What do we lose when we don’t know ALL of our histories? Understanding our great, great, great, great grandparents’ lives and how they survived, where they settled or traveled, and what languages they spoke – all of these details reveal so much about who we are and how we landed here in this place, at this moment in time. How our ancestors interacted with other people and with the land has had ripple effects on why things are the way they are today. 

Dr. Gregorio Gonzales (Comanche, Genízaro), the tribal liaison for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, works to develop relationships with 23 tribal governments based within the State of New Mexico. DCA divisions interact with as many as 34 American Indian tribal governments, which include tribes with ancestral ties to New Mexico and whose tribal headquarters are located in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. Gonzales is uniquely suited to the relatively new position of tribal liaison due to his impressive knowledge of Indigenous history in the state—including Genízaro history which is still largely unknown in the context of United States history.  

Even within New Mexico, groups without any connection to a Genízaro identity are not likely to know this history either. As Gonzales reveals, he didn’t understand the full history and context of his Genízaro identity until he was a young adult.  

“It was Fray Angélico Chávez who was one of the first people to really put forth this notion of de-tribalized, Hispanicized Indians being the organizing principle of Genízaros,” says Gonzales. “…It really kind of dismisses community-based histories, cultural memory that exists within these communities. And why, for example, why it’s so important that those voices are leading the narrative.” 


Genízaro history and identity 
Enslavement of Native people in New Mexico by the Spanish 
Fray Angélico Chávez 
Genízaro Pueblo of Abiquiu 
Genízaro Land Grants in New Mexico 

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Encounter Culture, a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios. 
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