Arturo Madrid (author), Miguel Gandert (photographs). In the Country of Empty Crosses. The Story of a Hispano Protestant Family in Catholic New Mexico. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2012. ISBN: 9781595341310
When Europeans first trespassed into indigenous tierra that would become New Mexico, those Mexican Spaniards set into motion a pattern for dominating what was there before they came, that would repeat itself when Anglos trespassed onto hispano land. Arturo Madrid’s memoir, In the Country of Empty Crosses. The Story of a Hispano Protestant Family in Catholic New Mexico, recounts impacts of that dominance.
Just as indios found themselves marginalized by the gente from down south, hispanos and their Catholic religion found themselves, too, squeezed out by foreign language-speaking interlopers as prickly as the barbed wire they strung after seizing land. Former landholders got their only compensation in the sound of a judge’s gavel echoing the Terminator’s command to the helicopter pilot, “get out”.
Interloper. As the old order changed yielding place to new, Arturo Madrid’s protestante familia found themselves interlopers in their own tierra not once, but doubly.
In the hispano community, they were outliers owing to their election of the anglos’ religion.
In anglo churches, hispanos were targets for missionary work, separate and unequal; bilingual hispanos attending the mainline services found themselves only a little more tolerated but advantaged as intercultural negotiators for gente who'd become interlopers on their own tierra.
Madrid opens the memoir with a telling illustration of hispano exclusion. Taking a sentimental journey to his familia’s former tierra searching for vestiges, the cosmopolitan Madrid—he is a Professor of Literature comfortable in elite Unitedstatesian circles—meets a local vato Madrid terms “the Marlboro man.”
The visitor asks the local if he’s familiar with a location, the long-abandoned places his bisabuelos settled. Madrid especially wonders where the old familia camposanto lay. The Marlboro man corrects the outsider, “you mean the campo herejes.” To some Catholic hispanos, protestantes remain heretics, 400 years after the last inquisitor left New Spain.
Madrid recounts a telling encounter with the anglo minister’s wife in Chama. Performing a self-imposed Christian obligation, Madrid and his mother knock on the parlor door with an offering of fruit and vegetables waiting in the truck. The woman cracks the door and gestures her visitors to go around to the back door. At the back stoop, the pastor’s wife asks through the door what she can do for the two Mexicans? Madrid’s mother issues a sharp rebuke, “do something for yourself” by accepting the crates of fresh fruit and vegetables loaded in the pickup.
We cut across the lawn and make our way ccarefully through untended shrubbery still wet with dew. The warm air smells of pine needls and pinesap. As we enter the shade at the back of the manse, the fresh smell of pine is displaced by the acrid odor of moist coal cinders. The backyard is dark and bare. Tall firs cut out the light, making it cold and dank as well. I am glad to be wearing a light jacket. The manse has a screened back porch, and my mother pulls on the handle to the entry door, but it is latched. (155)
Details like these add to the rich texture Madrid’s elegant prose creates throughout In the Country of Empty Crosses, the Story of a Hispano Protestant Family in Catholic New Mexico. Madrid has not written with retribution in mind, however near to revenge some incidents sound. Indeed, the author sets forth incidents as facts, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about the cultural fusions and transitions that would create contemporary mores of his tierra.
A few years later, Madrid encounters the Marlboro man’s brother, and receives a decent welcome and useful information. Back at the manse, as they drive away from the Chama parsonage, the rude woman seems to be abjectly ashamed. And she’ll have to schlep the heavy crates by herself.
Madrid’s literary occupation shines brilliantly in this readable text. The writer avoids easy sentimentality, packing detail and telling incident without imposing a political stance that might deflect from the memoir element. For example, recounting that his boyhood home in Tierra Amarilla was the site of a raid by chicano nationalists, Madrid doesn’t mention the murder of the anglo forest ranger nor name Reies Tijerina as the shooter. Since Madrid no longer lived in Tierra Amarilla when he learned of the tragedy, the event is not part of his cultural debt.
Throughout his 213 pages, the author doesn’t wallow in regret that the rural New Mexico of Madrid’s youth doesn’t exist anymore, despite his subtly pointed illustration of inexorable change. The retrograde attitudes of the various brands of Christianity on display in the author’s memory probably continue to divide communities today, but that may be a function of individual venality rather than culturally imposed norms. Madrid chooses to omit such considerations.
Chicanas Chicanos who, like me, grew up in rural Catholic settings outside New Mexico will recognize Madrid’s tierra and its denizens, and that’s another good reason people will enjoy reading the memoir.
Raza are more alike than different, though differences inevitably crop up. “The manse,” for example, is the pastor’s home. The term jumps out at me for its unfamiliarity. Madrid notes the Baptists were ascendant in the local protestant community; I wondered if the sect had subtly imposed a plantation mentality to go along with their manifest destiny?
I asked a preacher’s kid what his family termed their home. It was always “the parsonage.” Other friends told me they knew “the vicarage.” “Rectory” is the priest’s abode in Catholic parishes. Webster’s tells me “manse” is common usage among Presbyterians, and Madrid’s gente followed Presbyterian dogma, diluted by that Baptist influence.
Madrid’s writing flows elegantly, a tapestry of memory he weaves or unravels thread by thread, laying patterned motifs with a word or image on an earlier page that the writer expands into paragraphs and rich chapters later. Readers will note lilacs, railroads, sunflowers, smells and landscape motifs. The story so richly textured becomes deeply engaging to the point the book’s liberal display of excellently wrought photographs becomes invisible. Once noticed, however, the fotos enhance the pages, illustrating more the ambience of the chapter than necessarily a single sentence. Photographer Miguel Gandert’s captions appear in the afterpages.
The book itself is laid out like an art book, so much so that designer Kristina Kachele places the CIP page at the back instead of obverse the title page. She provides ample white space via wide margins, generous leading, a pleasing serif font, and a page size that sits the palm without burdensome bulk. The publisher elected a medium weight bright white coated stock that not quite ideally supports the photographs, but nonetheless holds much of the detail and care Gandert invests in his exposures.
Cultural baggage being what it proves to be, I did not “get” the title’s “empty crosses.” Catholics display the crucified Christ on a cross, protestantes don’t. Madrid sees the empty cross, too, as a symbol of redemption, though who’s redeemed remains ambiguous and subject matter for spirited discussions In the Country of Empty Crosses, the Story of a Hispano Protestant Family in Catholic New Mexico is sure to engender.
Interview With Author Arturo Madrid
The past couple years it's been my pleasure to chat with Arturo Madrid at the National Latino Writer's Conference in Alburquerque. When María Teresa Márquez advised me Arturo's memoir was available, I looked forward to reading it and chatting with him about sundry matters surrounding our mutual experiences as country boys who fled their rural roots for big city life. The following approximates our recent telephone conversation. Any errors or mischaracterizations are entirely of my doing.
Michael Sedano (mvs) - You tell about that resentful anglo boy who challenged your selection to lead a school ceremony. Did you see the memoir as a chance to get even with tipos like him?
Arturo Madrid (am) - Laughs. No, although friends have told me there may be elements of that. But I want to recount accurately as far as I remember. There is so much in our history that bears examination I have no time nor interest in getting back at people.
MVS - You write about the pressures of being a principal's kid (his father) and son of a local government official (mother), how you were constantly under observation by all eyes. Did your research lead you to read the book Preacher's Kid, about the same phenomenon?
AM - Several people told me about the book, so I might. I wanted to convey a different sense of history so my work didn't require much of that type reading. There are many contradictory tensions that come more clearly out of experience, observation, conversation.
MVS - The principal theme of the book is being an interloper. The anglos were interlopers on your tierra, yet you see yourself and before that, your parents as interlopers into protestant worlds. You don't spend a lot of energy investigating their motives nor addressing a justification for their determination to become cultural blenders.
AM - That was so far in the past and difficult if not impossible to know. They were biliterate and bilingual; their parents were literate people. That is what their society needed.
MVS - The Tierra Amarilla raid by La Alianza Federal de Mercedes was an awful event. You don't mention the murder or Tijerina.
AM - I heard about the incident while driving in my car, so it wasn't part of my experience. I met Tijerina years later and found him interesting and companionable. I didn't go into the raid because I was living in Texas and Tierra Amarlla wasn't my story.
MVS - You populate the book with lots of synaesthesia and visuals, there's a sense of longing in your narrative focus. What do you miss about your tierra?
AM - Living 20 years in San Antonio, in the city, I miss the open spaces and being able to see long distances, see mountains. I miss the smells of New Mexico, the piñon forest, the creosote bushes, the mix of smells after a rain.
MVS - Has time healed the divisions you recount? Have gente managed to subsume the hard feelings or do these divisions remain, perhaps as krypto cultural norms exacerbated by propinquity?
AM - In rural New Mexico people are occupied making a living and manage to put aside such divisions out of self-interest. It's different in the city where divisions remain and probably don't improve much because of propinquity and the nature of big towns.
MVS - What are you reading now?
AM - I'm reading Hilary Mantel's book on the French revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. She's a wonderful historian and writer who won a Booker Prize. I enjoyed Wolftrap. I'm also the judge for the Texas NACCS Book Award, and have five titles to read.
MVS - Miguel Gandert's photographs illustrate the book beautifully. But I got wrapped up in the story and tended to ignore the fotos the first time through.
AM - I've had that response from several friends. Miguel's photographs are so striking that originally the publisher wanted to limit illustrations to just a few but the images demanded to be included.
MVS - What do you want readers to know about Arturo Madrid as a result of reading In the Country of Empty Crosses?
AM - I want them to think this guy can tell a good story, that he has a good sense of language, and beyond that he knows how to use language to create a wonderful environment.
My 44th Anniversary
January 15, 1969 was a Wednesday. If I slept the night before, I don't remember. I had a 0700 appointment at the Santa Barbara bus terminal.
That final night my three best friends and I--Barbara, Mike, and Bryan--cruised the streets of Santa Barbara for one final look-see. At a stop sign--would I go south to Haley Street, or north and back to Isla Vista--a cowboy hat in the rearview mirror honked impatiently then he rammed his clunky pickup truck into us when I didn't pull away. Pulling around me, he honked and gave me the finger, screaming, "Fuck You, Four F." I exploded in laughter.
In the morning, with a Josh White tune running through my head, "there's a man going round taking names,"someone called my name. I hugged my wife and kissed her good-bye. I stepped onto the bus and in a few minutes, it pulled away. Barbara had kept up a brave mien all week as the clock ticked away. I glanced out the window to see she'd finally given in to her tears. Her hands covered her downturned face and she missed seeing me wave goodbye.
Forty-four years ago today, I reported as ordered by President Richard M. Nixon and accepted involuntary induction into the United States Army.
I was lucky that day. As a gruff Sergeant herded our skivvy-covered asses upstairs to the final set of examinations before taking the Oath, one Draftee sat red-faced under the sign that read "United States Marine Corps."
The Gluten-free Chicano
Las Dos Gildas Make Tortillas de Harina
This week, Las Dos Gildas, the renowned cooking site, provides a suitable recipe for those forbidden treasures. Gilda Valdez Carbonaro has amended the recipe to feature vegetable oils rather than the lard that produces the authentic flavor of homemade tortillas de harina.
The Gluten-free Chicano recommends using lard in the same volume of oils. Click here for Las Dos Gildas' recipe. Rolling a perfect tortilla with your mother's palo will have to be a matter of trial and error.
On-Line Floricanto. Antepenultimate Tuesday of January 2013
Lacerated Dreams by Xuan Carlos Espinoza-Cuellar
Mother in Chains by Colleen Whitehorse KrinardA veces ~ Sometimes by Lupe Rodriguez
The Stadium by Kenneth Salzmann
Dream Warriors by Dde TheSlammer
by Xuan Carlos Espinoza-Cuellar
it ain’t got to be so complicated
knowledge should be available
free and running like water streams and shit
love should not be incarcerated
neither should dreams be lacerated
amongst barbed wire fences and shit
no body parts should feed the desert
no last breaths should be taken at the edge of dreams
why is it gotta be so damn complicated?
Filling out papers and shit
Singing hymns and chants to the empire
Why should some hide their red
While others call it patriotism?
Yet, the sinister of their practice is glorified and praised and shit
Praised like Jesus.. en el nombre de Cristo Jesus
A pregnant woman left to starve
While pedestrians watched
And children recorded
Children beaten by life
Children who beat other children unconscious
Drug dealing children
Illegal alien children
Poor colored children
Why has shit got to be so complicated?
We as a society feed off their flesh
Their voice, their fall from grace
We feast off their broken spirits
Cash checks over their corpses
And we demand more
What type of society are we
That we demand doom
While claiming privilege and shit?
Mother in Chains
by Colleen Krinard
bleeding silently at the edge of the road
mother stands weeping, watching, waiting.
they have stripped her naked.
and with greedy joy have bound and raped,
pillaged and plundered
her wholeness into tiny grains
of dust and rubble turned
by the kings
and queens of
and silicon ink.
her tears of broken waters fall
on muddied treaties trampled long ago
by a destiny so manifest
that it has lost itself
in lives of
ruin and contempt.
her soul yet waits for eyes of passion
and hearts of fire
and to hear her song
of coming home.
with ears of yearning
and arms outstretched she knows
this dance is not yet done.
come to me now
oh my children and friends
who know the joy of the
sounds of sunrise and
the quiet of the dancing stars and moon.
take your places around the table
once set long ago by dreamers
much like you.
find each other,
and in celebrating your homecoming,
restore us all.
A veces ~ Sometimes
by Lupe Rodriguez
I hear the voices of elders
so close to me
I can feel their breath....
their touch so soft...
afraid to awaken...
their touch and presence...
eyes shut even when awoken...
my palms extended and awaiting....
a touch no longer....almost forgotten...
es un sueno...just a dream...
A veces....sometimes I wish.....
I'd never be awoken of that dream....
que bonito sueno fue.....
what a beautiful dream it was.....
by Kenneth Salzmann
This is no game, remember,
Because the elevated rumbles still
Through the kitchen smells of each
Wave of ever-dark-eyed strangers
Ever cooking up strange dishes
Strangely spiced, and all the while
Slipping strange words
Into the spiced atmosphere
Hovering over 161st Street
To rise above the
Train's insistent jazz,
To swell into an unequivocal
Roar that will be joined by ghosts
As surely as forgotten ancestors
Will never let us go.
America is dark-eyed, too,
Against all its wishes,
And speaks in tongues,
And can't subdue
Its hunger for a common language.
(previously published in New Verse News [Oct. 2, 2006])
Copyright 2006 by Kenneth Salzman
by Dde TheSlammer
We came to live the American dream
We just found some nightmares along the way
We want the dream for our families
The good job
Shoes for our kids
Food in the home
Walls that are built
Not just shacked together
But sometimes when you dream
The events of your days
Can shift your dreams into nightmares
Meantime we work honest jobs
Making it ironic that we have 2 jobs
Yet make half the pay
Working twice as hard
Dreaming of the America we were lied about
The America we would have died about
The America that is a daily bout
Of us vs your lack of acceptance
But lately nightmare ideologies
Are creeping into our daily lives
Making even our accents suspect
To these Freddy Krueger “protectors”
Carrying batons that resemble
Razor blades bound in leather gloves
Used to slice our innocence like we were children
Molesting our freedom
Uniforms that look like sweaters
Stained from the black oozing
From their standard issue hearts
And red stripes from the blood splatters
Of mandatory beating quotas
Faces burned with the fire
Of their hatred for us
But we are dream warriors
Using our wishes to give us the tools
To fight back against the deformed society
That says we disgust them
But I know why you really hate us
Its because we are living
The first American dream
The one we were introduced to
The daily celebration of Columbus Day
To arrive in an inhabited land
And say we live here now
and in response you tell us
Star of David
Skin tone mentalities
Arizona acted initially
To be in the middle
Of Nazi regime
Please by all means
Because instead of wrapping smallpox in blankets
We wrap weed in the papers we use
To keep you manageable
Your government has its papers for us
We have our papers we govern to you
No wonder you throw us in joints
That’s why we drive low-riders
To prove we aren’t always high
We're well grounded
As in not going anywhere
Hell isn’t a place you leave
Just to go back because
Our wings got tired
We are angels who didn’t fall from grace
We had our land ripped from under us
You opened the ground
And it swallowed us
It was just a matter of time
Before we ascended again
Without the use of rope
We aren’t the bane of your existence
We are the dark knights of your redemption
Robin you of your false sense of superiority
And you two-faced jokers
Who like to use and abuse us
You are out of our league
Our shadows shine brighter than you
We illuminate the American dream
So you can wake up and see
We have come back home
Lacerated Dreams by Xuan Carlos Espinoza-Cuellar
Mother in Chains by Colleen Whitehorse KrinardA veces ~ Sometimes by Lupe Rodriguez
The Stadium by Kenneth Salzmann
Dream Warriors by Dde TheSlammer
"Xuanito will slap you with knowledge and truth, and leave you wanting more."
Colleen holds degrees in Anthropology, Music, Social Work, and the School of Life. She has studied esoteric, metaphysical and healing traditions from around the world for over forty years, and utilizes and teaches her eclectic mezcla of this material in her Transformational Energetics sessions and classes. She has spent over twenty years working with people struggling with mental health, medical, and addictions issues in public clinics, offering specialized support in the treatment of trauma.
In the early years her work focused on personal themes; her poetry and songs were her way of coping with her experiences of becoming a single mother, a developing depression, and living with the after-effects of PTSD in her life. Pivotal changes occurred when she was exposed to a more global perspective of human history, economics and suffering through doctoral level coursework in Anthropology at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, Ca where she learned about the creation of poverty and debt in the post-colonial Global South through the enforcement of fiscal structural adjustments and other colonizing economic policies.
Under the guidance of Dr. Wynne DuBray, Lakota Sioux, professor of Cultural Diversity and Mental Health in the MSW program at California State University, Sacramento, Colleen had the opportunity to identify and reconnect with her indigenous roots and values through a guided journaling project. Later, while working at Consolidated Tribal Health Project, a Pomo consortium in Mendocino County, California, between 2002 and 2005 she learned first-hand through the stories of her clients and their families of the traumatizing effects of racism, past and present affecting the People. At this time she also took classes in Native American studies at Sonoma State University, in Cotati, Ca, learning about both the legal-historical perspective of traumatization in a class on California Native American History taught by Raquelle Myers, Pomo, and David Lim, of the National Indian Justice Center in Santa Rosa, Ca, and also experiencing directly the resilience and creativity pouring out through Native American literature and poetry with Duane Big Eagle, Osage, Ok.
During this same timeframe Colleen was privileged to be in conversation with Edwin Lockhart, Sherwood Band Pomo, regarding local social justice issues as well as hearing about his personal shamanic process with fire circles, and how he was learning through dreams and visions, before his early passing.
Finally it was hearing John Trudell and his band, Mad Dog, in Boonville, California in live performance where the torch of passion lit the fire in her heart and planted the seeds for the application of her music and poetry to social justice issues.
Recently returned from five months living in Oaxaca, Mexico, she currently lives in Belen, NM, and works in a medical clinic in nearby Los Lunas, NM.
Colleen shares the following foundational concepts which guide her life and work:
we are not alone …
everything is energy …
everything is inter-connected …
life is a magnificent learning journey …
nature heals and sustains us and we owe a debt…
the full-meal-deal of life includes the light and the dark …
we learn by trying things out, mistakes are a good thing …
our obstacles are often the signposts highlighting our paths along the way …
we have an emergent need to learn ways to live increasingly in constructive and respectful relationship with nature in our modern lives …
why not smile, listen, share, learn, love and laugh as we go on our ways …