Wednesday, 08 July 2015 15:42

A Day with Reyes Lopez Tijerina

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It was the summer of 1967; I had just turned 17 and I graduated from Santa Fe high school.  I was working at Bell’s department store, where I had worked during the summer and after school for of a number of years to help defray expenses when I went to college.  The store, although small by today’s standards, had a diverse inventory including a bridal department.


One day a large group of Hispanics came in.  Many of the men wore the uniform of the group calling themselves the Brown Beret’s.  My coworkers, Connie Duran and Lucy told me it was my turn to wait on them so I approached the group and asked if I could help.  It turns of that one of the couples was getting married and they needed a wedding gown, bridesmaid’s dresses, tuxedos, etc.


I began helping them and got the women situated in the dressing rooms with dresses to try on.  The men got very involved with the choices, some of them even going into the dressing rooms to help.  I was uncomfortable about this situation but I was kept too busy as there were probably 20 people involved.  There was an older woman who seemed to be orchestrating the whole thing being the final one to agree on which dresses were chosen.


Then it was time to get the men measured for tuxedos.  There was one man who stood out and it seemed that the rest considered him important.  He was the groom. 


After maybe four or more hours we were finally done.  I totaled the bill and was told to present it to the older woman.  She nodded her approval, opened her purse and took out a check.  I was stunned.  It was an official “State of New Mexico” check for $5,000, made out to the older woman and signed by then Governor, David Cargo.  I got very nervous so I took it to the store owner, Irving Bell and asked him if it was okay to accept the check for payment.  He said it was acceptable so I finalized the sale and everyone left.


The entire staff started chattering when they left.  They got a kick out of the fact that I had just waited on Reyes Lopez Tijerina and his Brown Beret’s.  They guessed that the older woman was Tijerina’s mother.  There had been a reward posted by the governor for information leading to his whereabouts when he went into hiding after the incident at the courthouse in Tierra Amarillo.  Apparently his mother had turned him in!


I always felt honored to be a part of New Mexico history because of this experience.  Then in 2013 a friend of mine introduced me to a man named Mannie Gutierrez.  It turns out that Mannie was Tijerina’s best friend and best man.  He remembered being at Bell’s and me waiting on them.  He told me that he had taken Tijerina to Los Angeles when he went into hiding.  Then he confirmed what we had suspected, Tijerina’s mother had turned him in so they could use the reward money to pay for the wedding.


Read 2031 times Last modified on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 15:44

1 comment

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Wednesday, 08 July 2015 21:48 posted by Mike Lord

    Thanks for this, Carmilla. A great article for your first contribution. Keep 'em coming.

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