March 24, 2000: Headlines: COS - Costa Rica: Writing - Costa Rica: Hispanic Issues: Country Directors - Costa Rica: Country Directors - Honduras: Gallup Independent: Costa Rica RPCV Abe Pena, now in his early 70s and living in Grants with his wife, Viola, and a 24-year-old parrot named Paco, was once part of that life in San Mateo. He was born and raised there, spending his boyhood caring for his family's herd of sheep.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Costa Rica: Peace Corps Costa Rica : The Peace Corps in Costa Rica: March 24, 2000: Headlines: COS - Costa Rica: Writing - Costa Rica: Hispanic Issues: Country Directors - Costa Rica: Country Directors - Honduras: Gallup Independent: Costa Rica RPCV Abe Pena, now in his early 70s and living in Grants with his wife, Viola, and a 24-year-old parrot named Paco, was once part of that life in San Mateo. He was born and raised there, spending his boyhood caring for his family's herd of sheep.

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-22-73.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.22.73) on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 8:53 pm: Edit Post

Costa Rica RPCV Abe Pena, now in his early 70s and living in Grants with his wife, Viola, and a 24-year-old parrot named Paco, was once part of that life in San Mateo. He was born and raised there, spending his boyhood caring for his family's herd of sheep.

Costa Rica RPCV Abe Pena, now in his early 70s and living in Grants with his wife, Viola, and a 24-year-old parrot named Paco, was once part of that life in San Mateo. He was born and raised there, spending his boyhood caring for his family's herd of sheep.

Costa Rica RPCV Abe Pena, now in his early 70s and living in Grants with his wife, Viola, and a 24-year-old parrot named Paco, was once part of that life in San Mateo. He was born and raised there, spending his boyhood caring for his family's herd of sheep.

Author's memories of life in San Mateo are still vivid

Mary E. Davis
Staff Writer

GRANTS A gold ring. A letter written in Spanish formally asking the parents of a 17-year-old girl for her hand in marriage. A midwife who helped bring two generations of babies into the world. A Lebanese shopkeeper. And a sleepwalking grandfather driving his horses out at night to check on his fields.

These are the people and things some now long gone that once were a part of everyday life for the 250 inhabitants of the Hispanic village of San Mateo, about 23 miles northeast of Grants.

Abe Pea, now in his early 70s and living in Grants with his wife, Viola, and a 24-year-old parrot named Paco, was once part of that life in San Mateo. He was born and raised there, spending his boyhood caring for his family's herd of sheep.

His father, Pablo Pea, was a sheep and cattle rancher. After his marriage to Pablita in 1922, the couple settled in San Mateo with an inheritance of a moderate house and 225 head of sheep.

The couple, who married 17 days after Pablita's parents received a letter of proposal from her prospective groom's mother and stepfather, written in Pablo's handwriting, had seven children. Abe, named after his paternal grandfather, Abelicio Pea, was their second born.

"We were all ranchers all the way back to Spain," said Abe Pea, author of "Memories of Cibola: Stories from New Mexico Villages." "Sheep ranching was the first industry of New Mexico because sheep provided meat for the first colonists that came. It was like a supermarket on legs."

Once the economic mainstay for most families carving out a living in Cibola County, sheep have mostly disappeared from the landscape here. After World War II, coyotes and other predators, a Congress which prevented ranchers from setting out poison traps, and man-made polyesters (which replaced wool) made it impossible for families to continue supporting themselves on sheep herding.

Pea's first book, published in 1997 by the University of New Mexico Press, paints what life was like in San Mateo during the 1920s through the 1950s.

At one time the village didn't have electricity. The first car to drive over its unpaved streets was a luxury, owned by his grandfather, that constantly broke down. The village's residents were self-sufficient and shared among themselves fruits picked and dried from their orchards, pion nuts, which they sold at market, and the festivities of the annual pig slaughters.

"We were small farmers and small ranchers. We all spoke Spanish. We didn't learn English until we went to school at the age of 6," Pea said.

He still has an 18-carat gold ring that once belonged to his maternal grandfather, Fermin Marquez. The ring, made around 1915, was taken from Marquez's finger after he died of pneumonia.

When Marquez was young, he walked in his sleep, Pea said. When Marquez's mother couldn't find him in bed, she suspected he was sleepwalking. She would then find someone to follow Marquez, who was usually dressed in his long johns, as he drove his horses around, checking his fields all the while asleep.

The book tells about the lives of Doa Virginia Perea Sanchez, a midwife who delivered most of the village's babies, but outlived five of the six children she gave birth to: Max Miller, a Navajo who is suspected of having been adopted and raised by Billy the Kid; Lebanese immigrant Merhage Michael, who switched from speaking Spanish to his native Arabic when he became angry' and Don Eduardo, the village carpenter.

"These are individuals that passed away," Pea said. "but their families are still in the area. They're the buyers (of his non-fiction book). They're big families."

While Pea's writing focuses primarily on people he knew, he also lays a foundation for how they got to New Mexico. The book tells the stories of the area's first Spanish-speaking settlers Spaniards who traveled through Mexico more than 300 years ago what they went through to get here and the struggles they had to endure to survive.

The immigrants almost didn't stay in New Mexico. Tired of Indian attacks, the killing of settlers and the kidnapping of their children, Spanish settlers packed up in the 1680s and started heading home. A group of Spanish soldiers ran into the settlers and, after promising to protect them, the colonists finally decided to stay put.

Pea's family settled in New Mexico about 12 generations ago, when his ancestor, Jose Mariano de la Pea, left Mexico with Don Diego de Vargas and other colonists in 1692.

"He (Jose Mariano de la Pea) was a merchant with livestock and farming in Pajarito (a community once located) outside of Albuquerque," Pea said.

It took being far from home to coax Pea into writing. After getting out of the sheep business, he took a job as director of the Peace Corps in Honduras and Costa Rica. He began to keep a journal of the experience.

"In essence, I taught myself to write cynically and in detail," Pea said.

He plans to put his journal entries into a third book, "Memories of Latin America." His second, "Villages and Villagers" a follow-up on his first book is being looked at by publishers.

Though history had always been one of his favorite subjects (his high school New Mexico history teacher, the late George Dannenbaum, wrote "Boom to Bust" about the uranium industry), Pea began researching his state's history only when he was in Australia studying the art of sheep herding and wool production on a Fulbright Scholarship. He visited the library, where he found books on Southwest history.

"I guess I was a fan of history," Pea said, "but I never thought I would pursue history."

He first published his personal historical writings after a casual conversation with a newspaper reporter led him to a local newspaper. "Memories of Cibola County" is a collection of 10 years of newspaper columns written between 1987 and 1997.

"People liked it and made comments and wanted me to write more and more," Pea said about the columns. "People now keep telling me, 'Are you writing another book?' and I say 'Yes.' They get impatient."

Because Grants doesn't have a bookstore, "Memories of Cibola County" is being sold at local businesses. It can be found at the Chamber of Commerce, Cibola Arts Council office, Grants Floral Shop and Habiger's Service Printing.




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Story Source: Gallup Independent

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Costa Rica; Writing - Costa Rica; Hispanic Issues; Country Directors - Costa Rica; Country Directors - Honduras

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