J. Michael Combs
The first time I met Linda Pedro was at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. This woman in a wheelchair with a powerful, beautiful smile came up to me and requested una ranchera, a Mexican song. After I complied and asked her name, I told her, “I always knew that someday we’d meet.” That was because I’d been hearing her name around the valleys of el norte for probably 30 years, always spoken in a way that denoted a woman of power.
Once Linda and I finally met, we made up for lost time. I visited her often in her home in Chimayó. Or we’d get together and share a meal while we were both in town at the food co-op. She would show up when I performed at senior centers or nursing homes, at farms or at the college, or at friends’ homes. And she had me come and play music at her house for a birthday, a summer party or a winter gathering. Linda loved to gather her loved ones close to her, to feed them, sing together, share food, warmth and stories.
I saw how Linda cherished her Scottish, Mexicano and Native American roots. Musically, she wanted all of it: the rousing political anthems of the ’60s folk revival, corridos y rancheras, and the tender, sweet Scottish love songs and ballads she always called for at evening’s end, for which I’d have to enlist our versatile musical friend, Peter Malmgren.
She was also very proud of her father’s activism for workers’ and families’ rights in the coal fields of Colorado, near Walsenburg. Through the years, we shared the loss of friends such as Susana Valdez, of Tierra Amarilla and Alamosa, whose father’s activism in the San Luís Valley in the ’50s had gotten him blacklisted, requiring that he relocate his family to Denver.
At Linda’s gatherings, her world came together to rejoice and celebrate. Sometimes, a hundred people would dance, laugh, sing, share stories, work and eat. Her face would light up like the sun or mirror her quiet contentment as she watched the people she loved enjoy the powerful glow of love that she worked so hard to share.
To do this, she used her home, which she raised out of the ground while in her wheelchair, to create a shelter and a sanctuary for her relatives, especially the young ones. Her concept of familia owed much to the indigenous cultures she cherished and was nurtured by. It was neither brittle nor exclusive but, rather, expansive.
Linda’s physical limitations, while an enormous challenge, were dwarfed by her personal power. She knew that a woman in service to her family and community is a force to be reckoned with, and that the needed power would always be there if her motives were right and her aims were unselfish. She had no reluctance to call upon help, from both the visible and the invisible realms of this world, to help her build and protect what her immense heart loved.
I will always cherish the vision of her broad forehead, round cheeks, intense, penetrating eyes and her smile, which could be either subtle or immense, like her laugh. She was for me a fierce, true warrior of love and justice.
Musician/grandfather Michael J. Combs studies history and has dedicated his life to love, justice and service.