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Rosabel Cordova Herrera: A Poet of Passion

Rosabel Cordova Herrera, described as “happy, religious, funny, and strict as a parent” by her daughter Ruth Martinez, wrote poems throughout her life ranging in topic from the power of God to bargain days in Questa. All contained her signature passion for living, with reflections “born from my heart.” 

Born April 21, 1916 as Rosabel Juana Payne and known by Rosa to all, she lived almost all her life in Questa, NM, except for approximately 15 years in Grand Junction, CO, where her husband had family and her arthritis fared much better. After the 8th grade, Rosa’s formal education ended and she took care of her ailing adoptive mother. She became an avid reader. Rosa’s middle child of five, Ruth, described her as “making rhyme in conversation… it was her entertainment.” Her spontaneous spoken poetry was frequently accompanied by singing and humming, and seemingly nurtured by her “love of fresh air” that was born through childhood walks on the ditch fields between her adoptive and biological families. She remained very close to members of the two families throughout her life, and nurtured her close family of five children of her own, for whom she delighted in baking daily.

She was married to Liberato (Libby) Lafayette Herrera, owner of the Herrera Sawmill in Questa, where she helped determine costs for milling the timbers that arrived. In Grand Junction, she worked at the state hospital with physically challenged people, learned sign language, and served as a foster grandmother. Rosa spent her last four years in nursing homes in Espanola and Taos, where she taught English to Spanish-speaking staff. She continued to write poetry, including both religious ones and on everyday topics such as breadmaking, until she died, on February 26, 2001. 

Both Rosa’s love and loss of family upon moving to Colorado in the early 1970s shines in this poem:

A Tribute to Questa 

When I left my motherland

And abandoned my friends, 

My children, whom I loved so much,

With pain and sadness.

I brought memories with me

Inside my heart.

They can’t be erased,

Or measured or numbered.

My sorrows and sadness,

If I were to weigh them,

They would be heavier

Than the sands of the ocean.

Time passed, 

And I forgot how to cry.

I forgot my lamentations,

Only in my heart I still feel

All those I loved so much.

When will I stop loving them?

Ah, those who I loved 

When I was near them

And had the affection

Of their sweet company,

Though I didn’t realize

How much I adored them.

Until a sad day

When I got away from them.

My soul was sad.

I left my family

Early in the morning

My soul was in tears.

That’s what Fate wanted.

That was to be our luck.

We went out on our way

From the shadow of death

And got to the two rivers

Because that was our destiny.

When God freed Israel

From the land of sorrows

He sent his servant Moses

For us as well.

It was Moses that God sent 

To the land of enchantment

An eagle with powerful wings

That flies fast

And flies over the sierras

With great love.

Our Lord brought us 

To die in this land.

Like a beautiful morning

That announces dawn

That’s how our life changed.

With all our actions

We should be thankful

To whom cares about us.

Where the rivers get together,

A great peace we enjoy here.

When worries come

We should pray 

to the God of your parents

He is always going to help.

If you can listen to us

This is the advice that we give you:

Praise the Lord

And love each other as brethren

And you will receive from God

Endless blessings.

Tributo a Questa

Cuando mi tierra dejé,

Y abandoné a mis amigos.

Mis hijos que tanto amé,

Con tristeza y dolor.

Recuerdos traje conmigo,

Dentro de mi coraón.

Que no se pueden borrar,

Ni medir, ni enumerar.

Las penas mi pensar,

Y pesarlas pudiera.

Pesarían aun más,

Que las arenas del mar.

Con el transcurso del tiempo,

Lla se me olvidó llorar.

La se acabó mi lament,

Solo en mi corazón siento.

Las prendas que tanto amé,

¿Cuándo dejaré de amar?

Aquellos quien tanto amé,

Cuando de ellos vivía.

De sus cariños gocé,

De su dulce compañía,

Aunque nunca realicé,

Lo mucho que los quería.

Hasta que un triste día,

De ellos me separé.

Con el almaestristecida,

A mi familia dejé.

Temprano por la mañana,

Y mmi alma se desasía.

Así lo quiso el destino,

Así sería nuestra suerte,

Salimos a nuestro camino.

De las sombras de la muerte,

Llegamos a los dos ríos,

Por que así fue nuestro sino.

Cuando Dios sacó a Israel,

De la tierra del quebranto.

Mando a su siervo Moisés.

Por nosotros también fue,

Un Moisés que Dios mandó,

A la tierra del Encanto.

Aguila de grandes alas,

Cuyo volar es veloz.

Y vuela sobre las sierras,

Con su cariñoso amor.

Nos trajo así nuestro Dios,

A morir en esta tierra.

Como una linda mañana,

Que anuncia el amanecer.

Así cambió nuestra vida,

Todos nuestros procedes,

A quien de nosotros cuida,

Debemos agradecer.

Donde se juntan los ríos,

Mucha paz aquí gozamos.

Cuando lleguen los afanes,

A que hacer quien los males.

Oren al Dios de sus padres,

El siempre lo va a ayudar.

Si nos pueden escuchar,

Estos consejos les damos.

Al Señor han de ensalzar,

Y que se amen como hermanos.

Y de Dios recibiran,

Bendiciones sin sesar.

Rosa’s love of everyday life was depicted in this humorous poem about attending a sale in Questa:

Bargain Days 

You won’t believe this, prices were down

I bought two for the price of one.

Why should I bother with such a big crowd

They were turning things over for crying out loud.

So the sale went on as it always does

People were stepping on each other’s toes

Imagine a sale on our path right there in the street

Made some people laugh, some people weep

This is not funny it’s a plain fact

You either have money or you can’t buy this or that.

 Días de rebajas

No me vas a creer, los precios cayeron tan bajo

Que compré dos por el precio de un solo tajo.

¿Para qué molestarme yendo con tanta gente?

Revolvían todo y ponían súper mal ambiente.

La venta siguió como siempre andaba.

La gente se apurruñaba y hasta pisotones se daba

Imagínate que vendían cosas en plena calle

Había gente que se reía, otras lloraban al desmaye.  

Esto no es gracioso, es un hecho sencillo.

O tienes dinero o no te compras ni un pestillo.

The religious reverence in some of Rosa’s poems began with her being born Catholic. Through her readings, she became a Seventh Day Adventist, and finally a member of the Church of God. According to her family, she became more religious as she aged, and wrote “The Power of God” as one of her last, in June 1991:

The Power of God

Great is the power of God,

And His rolling thunder.

Such are His greatness and wisdom

That the ocean obeyed him.

His powerful thunder,

The clamoring of Heavens.

Who can understand this?

With His majestic voice,

And all that, it’s just

The edge of the ways of


Rosabel Cordova Herrera lived the way of poetry, writing for her own meaning and enjoyment. Although she mostly shared her poems with loved ones, her grandson James (Jaime) Martinez fortunately highlighted a few in several articles written in 2002 for the Taos News a year after her death. Those articles were given to The Questa Del Rio News by Rosa’s son, Ben Herrera, and thus to the community. We are all the richer for their being shared. 

Rosa uplifted her love of the land of New Mexico in this poem:

The Land of Enchantment

I talk to you courteously,

My esteemed Redeemer.

Publish these poems,

Born from my heart.

They are my reflections

With my best intentions.

I sit down to reflect

About the sierras in the horizon.

Beautiful big mountains

That are equal to none.

With their amazing peaks

In the land of enchantment.

The morning breeze

I like to admire.

The dew in the fields

That irrigates the beautiful morning.

It irrigates everything, likewise

In the land of enchantment.

My mouth should express

What is inside me.

I can’t overlook

The place I’ve learned to love

The land where I was born

Is the land of enchantment.

June 1978

La Tierra del Encanto

La hablo con cortesía,

Mi estimado Redentor.

Publique usted mis poesías,

Nacidas del corazón.

Son meditaciones mías.

Con toda buena intención.

Me he sentadoa meditar,

En las sierras en el campo.

Montañas lindas copiosas,

Son del aspect sin igual.

Con esas cumbres hermosas,

En la tierra del encanto.

La brisa de la mañana,

Me gustaría admirar.

El rocio por el campo,

Riega la linda mañana.

Riega todo por igual,

En la tierra del encanto.

Mi boca debe expresar,

Lo que está dentro de mí.

No puedo pasar por alto,

Lugar que yo supe amar.

Tierra donde yo nací,

Es la tierra del encanto. 

30 de junio, 1978

The poem below, cherished as a favorite by Rosa’ daughter, Ruth due to “its feelings [for my father],” was published in the Taos News (then El Crepusculo) in 1985, shortly after the death of Rosa’s husband, Libby L. Herrera.

Un Tributo para

Libby Lafayette Herrrera


Rosabel C. Herrera

En Febrero el día dos,

Este año en corriente.

Fue un tiempo señalado,

Cuando por orden de Dios,

Mi corazaón fue doliente,

Porque se murió mi amado.

Temprano por la mañana,

Fue el tiempo señalado.

El terminó su carrera,

Sun nombre, Libby Lafayette.

Su apellido Herrera,

Este fue mi amado.

Bien dice la Escritura,

Y lo dice con razón.

Que somos como la flor,

Lo llevamos a la sepultura.

Allí sepulté a mi amor,

Prenda de mi corazón.

Esta vida es un vapor,

Como sombra que declina.

Y pronto desaparece,

Al oír la voz de Dios.

La vida pronto termina,

Y el Decreto se obedece.

Él tuvo mucha paciencia,

En el tiempo en que sufrió.

Grande fue su fee n Dios,

El orar era su creencia.

Hasta el día en que se murió,

Él respetó esa voz.

Yo les digo a mi familia,

Que ellos lo tengan como guía,

Por los ejemplos que dejó.

Y que modelen su vida,

Que puedan vivir sus días,

Como su padre vivió.

Él no se fue para siempre,

Ya debemos el llanto enjugar.

Con toda resolución,

Él se levantará triunfant.

Y nos volverá a amar,

En la primera resurección.

Diremos venga tu reino Señor,

Así como está escrito.

Nuestros labios te aclamarán,

Y se levantará nuestro amor.

Y los que mueren en Cristo,

Todos se levantarán.