Sunday, 05 April 2015 07:24

Truchas: My Place of Querencia

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Shades of meaning of the Spanish word querencia include the place from which one's strength of character is drawn, the place in the ring where the wounded bull goes to renew his strength, the place where you are your most authentic self.

The village of Truchas, New Mexico is my place of querencia.  It is the refuge where my family and I have spent over fifty five summers, escaping city living, traffic, and the heat of summer.  Every year, in Truchas, we renew ourselves.  The sense of querencia we found in Truchas inspired me to write a series of poems.

Truchas, Closer to Heaven is a collection of poems dedicated to my parents, Roger and Lucienne Guillemin, whose adventurous spirit led them to discover Truchas in the early 1950s.  In my book, there are anecdotes about village personalities, a celebration of the natural beauty of the landscape, bits of history about surrounding towns, and stories of my family's summertime life in Truchas.  There are also poems based on interviews I made with Truchas' oldest residents back in the 1970s while working for ethnographer Edward T. Hall.  In addition to over 70 poems, the book contains a glossary of Spanish words and a brief history of Truchas.

I have selected three poems from Truchas, Closer to Heaven to post on Voces de Santa Fe.  If you wish to read more, visit Sugartown Publishing's website at or drive to Truchas and stop at High Road Market Place on County Road 76. In Santa Fe, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts Museum Shop has a few copies for sale.



At first, it came on horseback

from Santa Cruz

to Ojo Sarco.



in a two-wheeled sulky,

then by buggy,

then in a pickup.


In those days,

the mail came

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.


Then, there was

the parcel-post business,

the money-order business,

and savings bonds.


The boxes we use today,

I bought them myself.


My name is Manuel Martinez, Senior.

I was postmaster of Truchas

for forty-three years.





Long gone--

the living room's woven curtains,

the cup-filled corner trastero,

the child's chair milled in her papa's shop,

the nicho where the Holy Virgin

visited to bless their home.


Left behind--

plate shards, a rusty apple corer,

a doll's plump leg.

Old bottle caps settle in the dust

where the workshop once stood.


Making her rounds in the village,

the Holy Virgin empties

her pockets of hope.





Isabro forces the door,

ransacks the house.


In his loot bag,

everyday knives, forks and spoons

are a jumbled mass.


We post kachinas and santos

throughout our living room--

sentinels against crime.


If we had more faith,

perhaps they would keep better watch.


Read 1602 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 11:04
Chantal Guillemin

Chantal Guillemin is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine with degrees in French literature and the History of Art.  She studied printmaking and the history of photography at the University of New Mexico where she also spent a year as curator-fellow at Tamarind Institute.  She is a California Master Gardener and the author of numerous articles about gardening.  In her earlier life, she wrote art reviews and profiles of printmakers.  She worked in Taos for Larry Bell as studio assistant when he first developed his vapor drawings on paper.  She is responsible for a catalogue raisonne of Richard Diebenkorn's etchings and drypoints.  In California, she has held jobs in a variety of fields: art, property management, publishing, and higher education. She writes with the Fresh Ink poetry collective in Berkeley and is the author of a newly-released book of poems, Truchas, Closer to Heaven, published by Sugartown Publishing.  She has travelled extensively and is fluent in French and Spanish. She is married to chef Guy Birenbaum and lives in Richmond, California, when she is not able to be in Truchas, her long time second home.

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