Mi Nuevo California


(Home Sweet Home)

This morning at 7:00 AM, Chelsea and I found ourselves in Albertsons, a popular supermarket chain in 15 states west of the Mississippi.

We we’re biding our time after dropping off the little ones at their 4-H day camp this Sunday morning at 6:45, because we we’re taking advantage of some alone-time to go skiing. However, the slopes at Ski Santa Fe didn’t open till 9:30.

So, since nothing else was open yet, we decided to get our Easter basket shopping over and done with.

Exploring the aisles I came across a few piñatas in the candy section. Coincidentally, not-so-coincidentally, yesterday, when I attended the grand opening of Middle Rio Grande Community Soil Health Lab at the Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center, I was likewise pleased to find a few extra-large artful piñatas being used as decor in their lobby.

Being a colorful Mexican birthday tradition, one that I experienced often as a child, I was incredibly happy to see that it is a mainstay of culture here in my new home of New Mexico.

However, in so many other ways, the piñatas are symbolic of the fact that it doesn’t feel like a “new home,” but far more familiar, like “I’ve been here many times before.”

In French, they call that strange-yet-oh so-familiar feeling “Dejavú” - in Spanish we know it as “Ya tu sabes!” Either way, indeed, it simply feels like - I’m back home.

Whether it’s the paper maché burros, the tamales that I can get at gas stations, the fact that many of the city and county residents have Spanish surnames, that so many people look like me and have the same accent as much of my family, that I hear and have the opportunity to speak my first language (español) often, and that even simply that I get to soak in and enjoy the ever-shining sun and the complementary comfort of dry air - all these elements make me feel giddily as if I’m back in California, where I spent most of my first formative 24 years of my life.

And that overwhelming feeling is nothing less than refreshing, quite invigorating really.

After seeing the cheerful family of happy burritos all lined up on the top shelf, awaiting to please another birthday boy or girl, I came across a bottle of “Prickly Pear Kambucha.”

As unusual of a flavor it may seem to anyone on the East coast, it’s a mainstay out here.

Legend has it that when I was in my mother’s belly, her favorite food as an expectant mother were “tunas,” the Mexican word for cactus fruit. The deep broiled beet-red, fruit rife with semillas is something that I have always loved my entire life, as well as a grocery item that I have sorely missed the last thirty years of my life that were spent in New York.

But, now, here I am, essentially having returned to the warmth and comfort of my mother culture’s womb, and I couldn’t be more grateful, because I’ve come full circle and I am back home again.

Even if it’s literally a thousand miles away from my childhood home, New Mexico feels like Nuevo California for me, and it feels good.


9You, Tina Volz-Bongar, Timothy Wailan Doebler and 6 others