History Colorado is gathering and sharing memories that celebrate our state’s rich Hispano culture. Here, Anthony Garcia shares the fifth in our monthly series produced exclusively withThe Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
In the spring of 1924, eight-year-old Emelinda, my future mother, made her voyage across the treacherous southern Rocky Mountains in a horse-pulled covered wagon to Portland, Colorado, a distance of over 350 miles. Her father, Pedro Gallegos, had secured a labor position in the cement factories still known as Portland Cement. Her mother, Aurora, took care of the family in the rear of the wagon; two older brothers and two younger sisters made the journey, one week of rugged travel leaving behind the only home the family had ever known: Rociada, New Mexico.
The Gallegos family had homesteaded their beloved lands in 1863. The box canyon known for the morning dew that scraped from the high mountainsides was named Rociada, meaning dew.
The bright redheaded and freckle-faced Emelinda still remembered this journey as she shared the story with me. Times were tough in New Mexico; seems that times are always tough in the rugged territory known as New Spain. She did not think this journey would ever stop as she played dolls with her sisters in the only language they knew, Spanish. Yet this tight-knit family spoke what many think of as archaic or old-country Spain Spanish, when it fact it was now known as the Ladino language or Spanish-Hebrew hybrid.
Emelinda’s family was one of the first to enter la entrada of New Spain, in the year 1630. Quite early by anyone’s standards, but they would not be deterred. They arrived as a military family, valor this redhead family possessed and brought into a land not yet developed by European standards.
Yet at campfire in the early evening, Pedro sang the old alabados, the psalm songs preserved with the original entrada of the Juan D. Oñate campaign in 1598. Yet the words, feel and knowledge of these psalms were of Ladino heritage, the Judaic language interlaced within the songs. Preserved orally by memory, sung by heritage of their past, the Judaic faith will survive.
My mother understood the cryptic meaning of these songs and their importance just as she remembered her voyage to Colorado. Before Pedro’s passing in the early 1960s, he shared the cadence and meaning of these songs with me as a child. I pass the history and reason for the continuance of this story to Colorado in my writing, The Portal of Light.
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