A Reunion in the Mountains

A Reunion in the Mountains

On a stormy summer Saturday in July, I was privileged to bear witness the first ever Costilla/Amalia Community Reunion. This event, years in the making, brought together the extended community of Costilla, NM and Amalia, NM, neighboring villages in the northernmost reaches of the New Mexico mountains, for a celebration of their shared history.

The reunion was to my eyes a resounding success. Attendance was in the thousands and it was remarkable to see the strength of family and friendship across time and distance. People who had not seen each other in decades rekindled acquaintance in an instant, quickened by an overall environment of resilient intergenerational and interfamily connection.

I was present in my role as research assistant for the Manitos Project, manning a table in the corner of the photo exhibit where I spoke to people about the Project and answer questions. I also brought some of the technology we think will really help DIY community historians, as they collect stories, photos and documents out in the field.

It is my belief that if we are all going to make the effort to create a community archive, that the assets in that archive be of the best possible quality and reflect the most accurate digital representation that can be had, in other words, to digital archival standards.

It is also my belief that DIY community historians can meet archival standards more often than not and I hoped to advocate for that possibility and share information on how to achieve it, at the reunion.

The room I was in, housed the photo exhibit. The organizers put a lot of effort into collecting a wide range of photos from the personal collections of community members and curating them by subject. It was like seeing a part of the archive we hope to help create, made manifest. Seeing all those photos in one place was impressive.

Watching people interact with the photos, excitement at finding themselves and people they care about and places they know, their enthusiasm at sharing their discoveries and realizations with others, sometimes even picking up a photo and carrying it across the room to show someone, was infectious. I found myself learning what I could about the photos around me, as people kept asking me questions about them, accidentally becoming a repository for metadata for the duration of the event.

I heard many people wish out loud they could have copies of certain photos or that the photo exhibit lived somewhere year round. The creation of the digital community archive felt like a vital urgent need in those moments.

At the end of day, as I drove back down through the mountains, I kept thinking back to scenes from the day. The faces of people who had not seen each other in decades, the hugs, parents and grandparents sharing stories of buildings no longer standing and people no longer present, and their children nearby quietly listening… always watching and listening.

In the photo room at the Costilla / Amalia Community Reunion 2019

2 thoughts on “A Reunion in the Mountains

  1. What a reunion! I’m still talking about that weekend. I’m so glad myself, my wife, & cousins were able to attend.

  2. Thank you Estevan, already it has been six months but still a good vivid memory.

    Stories and images are great but getting to talk face to face with anyone there, and be received like family with immediate acceptance was great. Comments like “you must be Joe’s son, you look just like him” were good to hear. Or “Looking at your ears you must be related to the Arellanos”, all in good spirit. I shared with some that my grampa from Amalia was actually from Poleo, his mom was Santistevan. For my other Grampa I mentioned, “he rode a horse each day from Costilla across the mesa to teach in Ventero” and hearing back, “yes, he was my teacher” or “oh, mom’s teacher”, etc.

    There are so many layers of connections and this event helped reinforce these connections. It was quite wonderful. Thank you for your ongoing efforts. I am not a fan of social media and this website helps bridge the gap to keep me connected to what information you have available.

    I just finished up another year of “Dando Los Dias Del Año Nuevo – 2020” with the Torres family up there. I wish we could have done that for the reunion last summer. This year we were invited to have a group event at the new Amalia Community Center. It was a great turnout and very well received. The exchange of food and hugs for our music was wonderful, as usual. For last year’s event in Cerro, you can view a clip via YouTube by looking for “Dar Los Dias”. More wonderful history and traditions from our corner of the world.

    Fue un placer ver los a todo en los pueblos de mis raíces. Muchas Gracias, Un Fuerte Abrazo, Hasta Pronto.

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