A U.S.flag, "Old Glory," at rest on its flagpole on this Independence Day at an Espanola home with nary a breeze to unfurl it. Photos by Robert A. Naranjo with the VDP


Editor’s Note: The second part of “Memories of July” will continue on July 5th.

By Robert A. Naranjo

July – a pretty big month chock full of major events. First, of course, is the birthday of the United States, which started out as 13 strong-willed and determined colonies in the east coast with independence from England as their goal. Well, we all know the rest of the story. The 13 original colonies grew to 50 states by 1959. New Mexico came in as the 47th state, Arizona (which was New Mexico Territory up to the 1860’s) came in as the 48th, — both in 1912. That completed what was commonly referred to as “the lower 48”. Then the last two non-contiguous states joined the Union: Alaska, 49th and Hawaii as the 50th – both in 1959 — the former, in January and the latter in August.

Wild “Lillies in the Valley” are in bloom in July. Many share space
with wild asparagus along the bank’s of the Valley’s “acequias”
or ditches.

Collectively, we have a lot to be thankful for to live in these United States. Sure, there are some eye-opening things happening right now like the country’s wealth controlled by one percent of the population. And, now it’s not really “…by the people and for the people.” Now, it’s more like, “…by the one percent, for the one percent.” Our politics has become driven by money and elected officials seem to be subservient to political donors only. There’s more blues that this country is experiencing, but it is July 4th, Independence Day, and we’ll consider the cup half-full instead and get to the memories of the month of July in the Espanola Valley and northern New Mexico. After all, that’s the title of this piece!

Not so much of a memory, but July is the beginning of the fiscal year for many organizations in the U.S. and in northern New Mexico. But, not the good ol’ U.S. which uses Oct. 1 as its fiscal year start!  Two big memories of July that are common denominators for all Americans are putting out the flag and celebrating the 4th with fireworks. Most of us have memoires of local fireworks displays organized by the city, county or fraternal organizations.

Does any one remember the fireworks display at the old Rio Arriba County Fairgrounds east of the airport in El Llano? Cars would park along El Llano Rd. all the way to McCurdy Rd.  You’d think there would have been problems but people had way more respect then and it was rare to see someone acting belligerent, rude, crude or disrespectful. Espanola was like one big, real big, family! Tailgating was common, although it wasn’t called that then. When the fireworks would begin at about 9 pm, all that was heard was collective ooh’s and aah’s from everyone! After it was over, you never saw a more orderly, courteous, and safe driving being displayed as the cars full of families parked along the road begin to make their way home.

Those who were not at the fireworks display at Fairgrounds in El Llano were at the Santa Clara Canyon. The Canyon was big and it would become the third biggest city in northern New Mexico behind Santa Fe and maybe Espanola. Everybody in Espanola had been to the Canyon at least once. Going to Santa Clara Canyon was one of the truly great pleasures of living in Espanola. It was beautiful, cool, lush with sounds of birds and life everywhere. And, as with the fireworks display at El Llano, people acted civil. Santa Clara Pueblo had one or two officer/rangers who took care of the entire Canyon. Again, it was like one large “familia” in the Canyon oasis. I’m sure everyone misses the Canyon but fondly remembers it.

July in Espanola also is filled with memories of “acequias” or ditches in the Espanola Valley carrying precious life-giving water to vegetables, trees, alfalfa, etc.  July was a month when some of the fruit begin to ripen like the wild cherries also called choke cherries which were rather small but sweet but tart. The “July apples” ripened in this month. They remained green when ripened and looked like Granny Smiths but had a taste all their own. Our neighbors, the Perez’s had a little over an acre full of fruit trees and they had two July apple trees. We had trees too, but not any that ripened in July. As kids, we “borrowed” a few of their apples but the Perezes knew and allowed it as long as we did not break branches. They knew most of the apples fell to the ground and were happy someone was enjoying them, albeit, kids.  

The Santa Cruz Ditch in Espanola celebrates the 4th of July
by getting water to farmers, and other “parciantes.”
Notice the “regadera” or small “headgate” used to divert water.

I have reached the maximum length of what my editor wants in terms of a story submitted to The Valley Daily Post. Plus, there are things to do on this Independence Day – even watch the movie with that in its title! Look for the conclusion of “Memoires of July” in the July 5th edition of The Valley Daily Post. 


Have a safe Fourth of July everyone , and thank you for taking the time to read The Valley Daily Post.