Juanita Jaramillo Lavadie
I love my hometown. Although I was away for 10 years, I returned to teach for two more years and am now in my second year of retirement. As I get back into the broader social swing of events, through all the different societal layers, I note a great many newcomers in my neighborhood. But I often run into vecinos I have known since the days of my youth.
Taos has always been somewhat separated from downstream communities by beautiful but challenging terrain. Over generations, as a result of this isolation from the lower Río Grande Valley, my ancestral community tends to be insular. The mixture of people in this valley is one of celebrated interaction but also of more covert personal tendencies towards discrete existences. Mix this today with the awareness of random local, regional and national violence and international terrorism invading our mental and emotional states. Today’s media is rife with volatile reactions, fear-mongering and the political football that plays on these fears. Instead of fanning the flames of emotional reaction, I would like to see my Taos and Earth vecinos rely on a solid base of common sense. Grounded with this sensibility, we can recognize what needs to be addressed by conscious cooperation and continual effort. We all need to meet hubris, hatred, anger and fear with respect, compassion, equanimity and courage. I would like to see us live together with our individual contributions to repair the casualties of modern-day pollution: water, land, sky and communication.
I would like to see my community flourish as we support our children and youth with love, patience, good health and opportunities to learn, create and play individually and with fellowship. Our youth represents our future as a new generation of capable leaders who can individually develop abilities and cultivate a personal vision toward a future of clarity, full of positive energy. For our children and youth, personal exploration and active social interaction in imaginative and creative play are crucial to the future of our society’s ability to adapt well. The solution finders of the next generation will be those who have applied their imagination in childhood, exploring options for ideas, troubleshooting basic problems and negotiating play with peers. Our education system has moved in the opposite direction with rigid, memorized regurgitation in tests. It needs to change, and it will, but I hope not as part of a pendulum ride of historical swings. This is a universal awareness that always needs to be recognized, honored and sustained.
I hope my community can express itself clearly, adding to the beauty of cultural traditions left by our antepasados, or ancestors, thereby adding a qualitative leap of intergenerational strength. My father loved to sing, and often he sang hymns he learned in church. One of his favorites was Faith of Our Fathers. The words relay a strong conviction to continue the sense of ethics held as a guide with the old-style elegance of heart and bearing that portrayed a sense of self-worth and shared confidence in truth and justice. I choose to work in my studio on projects that have strong meaning and far less monetary value. Yet, when anyone feels inspired, called to do specific work as a labor of love, transcending from the generations past into the hopes of the future, the soul of the culture and community works into the outcome. It is a way that each one of us can figuratively stand tall among our antepasados and joyfully sing in harmony, in the manner that my own dad loved so much.
This is when the community threads from the past, through the moment of now, weaves on towards the future with great pride, love, hope and confidence.
Juanita Jaramillo Lavadie is a retired public school teacher, acequiera, graphic artist, fiber artist and oral historian.