Ideal weather and live music made for a perfect Fiesta celebration at Molycorp Field on Saturday, June 17.
Norteños from Questa, Cerro, Costilla, Amalia, Red River, Taos, and San Cristobal filled the Molycorp fields for the first time in 15 years, a familiar and comforting sight as neighbors embraced one another and caught up on life.
The past two decades have been tumultuous for the small northern Taos County communities. With the closure of the Questa mine and collapse of the west wall of the San Antonio de Rio Colorado catholic church in Questa, the natural rhythm of traditions true to the area were disrupted, forcing the people to shift their focus.
Life has since come full circle, illustrating the resilience and determination of the people, with a church that has been fully restored and a town that has redefined itself in a post-mining economy.
David Rael, who was raised in Questa and currently lives in Taos, was in attendance at the celebration with his good friend Roger Blanco. The pair sat and reminisced as they listened to rancheras and Spanish music of times past. He spoke with Questa del Rio News about his memorias (memories) of growing up in Questa.
Rael recalls that while growing up, connecting with your community was not optional. The barter system was utilized through the Great Depression, where families would exchange resources with one another to get by. This system remained in place post the Great Depression era, ensuring families could have what they needed by trading what they had.
This interconnectedness of necessity in remote communities in northern New Mexico is one reason the bonds with one another were much deeper, and similarly, is one of the reasons divisions are much more difficult to bridge.
Rael also spoke about how our culture is slowly losing its language. “When I was younger, I used to get in trouble for speaking Spanish at school. Speaking Spanish used to be a thing of shame, as if we were uneducated. Now, we’re losing our language and once you lose that, you lose the culture,” Rael says. This is why he underscores why reviving and carrying forward traditions such as the Fiestas is so incredibly important.
Fiesta organizer and Village of Questa city councilwoman Katrina Gonzales relished in the success of the event. “I did this for our community. Seeing the community together smiling, laughing, and hugging while they enjoyed the day, that to me makes this a success. Seeing the joy emulating from our people made this endeavor worth it,” she says.
A nice addition to this year’s event was the revival of the traditional Fiesta Reina (queen). Prior to the crowing, the first-ever Reina Susan (Cisneros) Ortega addressed the crowd with a heartwarming speech and the last-reigning Reina Abbileigh Muller crowned Karina Rael, daughter of Victoria and Martin Rael as the 2023 Reina de las Fiestas. Her princesas are Jordyn Martinez, daughter of Josh Martinez and the late Jennifer Vigil and Amalia Gonzalez, daughter of Maria and Jason Gonzalez.
The 2023 revival was so much more than a celebration, it brought together a once broken community forging unity, celebration, and healing, giving space for nuestro gente (our people) to step away from the fast-paced world, and get back to the basics of building genuine human connections.
iQue Viva las Fiestas!