting in her bedroom/parlor and transfixed in listening to her speak in Spanish de la gente de antes,  como concinar la comida, y caminando de carro a Santa Fe*, undying memories, woven into the tapestry of who she was.  At the end of our visit, they knelt before her one at a time, as she made the Sign of the Cross y en espanol gave them the bendicion, blessing them with good health and safe travels through life.  It has worked.
Tia passed a few years ago just short of her 100th birthday.  She would be humbled to know how adored she still is and, for those of her who got to know her intimately, that she will remain one of the most powerful relationships of our lives.  Bless you, Tia.  We miss you.  We need you.  But we know you are taking care of us from above.
Con amor,
Tu familia
*the people now gone, how to cook our food, and traveling by car to Santa Fe
Read 5916 times Last modified on Friday, 27 December 2013 19:46
Maria Montez-Skolnik


Both sides of my family trace their roots in the Santa Fé area to the 1600s.  In the earlier years they were primarily farmers, builders, craftsmen, artists (wood carvers and weavers), and educators.  I graduated from SFHS & NMSU and received my BA & MA in Speech & Language Pathology. I divide my time between Santa Fé and the San Francisco Bay Area.  


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  • Comment Link Jim Baca Sunday, 29 December 2013 00:27 posted by Jim Baca

    A very beautiful story about treasured memories.

  • Comment Link ed Saiz Saturday, 28 December 2013 23:37 posted by ed Saiz

    Very nice article about "your beloved Tia", especially the part
    of kneeling and receiving the"bendicion"- something I
    remember from my youth. May She rest in peace. You now
    have her as an angel to watch over you and yours.
    I hope you had a great Northern New Mexico style Christmas
    and have a great coming year, Como siempre, con la
    bendicion de Dios.

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