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Life in the Primo 500: blessed voices

Las hijas de Don Eduvigen Marquez y la difunta Angie Marquez have been singing at funerals in Arboles and Ignacio for more than 30 years.

The evidence of this life-long practice was very apparent at mother’s funeral, where a couple of “Ed and Angie’s girls” came to bless our family with a flawless rendition of the very same hymns that we once sang while standing at mother’s side.

“I know them well,” June Marquez said when my sister, Annette, gave her the list of hymns that were mother’s favorites.

Indeed, she did.

Accompanied by her sister, Lou Jean Espinosa, and by Lou Jean and Henry’s daughter, Jessica, June’s voice took us through the ages and stages of our mother’s life as we once knew it.

For a moment, we could almost hear our mother singing “Adios Reina del Cielo” with Father Bernard at Saint James Mission Church in Trujillo during the 1940s through the ’60s; “De Colores” with Father Gallegos at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pagosa Springs during the ’70s; “Amazing Grace” with Father John during the ’80s and ’90s, and “Bendito, Bendito,” with them all. Truly, I can’t even begin to tell you how hearing these songs, and singing along, made us feel.

Last Sunday, on the way back to my side of the San Juan River, I stopped to eat breakfast at Two Chicks and a Hippie, the bakery and coffee house owned by Lou Jean Espinosa, Betsy Burnett and Betsy’s son, Rory. While I ate my homestyle breakfast of dos huevos con papas fritas y chile verde, and a hot-off-the-grill homemade tortilla, I asked June if she and her sisters had ever recorded a CD or were interested in recording a CD. I’m not a music producer by any means, but over the last six years, I have spent so much time listening to my friend, Anna Martinez, of Penasco, make arrangements to record and promote Jenna’s CDs that I felt I knew the pathway to a professionally recorded CD, if they hadn’t recorded one already.

“Yes,” June said, “we self-recorded a CD of the entire mass in Spanish, but it still needs some work.”

“I think I can help you with that,” I replied.

Do you remember how we’d get together in the 1980s and ’90s to “do” the Spanish Fiesta in order to raise money for scholarships? One of the first graduates we helped became a doctor who — last I heard — practices in Santa Fe. Well, my making a conscientious decision to help the Marquez girls make their CD “better” is similar to our “doing” a Spanish Fiesta. It truly is a worthwhile expenditure of my time and energy. But it’s more than that, too.

It’s two things, actually.

One, I am the child of an era that I’ll never see again. If I want to remember what it was like to sing at mother’s side in a little mission church in Trujillo where everyone spoke Spanish all the time, and what it was like to sing along with the people and the priests in Trujillo and Pagosa Springs who helped make me who I am, this is one good way to do it.

Two, in 2010, June studied with Rebecca Copley at Fort Lewis College. Copley, a world-renown opera singer at the New York Metropolitan Theatre for more than 24 years, came to FLC for a year to teach June and her peers a thing or two about singing without instrumental accompaniment (a cappella). Today, June has two semesters to go before she graduates with a B.A. Little by little, and with a few college-bound children of her own in tow, June has worked very hard to be where she is today. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I admire her talent and dedication.

Oh, by the way, the name of the bakery and coffee house was coined by Betsy’s daughter, Taryn, who is married to Raul Palmer. Raul is the grandson of Gloria y Amado Perez.

Know you are loved.

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