A Celebration of Santa Fe Families

The Lines and Circles Families Project: Bringing Santa Fe Together Across the Generations
      Valerie Martínez, Poet Laureate 2008-2010, Project Director
            I hope this book makes you believe in the future of Santa Fe as much as I do. The families you’ll read about in these pages are a testament not only to city history but the promise of days to come. The future, of course, rests upon the beautiful, complex, rich and contentious past of this place, the capital city of New Mexico. All places worth living in, I believe, are complicated. So are their people. While many tout the landscape of Santa Fe as the city’s richest asset, the truth is that the people of Santa Fe, those that are here to stay, are its gold. They know its past and present and they cut, carve, and burnish its future. Their family lines extend far into the past and the circles they trace, day to day in this city, fashion the shimmering design that is the lifeblood of our community.
            It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as Santa Fe’s second Poet Laureate. I have participated in over forty public readings and events over my two-year tenure, and I have had the opportunity to meet and mingle with a wide range of Santa Fe residents—in schools, senior centers, libraries, museums, at swearings-in, conferences, gala events, with elementary school students, teenagers, college students, families, city elders, and others. Santa Feans, everywhere, have shared their perspectives, and I have learned much about what we love about our city and how we want it to change. Each and every encounter has deepened my experience and knowledge of this place, and I have come to love my hometown and its complicated history and reality even more profoundly than before.
            Perhaps my deepest learning has come as a result of the Lines and Circles project—the educational/outreach/community program I created as Poet Laureate, and the subject of this book. For over a year and a half, I have worked closely with three generations of eleven Santa Fe families who have created unique family “works” that premiered, with this book, in the exhibition entitled Lines and Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families on January 15, 2010. As you read these pages, you too will come to know not only the stories of these families but the “story” of Santa Fe life from past to present, told through the eyes of its residents. In this, you will learn much about what life was and is like for the Santa Feans who love their city and are deeply invested in its welfare.
            The goal of the Lines and Circles project was to nurture and celebrate the Santa Fe community, encourage positive relationships within and between families, engage in meaningful community dialogue, and generate a body of art and poetry that commemorates city life. The project began in May of 2008 with a press release and flyer (in English and Spanish) that was distributed in the local media, community centers, libraries, schools and other public places. The project description read:
      “Santa Fe families with three generations living in the city are invited to participate in a community project entitled Lines and Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families, led by Poet Laureate Valerie Martínez. This project gathers three generations of 10-15 individual Santa Fe families, each to compose/create a unique family “work” (story, short film, book, photograph, woodwork, quilt, sculpture, pottery, recording, mixed media piece, etc.). Any Santa Fe family is welcome; you need not be artists to participate. Families will work inter-generationally, with the Poet Laureate, and in company with each other. The works may reflect the family name, family history, or simply the intergenerational collaboration that happens during the project. Assistance for the families will come from local artists and artisans. Each work will also be accompanied by a poem. The poem may be authored by family members, by the family and the Poet Laureate writing together, or by the Poet Laureate, depending on the family’s wishes. The finished pieces will constitute an exhibit entitled Lines & Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families to be presented to the city in 2010.”
            By the autumn of 2008, sixteen families had come forward to participate in the project and thirteen continued until the end of the year. By the spring of 2009 eleven families were still involved. It’s important to note that every family who came forward to be part of the project sincerely wanted to continue, but four families were challenged either by family loss, the complex logistics of working intergenerationally, or other reasons. In addition to the families in this book, I would like to thank the Simpson-Swentzell, Tsosie-Gaussoin, Gee, Lomahaftewa, and Maryol-Salis families for their interest and (in some cases) participation in the project though they were not able to continue to the end.
            One of the many lessons of the project was the realization that it is very rare for generations of families to engage in sustained creative work together. Some families do work together and families do get together for celebrations, holidays, and other gatherings, but sustained creative work across generations is, sadly, a rare occurrence.
            In addition, it’s important to mention that no matter how wide the call for participating families, my efforts at reaching the widest range of families, and the broad diversity reflected in the finished project, the families do not and could not reflect all the kinds of families in Santa Fe. I wish it wasn’t so. The good news is that a project like this could happen again and again, in the city, and cumulatively reflect more and more of the city’s broad and deep family life.
            The families who completed the project put in countless hours of work by brainstorming, designing, and building their family works. They completed long questionnaires and ancestral charts about their family members; they went through dozens of family photos to choose the ones shown here; they wrote poems; they worked with local artists; they burned up their phone lines and desktops and laptops answering messages from me. They received a little bit of money for their efforts and as much money and in-kind donations as the city and I could pull together (with thanks to our funders) to support the project. At the same time many local artists and artisans assisted the families, sometimes volunteering their precious time and expertise over the course of a year and a half. All to say, this project was more a labor of family and community love than anything else.
            In this book, I have tried to preserve a strong sense of the words and work of the families themselves. You will see photos of the family works of art in progress (this book went to press before the works were completed).You will also see text, poems, translations and photos, contributed by family members, that I hope give you a sense of the many, individual “hands” that have touched this project.
            And the project, in return, has touched all of us deeply. The families will tell you that in addition to creating and preserving an important family work that will stay with them for generations, they have come together, even more meaningfully, as families. We/they have also met, worked with, and become friends with families they didn’t know, across the “invisible lines” that sometimes tend to separate us, as city residents. Together, we have also journeyed into the past with one another, learning the stories of eleven Santa Fe families that in many ways tell the story of Santa Fe.
            This book is a gift from us to our city, to our fellow residents, and to anyone who wants to know more about those whose roots are deep in this beloved land. It is a testament to who we are, how we got here, and what we love and desire for this place that we call home.
      —Valerie Martínez, 2009