Rosaries dangle from rock overhangs in shrines along the Santa Cruz River at the Santuario. Santuario faithful come bearing pain, craving miracles. Miracles to cure the addiction to deaden the pain of poverty. Poverty of the soul, of the land, of the culture. Culture embedded in years of working the soil, growing crops, living in community surrounded by generations of love. Love that brought grandmothers’ recipes for tamales, stories of La Llorona, secret skills to grow the best chile, sad secrets on how to shoot heroin. Heroin that smooths the souls of children stuck between the cultures of having enough and never having enough. Enough pain to be angry, enough love to survive. Survival is not what the kids desire. Desire steeped on the TV screen, internet, Facebook, Instagram, all shouting for riches, fast fun. Fun that is imaginary for the masses, especially people of the earth. Earth suffers along with the grandmothers as soil cries for water.
Water and jobs are the droughts that bring poverty to Northern New Mexico. New Mexico, with beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys artistic and magnificent. Magnificent to view, to paint, but without an economy for people to flourish. Flourishing cultures of the past built with acequias to carry the Rio Grande to the fields. Fields toiled by grandparents, children, grandchildren alongside each other to provide corn, chile, beans for the winter. Winters that brought snow, quiet solace, story telling. Stories of joy, of caution – to beware of La Llorona. La Llorona who walks the river, while her voice wails. Wails for her children just as the grandmothers of today wail for their children. Children and grandchildren taught to escape poverty through a bottle or a needle. Needles that steal lives. Lives lost long before their bodies are buried in the ground.
Ground that ancestors battled over, plowed under, flooded with the water from the acequias. Acequias that brought water for life, for food, for family. Families now fractured, tortured by loss. Loss that grandmothers push into their prayers on each bead of their rosary.
Cheryl Marita shares her work with end-of-life issues on her blog. Decades of hospice work, palliative care and life offer up characters and stories. She has been published in The Santa Fe Literary Review and has poetry in an anthology, Bosque Rhythms.