Before Questa was considered a mining town, the town’s identity was steeped in the ranching culture, rich in agriculture and farming. Through the years, the small village has gone through several identity transitions, however, one thing remains consistent, and that is the interest in passing on generational knowledge of agriculture and traditional ways of life to the next generations.
Siblings Fernando (Fernie) Gonzales and Jennifer Gonzales are the grandchildren of the late Frederico Gonzales, a rancher who raised livestock including horses, sheep, and cows. He passed his knowledge on to his sons, Fernando Sr., Hector, Manuel and Gary, who went on to participate in the local rodeo and work with livestock regularly.
Over time, the brothers gradually gravitated away from the lifestyle, however, Fernando Sr. remains heavily active. “My dad is such a huge influence for us, and he is a big reason why we live this lifestyle,” Fernie says. “He taught me how to ride and rope, he taught the girls a lot, too,” he says.
Fernie has been participating in the rodeo since he was 13. He attended college at Mesalands Community College on a roping scholarship and currently, he participates in roping competitions across the western United States. He and his wife, Kassie Gonzales, who is a trained barrel racer, live in Alamosa with their four young children.
When asked about his current livestock, Fernies laughs as he says, “I am a hoarder of horses! Right now we have 16 head of horses, 15 head of cattle, we have goats, calves, we have a little ranch out here.” He participates in the roping competitions in rodeos across the Western United States. “It can be lucrative. I’ve won several thousand, and I’ve lost before too. The money generated in entry fees is what determines the winner.”
Back in Questa, his nieces Mia and Melody Gonzales are following the same path, both being involved in Junior Rodeo competitions. Their mom and Fernie’s sister, Jennifer, is very committed to the lifestyle and works closely with her dad every single day to support the girls in their sport. “Right now, they do barrel racing, pole bending, and goat tying. They’re focused on learning and having fun,” she says. “Every single day, my dad is working with us and the horses. He travels with us to competitions, he is always showing us the ropes, we couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for my dad, he is my girl’s father figure and he means so much to us especially in this sport,” Jennifer says.
Currently, Mia is preparing to run for Rodeo Princess for the Taos Rodeo held in August. She has been working hard to prepare, including practicing her patterns and riding skills. “Riding my horse helps me connect with my horse. I also know I have a responsibility to take care of my horse every day so that keeps me going,” Mia says.
“This lifestyle teaches my girls a lot of things traditional sports don’t. They have responsibilities every single day of taking care of their horses, working with them, it gives them values. We are also traditional and start our Rodeo’s with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance. It’s not just a sport we play, it’s a lifestyle,” Jennifer says.
Both Fernie and Kassie agree, saying it teaches kids about winning and losing, about respecting animals and builds values that are so often forgotten in today’s day and age. “I am really excited, our kids will be raised with the same upbringing we had, it will help them grow into responsible people overall, they’ll also have a big extended family because in Rodeo, everyone just wants each other to succeed, and we are always willing to help one another with whatever is needed,” Fernie says.
The Gonzales family have a very exciting few months coming up.
- Mia will be participating in the Taos Rodeo Princess Competition on July 22nd for the August 12 and 13 Taos Rodeo. We will be covering the outcome of the competition.
- Kassie will be organizing the 10th Annual Barrel Racing event in memory of her mother. It will happen the second week of October. More information can be found on Kassie and Fernando’s social media pages leading up to the event.