A History of Genízaro Identity in the Heart of the Southwest with Dr. Gregorio Gonzales

[Opening strum of theme music]

[00:00:00] Gregorio Gonzales: So it was a really interesting way of kind of consciousness raising because it would be quite the challenge to have to talk to a five- or six-year-old child about, you know, very real experiences of enslavement of ancestors. It’s not to be dismissive of it in any way, but it wasn’t until later that I then really started questioning, or, yeah, just like, I was just very curious ’cause I kept hearing this term–Genízaro, Genízaro–and I was like, “What the hell is this?” And so the more I dug into it, the more I thought I’d be getting more answers, but then it ended up resulting in me getting many more questions about it.

[Theme music rises]

[00:00:38] Emily Withnall: ¡Bienvenidos! This is Encounter Culture from the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. I’m your host and editor of El Palacio magazine, Emily Withnall.

[Theme music plays]

[00:00:51] Emily: Teaching history has always been a fraught endeavor. As someone once said, history is written by the victors. That this quote is often misattributed to Winston Churchill reveals a certain irony and another truth. History is appropriated by the victors too. Unfortunately, like many of my peers, my history education was sorely lacking.

In seventh grade, as was mandated by the state curriculum standards, I was supposed to take New Mexico Social Studies. My teacher interpreted this very loosely and asked us to watch ten minutes of the news every night. Past may be prologue, but with no foundation for understanding current events, I was lost.

[00:01:37] My shaky understanding of New Mexican history splintered alongside the narrow but robust American history I learned. I knew more about the Boston Tea Party than I did about the many cultures, traditions, languages, and histories of the place I was born and raised. Fortunately, this will soon be changing as schools work to implement new standards as outlined by the 2018 Yazzie/Martinez decision, which mandates a culturally and linguistically relevant curriculum for the diversity of students across the state.

In 2022, the New Mexico Public Education Department issued new standards for curriculum requirements that will align with the state’s Indian Education Act, Hispanic Education Act. Bilingual Multicultural Education Act and the Black Education Act. In my conversation with Dr. Gregorio Gonzalez, who is Comanche and Genízaro, I learned more about Genízaro identity in one hour than I have previously learned about this history, and it has helped me to think deeply about the specificity of place and time and what we lose when we don’t know all of our histories.

[00:02:50] Understanding our great, great, great, great grandparents’ lives and how they survived, and 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.

It is impossible to make sense of who we are without knowing all of these histories in all of their nuances, contradictions, and complexities. As Dr. Gregorio Gonzalez shares with me in this episode, so much of who we are depends not only on who we claim, but on who claims us. Where does reciprocity lie in our relationships with each other and with the places we call home?

Please join us for a fascinating conversation about Genízaro history, identity, and more.

[Music fades out]

[00:03:59] Emily: Welcome, Gregorio. Thank you so much for being here with me. 

[00:04:03] Gregorio: No, thank you. 

[00:04:04] Emily: To start us off, I’d love to have you just talk about your role for the Department of Cultural Affairs as tribal liaison. What do you do? 

[00:04:12] Gregorio: Yeah. It’s a pretty new position with the department, but it essentially serves as the direct point of contact between the Department of Cultural Affairs and then as many as thirty-four federally recognized tribal governments.

Figuring out what kind of programming can the Department of Cultural Affairs support, when it comes to tribal governments and the initiatives that they’re pushing forward on their own, while at the same time also understanding that with having the country’s largest state-run museum system with so many tribal governments, of course, there are kind of interactions in some ways that now we’re getting to develop in a really interesting way.

So it’s a pretty exciting opportunity. 

[00:04:52] Emily: Nice, nice. So I know there’s a bunch of stuff that you could talk about; the few times that we’ve talked, you’re like a walking history book, but I really wanted to talk about the Genízaro people of New Mexico. So I thought we could start with your identity and how it’s personal to you.

[00:05:11] Gregorio: Yeah. Yeah. And I guess I should also just kind of introduce myself and some, yeah. 

Emily: Oh yeah. (laughs)

[00:05:17] Gregorio: I’m Dr. Gregorio Gonzalez. I’m Comanche and Genízaro. And I like to say that I’ve lived in so many different places in New Mexico that it’s very difficult for me to say I’m from one particular place, just ’cause I’ve lived in so many parts of the state and, which is a blessing. But you know, at the same time, I do have relatives up in the Taos Valley. And then on the other side of the mountain going into the Raton, Las Vegas area. I have relatives on all sides of the border, and they spent a lot of time down south in southern New Mexico. And so in that way it’s just really given me a much broader perspective with thinking about just the diversity of New Mexico itself.

[00:05:52] Emily: So when you were growing up, what was your connection to that Genízaro identity? 

[00:05:58] Gregorio: You know, yeah, that’s an interesting question. I grew up understanding really what our culture was through the lens of actually talking about Comanches because my family in particular is a Comanche family. 

And so as I was growing up, I was more exposed to the notion of our relationships to our Comanche relatives and what we would now call Oklahoma, but that Comanches were not just in Oklahoma, that we were all over the place. It wasn’t until later that then I was hearing this term of Genízaro and it, and it was very curious to me because then, more and more, I was hearing this term used to distinguish in some ways between ourselves and the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, for example, or our Pueblo relatives, or our Navajo relatives in some ways.

And so it was a really interesting way of kind of consciousness raising because it would be quite the challenge to have to talk to a five- or six-year-old child about, you know, very real experiences of enslavement of ancestors. And it’s not to be dismissive of it in any way. 

[00:07:01] It’s, they’re integral parts of it, but in our community. I think we had a very thoughtful way of orienting ourselves in terms of where our culture is situated and where kind of that historical and cultural focal point is. But it wasn’t until later that I then really started questioning, or yeah, just like I was just very curious ’cause I kept hearing this term–Genízaro, Genízaro–and I was like, “What? What the hell is this?” 

And so the more I dug into it, the more I thought I’d be getting more answers, but then it ended up resulting in me getting many more questions about it, which is probably for the better because it really assisted that I think critically about these things rather than accepting, I think what a dominant narrative has been set to begin with. So one of the primary movers and shakers in sort of New Mexico history who was really responsible for even like a twentieth century understanding of this term, was a guy by the name of Fray Angélico Chavez. This guy, he was a Catholic priest, he was a Franciscan, and he had his own very kind of specific way of seeing New Mexico history.

His work was really one of the primary foundations so many more people then just kind of accepted as fact, and they never really questioned what he was actually saying in those spaces. And so I’m very proud to say that I did, (laughs) 

[00:08:20] I did challenge the hell out of what he was saying because there was a certain orientation that he was taking to it that wasn’t a part of my experience, and it wasn’t necessarily something that I saw resonating in the spaces that I was interacting with and engaging with. And so in that way it was Fray Angélico Chavez who was one of the first people to really put forth this notion of, you know, detribalized, Hispanicized Indians being the organizing principle of Genízaros.

And I guess my challenge to that in some ways is that it presumes a certain clarity at a time when things were just a lot different, and 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 rather than someone like Fray Angélico Chavez. Uh, so shout out to Fray Angélico Chavez.

(Both laughing) 

[Upbeat music plays]

[00:09:25] Gregorio: But in terms of thinking about Genízaro, or think Genízaro, ‘Genízaridad,’ if you will, the focus that I took stemmed from not only coming from a community that understands itself as a Genízaro community in the Taos Valley, but also, uh, with the dissertation research in particular that I got to do while I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin.

I got to work with Genízaro communities in both the Rio Chama Valley, so going up towards Abiquiú, and kind of the satellite communities in that particular place, and then as well as the Taos Valley. So in that way–I don’t wanna ruin my dissertation for the listeners here ’cause it is a page-turner–but I will say though that just the whole idea and the notion of Genízaro, the concept itself isn’t an Indigenous concept.

[00:10:07] It’s not even an Indigenous word. It comes from across the Atlantic. We actually have to look at the Ottoman Empire. So we’re actually thinking from the Near East or the Mediterranean area. It was a Turkish word that then ended up getting Hispanicized as it traveled its way up. So from what we would think of now as modern day Turkey, and then as the Ottoman Empire kind of expands, it makes its way from North Africa up into the Iberian Peninsula, travels across the Atlantic into what was considered New Spain, now present-day Mexico, and it makes its way all the way up to here to New Mexico. 

And what is intriguing about this term is that the only place that you’ll find it in what we think of is the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere in this context is New Mexico. And so it makes it very kind of unique in that way that there were entire communities that were established and that were identified initially by Spanish Colonial administrators and church officials, and they were given this as an identifier initially in the seventeenth century. But then something really interesting happens in the eighteenth century where communities then start kind of applying that term and they start utilizing that as a collective sort of space to understand themselves in relation to the Spanish Colonial society as well as other Native communities. 

[00:11:30] And so the term itself just takes a life of its own really, because fast forward to present day, the way that folks in, for example, in the Pueblo de Abiquiú, understand that history and the way that it relates to their particular community is very distinct from what we would hear from my relatives, for example, in Taos.

And so it is really important that we keep place in mind as we’re kind of thinking about this one particular term that has such a vast and really complicated history, but again, you know, as place-based peoples, Genízaro communities have had their own kinds of challenges, but also their own kind of opportunities to really explore these things.

And now we’re seeing it in a way that we really haven’t been able to see in quite some time. So I don’t know if that’s an earful or not.

[00:12:15] Emily: Yeah (laughs)

Well, I wanna go back to the origins of the term in this region. Who were the people that the Spanish were applying this term towards? 

[00:12:25] Gregorio: Yeah, so when this term initially comes up, the Camino Real, it is being applied particularly by priests, by Catholic priests.

And so, in New Mexico, we have to remember that the order of Catholic priests that were very foundational in establishing the Catholic presence in New Mexico were the Franciscans. And the Franciscan Order, and especially during that time, it’s got its own can of worms with it. But suffice to say this particular order was very integral in terms of establishing and really supporting and you know, reifying really Spanish Colonial power. 

[00:13:20] Because we have to remember that during this time, both civil government and religious governance, in many ways they overlapped quite a bit, but there were also contentions in some ways. So what ends up being really interesting is the way that Catholic priests initially apply this term as they use it to identify Indigenous women and children who were taken captive and then sold into New Mexico’s slave economy that really existed all the way up until the early 1900s.

And so the term itself, you could find it in baptismal records, in marriage records and death records. The Catholic church was very meticulous with their kind of documentation deal. But what is intriguing is that really it depended on who the priest was, whether or not that term was to be applied to someone.

So someone may have been sold in that same sort of economy but they may not have been kind of written down in the official record as Genízaro or Genízara or whatever. That’s what makes the term all the more complicated. But it insists that there is a nuance to this, and that in some ways we have to keep in mind that different priests had different even definitions of what that term could be.

So I hope that makes it probably as clear as mud, right? 

[00:14:21] Emily: No, no. I think I’m following.

[Invitation to buy New Mexico CulturePass]

[00:14:22] Emily: On Encounter Culture, we love sharing behind-the-scenes access with you to New Mexico’s exceptional state museums and historic sites. But of course, our favorite way to fully experience everything they have to offer is in person with the New Mexico CulturePass.

CulturePass gives you access to each of the fifteen state museums and historic sites we feature on Encounter Culture. Reserve your CulturePass today at nmculture.org/visit/culture pass. 

And if you love New Mexico, you’ll love El Palacio magazine. Subscribe at elpalacio.org.

[End promo] 

[00:15:17] Emily: I actually am curious because if it’s tied to enslavement in the beginning then like you mentioned, I think in the 1800s, people start to self-identify that way. So how did that happen? Because I can imagine that if you’re labeled that way and it’s tied to enslavement, that was probably not a nice word to be called at that time.

[00:15:37] Gregorio: Yeah, I mean, so it was a racial slur. It was the same thing as what we would use as the N-word, but it was very specifically situated in Spanish Colonial society as a way to situate Indigenous bodies that were essentially taken from their tribes of origin. And for better or for worse, and whether they wanted to or not, they were being brought into this Spanish Colonial system of New Mexico.

In sort of the seventeenth century, it first operates as an identifier, and I have to distinguish between something that is an identifier and an identity, right? Because an identifier is something that’s being externally imposed onto Genízaro bodies in that way. So the process of Genízaro identity formation, if you will, it really gets off the ground in the eighteenth century.

So in the early 1700s, because Spanish military policy in the Americas was starting to shift in a way, instead of it being something that was more adversarial with tribal peoples, that was like just kind of about making war with folks who did not accept the faith and accept Spanish Colonial sovereignty in that way.

[00:16:44] The Spanish crown ends up taking a very different approach going into the eighteenth century where they start trying to figure out how do we develop trade relations? Like how do we create another form of relating to tribal peoples in a way where we’re not just always fighting one another and we’re always not at war?

And so part of Spanish military policy during that time was to create what they considered to be buffer zones. So it ended up being populated by Genízaro or by  Genízaridad. And so in these communities, for example, Ranchos de Taos Pueblo de Abiquiú, San Miguel del Vado, and there’s a whole litany of other ones that were initially founded by Genízaro families. 

Those communities end up becoming the first points of contact between Native Nations and the Spanish Colonial government. And yet, these communities were very much Indigenous, but they were Indigenous in a way of thinking of, they were multi-tribal Indigenous communities. So some Genízaro communities were the homes to over twenty different tribal nations, each of these families and communities having their own languages, their own faith traditions, and yet the organizing principle in these communities was the Spanish language and Catholicism.

[00:17:56] During the 1700s, this shift in policy, it really does encourage Genízaro families to go onto the frontier of New Mexico, you know, and it was really one of the few ways that Genízaro folks could access land in any way, shape, or form. But it was premised on our having to fight our relatives in order to justify our existence in this space.

Which again, is kind of premised on a slaving economy that, you know, has its own can of worms attached to it. But there is something that is really important about distinguishing the way that it transforms from something that is externally imposed into something that the communities themselves begin to articulate as a distinct community-based understanding of self.

And yet, the way we understand Genízaro Indigeneity is that it was very much premised on the erasure of one’s tribal origins, but the insistence that they are still racializable as Indigenous peoples. 

[percussive music rises]

In some ways, it challenges certain mythologies and it challenges some of the ways that we tend to understand those processes, and especially in a place like New Mexico. So it’s. It can be a bit more nuanced than what we think of.

[percussive music plays]

[00:19:13] Emily: Were there alliances between Genízaro communities, or has there historically been a lot of tension between tribal communities and Genízaro? 

[00:19:29] Gregorio: Mm. Yeah. I mean, in some ways it depends on the specific community we’re talking about, but I can say though that Indigenous peoples in New Mexico were not as isolated as we tend to presume that they were.

A really good example of this is the Pueblo de Abiquiú. Their land grant itself was initially established in the 1730s, but then because of raids that were happening between Utes and Navajos and other tribal communities, the community itself didn’t take hold really until 1754, which is when a governor by the name of Tomás Vélez de Cachupín, he’s really the one that kicks off this whole idea of the creation of Genízaro communities themselves.

[00:20:13] 1754 is a really important date because that’s when the Pueblo de Abiquiú ends up getting reestablished, but by this governor’s insistence of bringing a dozen or so Hopi families from First Mesa to settle, or resettle, Abiquiú, the way that then that community is spatialized is that there are multiple plazas–just like many other Pueblo communities throughout New Mexico–there are multiple plazas. There isn’t just one plaza. In some ways, we could think of the origins of those specific families. That then determined which plaza they would live in. And so there’s the Plaza Del Pueblo, which was the space where many Navajo families and, uh, Apache families and others were settled.

And then there was La Plaza de Moqui. Moqui was another word that was used to describe Hopis. And so, we can see that just even in the spatialization of that one Genízaro Pueblo itself, which was established under the same legal framework that, you know, establishes other Pueblo land grants. There was an act of awareness within, at least in Abiquiú, of there were tribal differences even within the community itself.

Pivot that in some ways, with what we have in the Taos Valley, in Ranchos de Taos and Talpa and Llano Quemado, where our focal point is much more directed towards our Plains relatives. So Comanches, Kiowas, Pawnees. In that way, we had a very different reference point. 

[00:21:30] And so Genízaridad, the way it’s understood in the Taos Valley is gonna have a very different resonance than what happens in Abiquiú, because in Abiquiú they had Pueblo governors, they had war captains, they had a governance structure that is very similar to the ways that now Pueblo governments are organized today. And in the Taos Valley and Ranchos de Taos and Llano Quemado and Talpa, you know, those communities, it was just a very different thing altogether.

But there were Genízaros that were going from Ranchos to Abiquiú and vice versa. But we also have to remember that during this time, the regions of the Rio Arriba and the Rio Abajo were very real distinctions because depending on where you were in the region of New Mexico, that then in some ways determined your access to capital and the economic markets that were coming up from Chihuahua and then later from Santa Fe.

[00:21:27] And so these communities become vital spaces for maintaining New Mexico as a colonial outpost to begin with. But later on in the 1800s, you have some Genízaros that are actively participating in that slaving economy themselves. So you have some Genízaros that are also buying other Native slaves. We have to remember, the New Mexico society had a very different orientation than what we think of today, right?

And so Genízaro identity in these spaces took very different forms, and that’s kind of where I have to be mindful is that just because someone was brought into the New Mexico social structure through this slaving economy, it didn’t always mean that these people were then being identified as Genízaros just because one’s presence in this space, it kind of meets these sorts of models, or you know what one historian calls it, the eighteenth century test tube baby thesis. You know, if you’re de-tribalizing and you’re Hispanicized, but you’re still Native, then somehow if you meet those three criteria, and this is really the way that the dominant narrative has been, is that somehow you then become a Genízaro. 

[00:23:25] And I think the way that my work has been trying to unpack that is that it’s not that simple. We have to be kind of aware, especially in this time where you have things like consumer genomics and even things like ancestry.com tests and stuff like that, that really are playing fast and loose with certain things.

[Guitar music rises]

We need to be mindful of what that looks like because these are very real communities and these are very real experiences. But they may not necessarily fit under the models of what we like to think of in some ways.

[Guitar music swells]

[00:24:17] Emily: So what you were just saying just made me think about, especially in light of ancestry.com, ’cause I know that there’s a lot of people in New Mexico who are raised culturally as Hispanic with very strong Spanish traditions and acknowledgement of their Spanish ancestry more so than their Indigenous ancestry.

But then I know with all these genetic tests and things like that, people are discovering how Indigenous they are. So how does that play into this whole conversation? 

[00:24:49] Gregorio: Oh, it, it plays, it plays. (Both laugh)

You know, on one end we’re in very interesting times where we have access to certain forms of technology, which are able to provide us insights.

And in this case, where now genetic tests are being used, like, to reorient oneself in sort of their self-understanding, I mean, these at-home tests that can tell you, well, if you take a swab of your mocos or your spit or something and you send it to a lab, and then when you get those results back, then that can really tell you who you really are.

And I don’t know, I guess I tend to think a little bit more critically about those kinds of things. Because, and especially with the way that it gets applied to kind of our 21st century understandings of Genízaro identity. Because again, like in New Mexico, we had a slaving economy of Indigenous peoples that went well past the Emancipation Proclamation and went well past these kind of key moments in American history where we’ve been taught that these kinds of forms of oppression cannot exist in the U.S. body politic.

[00:26:02] And yet, we can show definitively that was not the case in New Mexico and southern Colorado, which was technically a part of New Mexico to begin with. So that context matters to me because the whole Genízaro identity process in that way was not something that was necessarily reducible to a percentage point. Like, it was very much an experience.

And there are some communities in New Mexico that understand it as a continued experience and as a living legacy. So that’s a very different orientation than what you would be able to see on the printout of a ancestry.com or 23andMe or whatever, and we can’t just be so dismissive and say that, well, because I have this test, therefore that makes me this.

It can be tricky because some folks would then argue, well, you’re anti-science. You’re not acknowledging a scientific reality. And that’s not really the point. Where I’m trying to get at is that there is something else at work when we’re thinking about the politics and conditions of Indigeneity to begin with.

[00:27:06] And Genízaro peoples have a very unique story in New Mexico as Indigenous peoples, and that to me is not something that can be so easily reduced to a narrative that still continues to wreak havoc on many tribal communities to this day, which is the idea of “bloodism,” the idea that you can quantify what your blood is and therefore that quantification can establish, it can verify that you are a part of this or whatever. 

And this is something that is still very rampant across Indian Country and it’s hotly debated and it’s still very much a contested question. But you know, mine is just one perspective of many. But I do hope that by at least challenging the way that consumer genomics in particular monetized really that notion of racializing Indigenous bodies through this almost like a eugenics-oriented narrative in some ways, that we’re able to re-situate the conversation in a way where instead of it being something that is unilaterally kind of dictated to someone. We’re actually getting to see that, no, there are communities that are chewing on this to begin with, but also that understand this in a very different way than what 23andMe could ever be able to tell us. And I think that context matters. 

[00:28:30] Emily: And I appreciate what you said too, like how each Genízaro community around the state has a different context and a different history and way of relating even to that word. So to what extent do people know that they are descended from Genízaro communities currently, and how does that impact their identity or not? 

[00:28:54] Gregorio: Hmm, those are important questions. I think in terms of addressing how people are coming to understand Genízaro identity today and whether or not they’re connected to it. By and large, what’s been really interesting is seeing how much of a role consumer genomics is playing in determining that accessibility in some ways. And it’s not necessarily wrong per se, for folks to do DNA tests or for there to be that interest. 

But I will say whether folks have sort of a prior knowledge or a prior understanding of their relationship to that term, and whether or not it is something that is a part of their family story or part of their family’s history, we’re kind of confronting the very real impacts of colonialism and what those things did and what that process, what those institutions did to push people away from those community environments. 

[00:29:55] Or, you know, what are the push and pull factors that can create a diaspora that goes well beyond New Mexico to begin with. So in 2015, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association issued a statement and it was talking about the idea, and the practice of Indigenous identity fraud. And it was during a time when you had the whole thing with Rachel Dolezal, and so it was a very peculiar time for thinking of race relations and just how racialization operates in the United States in general. And they brought up something that I think is very poignant.

It’s not just about who you claim, but it’s about who claims you. And I think that notion of relationality, the notion that this is something that is based on kinship ties and certain responsibilities that are based on reciprocity within these communities themselves. Again, it reorients the discussion entirely away from something that is purely quantitative and something that can be reduced to a piece of paper as compared to something that is a living, breathing practice and an experience. 

[Solemn music rises]

[00:31:03] I have to insist that I’m not the Genízaro police. I’m not the guy that gets to determine who is or who isn’t. I remember I was at a meeting and a Genízaro elder was very adamant with some researchers who were wanting to introduce this kind of idea of genetic tests, and this elder asked, “Well, how do you measure a military policy? How do you measure Spanish Colonial policy through genetics?”

And the researchers couldn’t provide them an answer. So, you know, it was very telling because I think it’s important that community stories and cultural memory and cultural knowledge in those spaces is seen as just as valuable, and seen as just as relevant to our understandings of these things then what a geneticist could do for a for-profit company–for a multi-billion dollar industry. 

[00:31:57] It’s been very good to be able to learn these things. And one way being able to see, you know, how tribal voices are able to be a part of spaces that for a very long time they haven’t had access to. And so to be able to serve as that connection point, right, at that point of contact is quite the blessing. But it doesn’t mean that it ain’t challenging, but it is quite the opportunity.

[Solemn music rises]

[00:32:25] Emily: I do wanna also ask you about current communities and organizations.

[00:32:28] Gregorio: Yeah. Yeah. So in 2007, both chambers of the New Mexico legislature passed memorials. So one was House Memorial 40, and the other was Senate Memorial 59 within the 2007 legislature and those memorials effectively are dedicated to recognizing the history and living legacies of Genízaros in New Mexico.

Those memorials are very purposeful in terms of understanding Genízaros as Indigenous to New Mexico, but they do not take the next step in saying that we are tribal communities the way that our Pueblo relatives or our Navajo relatives or our Apache relatives are here in New Mexico. And so there is a distinction, and that distinction is important, but we could see in those two memorials, and they’re identically worded, there really is no difference between the two, just one was in the House, the other was in the Senate. 

But in those two memorials, there is a listing of communities that were initially founded by Genízaros. and so that includes Abiquiú, Ranch de Taos, Belen, Cañon de Carnué, San Miguel del Vado. There’s a few more that are kind of listed in there. 

[00:33:42] But what’s been interesting is then since that time, you know, there’s been some movement within those particular communities in terms of, I guess, more directly addressing that relationship to Genízaridad, if you will. And so some of those communities have grounded that more so in their land grants, versus others which have kind of done something different with it altogether. 

What’s been really interesting is that there are some of the more public-facing ones that we’ve seen are the ones that I’ve worked with, so in Ranchos de Taos, so in the Taos Valley, as well as in the Pueblo de Abiquiú. 

[00:34:19] But there are others for example, in San Miguel Del Vado, so going out onto the plains between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, you know, that was a Genízaro community and it was actually established by Comanche families. So almost that particular community almost became like where the Spanish Colonial government housed their Comanche interpreters.

And so there’s a very specific history in San Miguel del Vado that is distinct from what happens in the Pueblo de Abiquiú. Just as the Cañon de Carnué, which is in the East Mountains of Albuquerque. People may be familiar with that. If they’re taking I-40 East and they have to go through the mountain pass to get to the other side of the Sandias, they have to go through Carnué. 

[00:35:00] So that community was also established as a Genízaro community. So, many of these communities are kind of approaching this in a lot of different ways. There are some that are much more directly engaging with whether or not they want to even pursue federal recognition. So the idea of becoming a federally recognized tribe.

Versus others who have rejected the whole notion of it and saying, the federal government doesn’t tell me who I am. Like, we get to determine who we are. Those are two very different contexts, and yet they’re being actively addressed within these communities today. And so, you know, what one does in Abiquiú is not going to necessarily be applicable or be the same as what happens in Carnué or in Ranchos or in San Miguel del Vado.

But what is so fascinating is that in our 21st century context, those communities and elders from those communities and cultural knowledge bearers from those communities are still coming together and they’re talking with one another and they’re wanting to explore those histories together. So, you know, in some ways it is precisely in their difference, in that distinctive quality of their communities that they’re finding resonances with one another.

[00:36:14] And I find that to be quite beautiful. Hopefully we can continue to encourage a bit more than what’s kind of been happening in the past. But we’re very fortunate in some ways that we have access to knowledge that is being developed still today. But also folks, you know, Genízaro elders and ancestors who have been writing about this and have been talking about this for far longer than I’ve been around, than people who are, you know, around today.

Like this is a much longer conversation than just myself. Or you know, or anyone that are my contemporaries. Like this is a much deeper narrative. And we’re fortunate that we have the work of people like Dr. Gilberto Benito Cordova from Abiquiú to really give us some insight as to the continuity and the trajectory that those conversations have taken within these communities.

[00:37:00] And so, it’s not just kind of a one-off thing, like these things are very much in flux in some ways. But, you know, that’s precisely as being place-based peoples and in these communities that those are the kinds of conversations that are happening. And it’s important that we don’t say there’s an immediate one-to-one correlation in some ways between what you know, folks in San Miguel are doing versus what’s happening in Ranchos.

But they are talking, and I think that is the key thing, is they’re not in isolation. They’re not just kind of living in these silos. There’s a very concerted effort in these communities to think about these things together, but also realizing that these communities have very distinct understandings of what these things are.

[Soft guitar music rises]

[00:37:41] Emily: Is there anything else that you would add to this conversation? 

[00:37:44] Gregorio: Yeah. I guess what I’d like to do is more than anything, dedicate these words to the many generations of Genízaros that are to come. To understand that this is very much a living and breathing community and that folks may have very different ways of understanding this. 

But you know, based on the work that’s been done by elders and by ancestors who have, you know, really gone against the grain in many ways, and it may have been much easier to just toe the line of what New Mexico’s mythology is about this tri cultural myth of the Hispanic living in harmony with the Anglo who lives in harmony with the Native. And that was very much a key organizing principle of New Mexico, and yet the fact that Genízaro relatives had the audacity to speak truth to power in such a way by investing in our culture and investing in our traditions in that way.

[00:38:42] You know, it speaks volumes as to the tenacity of our communities and why these conversations are so important today more than ever. But this is part of a much longer discussion that precedes before I ever came into the picture, before I was ever a glint in anyone’s eye or anything. This is something that our elders and our ancestors saw as being valuable, and I want to share that.

I see it in that same way and hopefully our young ones and those to come will see that value as well.

[Soft guitar music swells]

[00:39:15] Emily: Identity, place, reciprocity. No matter your cultural heritage, these themes are all rich and filled with opportunities for discovery. What complexities does your ancestry hold? And if you’re interested in learning more about Genízaro history, check out the book published by the University of New Mexico Press, Nación Genízara: Ethnogenesis, Place, and Identity in New Mexico, edited by Enrique Lamadrid and Moises Gonzalez.

[Theme music fades for end credits]

[00:39:52] Emily: Encounter Culture is a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.  

Our producer is Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.  
Season six is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder and Alex Riegler with additional editing by Monica Braine.  =
Our recording engineer is Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe.  
Technical direction and post-production audio by Edwin R. Ruiz.  
Our executive producer is Daniel Zillmann.  
Thank you to New Mexico artist “El Brujo” D’Santi Nava for our theme music.  

For a full transcript and show notes, visit podcast.nmculture.org or click the link in the episode description in your listening app.  

I’m your host, Emily Withnall.  

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is your guide to the state’s entire family of museums, historic sites and cultural institutions. From Native treasures to space exploration, world-class folk art, to ancient dinosaurs, our favorite way to fully explore is with the New Mexico CulturePass. To see everywhere Culture Pass is accepted and reserve yours today, visit newmexicoculture.org/visit/culturepass.  

And if you love New Mexico, you’ll love El Palacio magazine. Subscribe at elpalacio.org.  

Thank you for listening and if you learned something new, send this episode to a friend or share it on social media. We love celebrating the cultures of New Mexico together. 

[Music fades out]