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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Last Flower Girl

“His name really isn’t Elmer.  It’s José Erminio Romero.  There were three or four men - my husband was one of them - with the exact same name all from the area around Espanola.  His family started calling him Elmer.  I don’t know why.”

I thought there was more of a story coming here, but Francis breezed right past it - she had a lot of territory to cover in this conversation.

It was sunny spring day in Santa Fe and a big day for Francis.  Her cousin Matilda and Elmer were celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary and as one of the flower girls, Francis was going to attend the gathering later in the afternoon.  She was excited at the prospect of seeing friends long separated by time and distance that is distorted with age.

Francis and I sat at her kitchen table tumbling into an atlas of her distant memories.  She pulled a copy of an old photograph out from a spiral notebook.

“Matilda gave me this picture.  I don’t remember when.  That’s Matilda in the middle, my older sister Marie on the left, and that’s me lying down.  Look at how young we were!  Oh my goodness!”

After exploring the clues together, Francis decided that the picture was taken during World War II when she was maybe 15 or 16 years old.

“Matilda used to stay with our grandmother who lived right next door to us in
Sombrillo.  There were nine kids in her family; she just wanted to spend more time with all of us.  She was like a sister to me.”

I frantically tried to keep up with her encyclopedic navigation of the names and places; of the family connections; of the deaths and births.  I gave up and just enjoyed her enjoying her memories.

“Who were the other flower girls?” I asked.

“There was Aurelia from El Rancho, and Consuelo and Petra from Santa Cruz.  And then there was Roberta from Chimayo.  And me.  There were seven or eight of us, but I can’t remember the names of the others.  But they are all dead.  I am the last flower girl.”

the last flower girl

Rosemary arrived to help her mother get ready.

Francis was off to travel trails with others who remember.
-  o - O - o  -
Matilida and Elmer

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dia de los Muertos' Marigold Parade 2013

Albuquerque's South Valley is the home to strong cultures, new and old.  The annual Marigold Parade (in concert with el Dia de los Muertos) is an exhuberent celebration of the South Valley's collective self.







Monday, June 4, 2012

Johnny Tapia (1967-2012) "Mi Vida Loca"

Between the annular eclipse of the sun on May 20, and the passage of Venus in front of the sun tomorrow (June 5th), Albuquerque lost its most endearing and tragic son, five-time world boxing champion Johnny Tapia.  Orphaned by unspeakable violence, blessed with natural skills, and burdened with drug addictions, Johnny Tapia gave his home town of Albuquerque the gift of humor, honesty, generosity, and gritty grace that the rest of us can only dream of.  Oh, and did I mention five-time world boxing champion?

On June 3rd more than 7,000 Albuquerqueans, many waiting hours in punishing heat, gathered at the University of New Mexico’s fabled basketball arena to honor the life of Johnny Tapia, the life he called, “mi vida loca.”

I thank all who allowed me to photograph them.

Robert Leutheuser