Dora Pacías and Lorenzo Candelaria of the South Valley of Albuquerque do a phenomenal job of demonstrating what two highly motivated, energetic individuals can accomplish in the seventh decade of life, having chosen to focus their energy on one (multifaceted) thing. In their case it is traditional organic agriculture—cultural and community renewal through holistic farming—two sides of the same coin.
Depending on the time of day or year, you might find them feeding chickens and gathering eggs, tending several acres of chile and maíz azul (blue corn), building hoop houses, filling out FDA forms, manually grinding several hundred pounds of maíz into cornmeal, making adobes, meeting with community leaders, making butter, yogurt, cheese, salsa, meals, and on and on. Although to the casual observer they might appear to be but a couple of very turned on “back-to-la–tierra” enthusiasts, in reality this joined-at-the-hip force of nature is hell-bent on realizing their mission of reviving traditional agriculture in the Spanish-speaking Nuevo Mexicano community,where it once constituted the warp that held all of the threads of the cultural fabric together.
As the grandaughter of Juan Carrión and the son of Cornelio Candelaria and Leocadia Baca Candelaria, all dyed-in-the-wool farmers of Atrisco, one of the oldest Albuquerque communities, as children Dora and Lorenzo were steeped in the farming ways of la gente. This required hard work, but yielded great satisfaction and provided people with the basics of survival. The physical and spiritual intensity of this way of life imparted an absolute love for the land, as well as an empirical and mystical sense that the Earth is our mother and the source for all our needs. Lorenzo is quick to say that as a farmer he is privileged to work with the “life force of nature and to transmute it into the energy that becomes the very cells of our bodies.”
As he sees it, by not doing this, we relegate ourselves to an existence and society blighted by an untold of number of social ills. Dora and Lorenzo are both impassioned about being able to share their understandings and practices with other people, particularly with mothers and children. They carry out their work as if they were the last generation to know in their bones that “dancing” this way with la madre tierra is the paramount source of healing and salvation for the thousands of walking wounded who live in dangerous drug-infested Albuquerque neighborhoods. What might simply appear to be puttering around with seeds, drip irrigation and veggies, is in fact the laying down of a literal and conceptual framework for a tightly braided agricultural, cultural, educational and economic movement that, for some, has the potential to enhance the mental, physical and emotional capacities of young people who seek the practical skills required for survival in a changing world.
Recently, Dora and Lorenzo’s efforts at creating an almunia (Spanish-Arabic word for a beautiful garden-like place of learning, rich in every form of life) garnered two highly coveted awards; New Mexico Farmer of the Year from the New Mexico Acequia Association for Lorenzo, and the Good Earth Award for Extraordinary Stewardship of the Earth, given to both Lorenzo and Dora by the 2014 New Mexico Organic Farmers Conference.
The “rightness” of their lives’ mission has also been underscored as a result of the recent coalescence of a powerful network of South Valley and ‘Burque farmers, entrepreneurs, educators, artists and community leaders. Not long ago, members of the Southwest Organizing Project, as well as members of UNM sororities and fraternities, descended on their farm en mass and to assist them with major cleanup campaigns and repairs to a hoop house that had been damaged by gusts of wind. This was particularly timely, as Lorenzo and Dora’s quality produce has risen to the top levels of visibility and is now sold to some of Santa Fe’s most conscientious restaurateurs.
With the advent of this new agricultural year, they are happily engrossed in making plans for soon-to-be-built living quarters for apprentices, as well as learning spaces for everyone else. Such structures will make their dream of integrating farming with learning all the more attainable.
Alejandro López, writer and photographer, has for several years followed Dora and Lorenzo’s journey and romance with the Earth and each other.