Juliana Aragón Fatula, a 2022 Corn Mother, women who have earned accolades for community activism and creative endeavors is the author of: Crazy Chicana in Catholic City, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, winner of the High Plains Book Award for Poetry 2016, and a chapbook: The Road I Ride Bleeds, and a member of Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors, and Macondo, “a community of accomplished writers…whose bonds reflect the care and generosity of its membership.” She mentors for Bridging Borders, a Teen Leadership Program for girls. No justice no peace.
The month of September for me includes numerous birthdays and my wedding anniversary on September 26th. This year marks my 31st anniversary with my amazing husband, Vinny. Yesterday he called from Wyoming to wish me a happy anniversary from his camp where he is hunting with his brother and nephew. It’s an annual hunting event for him and I consider it my vacation. For forty-five days he scouts, hunts, and harvests his wild game for our freezer. I remain at home to write, revise, and read in the luxury of my home free from distractions like cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
This year I decided to do things differently. I concentrated on doing things my husband normally does: yard work, and house and vehicle maintenance. I wanted my husband to come home to minimal work. I decided to think of someone besides myself.
Normally I would spend the forty-five days writing and ignore everything else like housework, laundry, and shopping. I’d live amongst the fur balls my dogs leave in every corner and on every surface. I’d let the dishes stack up. I’d order out from my favorite restaurants and have the meals delivered after I ran out of clean dishes. I’d wear my clothes inside out when they got dirty and let the laundry stink up the hamper. The vacuum cleaner would stand idly in the closet resting from the puppies’ fur balls. The bills get piled on my desk and go unpaid. The weeds outside would grow to astronomical size and the hedges, and roses go untrimmed and untamed to cover every fence and gate until I am imprisoned in my own yard and my home. I usually keep the curtains closed and live like a mushroom in the dark.
This year is different. Instead of writing, I’m plotting. I’m imagining what my characters are up to and what plans they have for the next book in this series of three mysteries about the Colorado Sisters and their mayhem, murder, romance, and stilettos.
I have been busy trying to keep my social life active for example: I recently drove to Alamosa, Colorado a six-hour round road trip for an interview with Denver Channel Nine. I’m part of the program Native Bound Unbound organized by Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Ph.D. about indigenous slaves.
My great-grandfather was a genizaro, a slave sold into servitude as a four-year-old Navajo orphan. He was baptized by his adopted parents into the church, taught Spanish, and put to work herding sheep on the ranch owned by the Gomez family. He didn’t speak English, Spanish, or Christian. We’ll never know his name, his people, or his life before he was sold by the Indian Trader, Layfette Head, to the Gomez family as an Indian Captive. The Indian Rolls from 1864 show his name, Jose Antonio Gomez, four years old, Navajo, born in New Mexico, purchased by Jose Gomez in Alamosa.
I drove to Alamosa last week to do the interview for Channel Nine News in Denver. The journalist, Jeremy Jojola, and Corky, his cameraman, and I walked through the cemetery to my great-grandparents’ grave. I said a prayer for delivering me safely from my home to their home, their final resting place. They are buried in the Spanish Cemetery because of their last name, Gomez. My great-grandfather Jose Antonio Gomez, the Navajo, and my great-grandmother Abrana Jacobs, half Ute from her mother’s side, Abrana Quintana, and European from her father, the Reverend Jacobs, were buried in the Spanish Cemetery.
The interview went off without a hitch even though my new Subaru Forster Wilderness was rear-ended. I took a deep breath and journeyed on and did the interview the best I could. It will air in Denver on Channel Nine on October 11th at 9 p.m.
The program Native Bound Unbound is locating the descendants of these genizaros, slaves, and educating them on their ancestors’ history. I also was recruited through this program to do an interview for Story Corps. These recordings are collected in the U.S. Library of Congress and in their online archive which is now the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered. Stories are broadcast weekly on NPR. StoryCorps shares select stories with the public through their podcast, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books.
I met Dr. Rael-Galvez at a conference in Pueblo, CO last month and learned about his amazing research that my great-grandfather is part of and now I am included as one of the descendents. As a Corn Mother, I am learning about my culture, my heritage, and my ancestors. I survived because my ancestors survived and gave me their Navajo, Ute, and Pueblo DNA. I plan on writing a book about my journey and research and the program Native Bound Unbound and the genizaros who survived despite their hardships.
I realize now why I am so brown-eyed, with dark hair and skin. I come from strong, people who never gave up and fought to survive in a world that did not value them as people but as something to be purchased and used for slavery to work the ranches and farms. I have a photo given to me by Dr. Rael-Galvez of my great-grandfather and I see my mother’s eyes in his eyes. I wish my mother had lived long enough to see the photo of her grandfather; she was born in 1923 and he died in 1921. He was born in 1856 in New Mexico to the Diné, Navajo people, and was buried in Alamosa in the Spanish Cemetery. How ironic. His name will be part of history and future generations will learn about him through the Native Bound Unbound research.