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Journey Down El Rio Santa Fe

On March 13, historian Hilario Romero took us on a historical and cultural journey down the El Rio Santa Fe. This is a short excerpt from his presentation that is available for viewing on the CHART Santa Fe YouTube channel or via the CHART website at

My mothers and my grandmothers I always try to honor them with every presentation I make, and this is another one of them because they were my first professors. They were the ones since I was three years old, they taught me everything I know. From music to dance, to art, to picking herbs, to using them, basically keeping myself well with those things. And so, I honor them as they really got me the kick start that I needed to go into my profession, which is more than anything, history.

I know there’s a lot of contemporary stuff going out there now and everybody’s tacking on the word history to the title even though they didn’t have to go through what I had to go through in the university. It was a lot of work. But it really prepared me for my future. And also working at the archives and as the State Historian. That helped along as well.

Basically, this [presentation] is a book I will have out, giving a whole different kind of history you might not have read or seen in a book. Because I do things a little differently. I try to tell the whole story.

I always start with an old saying my grandfather used to say in Spanish and translated in English for all of you and that is “Blood is thicker than water.” I know we used to say, “We have Spanish blood,” “We have Indian blood,” “We have Mexican blood.” We have all this blood in us. But it’s only thicker than water, folks.

It is more important that you learn culture though your family, your extended family, through your friends, and then out to your county, your state, country and world. And eventually you find out that it exists in your first language, at home for the most part, unless you are bilingual, trilingual, then you belong to more than one culture then. With language that automatically gives you that ticket.

Then it’s within your belief system. How you were raised and what you believe in. And then, of course, in your daily life.

So, culture as it relates to identity. Genealogy and DNA they show your familial and genetic past, but it doesn’t fully reflect on your cultural identity. The reason for that is because you didn’t live with your ancestors. They passed something down to you, but you are not really them nor do you have the same way of life or the same economic status or social status. But I know now the new thing is DNA. Everybody’s going with DNA. I did genealogies for about 12 years while I worked my way through college along with music and dance and other things.

Of course, genetics does reflect your skin color. It reflects your facial and body features and all of that. But it really doesn’t totally represent you culturally – like language, your social environment, your world view, and all that you learned being raised the way you were raised.

So, let’s get into it now. I always start with Avanyu, the water serpent …

Transcribed excerpt from Hilario Romero's CHART Cultural History Series

presentation, "Journey Down El Rio Sant Pueblo, Spanish, Mexican History of the Santa Fe River Communities" on March 13 at Teatro Paraguas.

View the entire 40-minute presentation with slides on the CHART Santa Fe YouTube channel or via the CHART website at

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