The Bacanado No one I’ve asked seems to know exactly what this word means. From the stories of the great parties thrown in this neighborhood, “Bachanalia” must come close. Cow pasture is probably a literal translation, likely too, as Johnny remembers a time when there were no fences to allow for communal grazing. Even now, the neighborhood will go on a prolongued peda; the Armijos still have a jukebox stocked with the sounds of Darin Cordova and Al Hurricane (when they get tired of making their own music); and girls from elsewhere in town are still forbidden to date the young men of the Bacanado. Bounded by the rodeo grounds to the South, and the quiet enclave of retiring Jehova’s Witnesses to the North, Railroad Avenue curves through it. There’s a tunnel of Cottonwoods, Blackbirds sing their electric trills in the marshy spots, Don Alfredo’s appaloosa grazes in the knee-high grass, Amtrak passengers gawk at the blurred bucolic peace. And my 1948 Chevy pickup rots in Isiaac’s yard, impounded under the cords of firewood which prevent me from hauling it to a real body shop. Despite this, most of my hermanos grew up here, and the neighborhood has always been hospitable.

El Curucu This means “Chicken Flea.” It is also the sound that doves make in Spanish. There is a popular mariachi song in honor of Mary which uses “Cu-cu-ru-cu-cu” as the refrain. Even so, I assume most people over this way raised poultry. It is the Northern third of town. The people who live here have the High Plains as their backyard. There are interesting houses, and old gardens with rusty stamped tin panels for fences. A coffered ceiling becomes the backdrop for a naturalized garden of hollyhocks and sweet peas. The neighborhood has a few faithful widows who continue to drive their deceased husbands’ small block Chevy trucks, Novas, or Chevelles. In chintz sun dresses. El Curucu is the Village beach, where the green ocean of grassland is dappled by the shadows of clouds, peppered by grazing cattle. An extinct volcano juts up on the horizon, Some 80 miles away.

La Bendita This could mean “The Blessed,” but most likely means the “vale.” Most of it was bulldozed to make way for the Interstate in the early 60s. Fabled romances started here. The shrewish wife of the liquor store owner–a wealthy man by anyone’s standard–entertains herself in the secrecy of their California-style house by watching closed circuit TV trained on the patrons of the Sav-O-Mat a mile down the road. Eerily she’ll call Vincent to ask just how much malt liquor so-and-so bought, and by the way–was that really me buying rolling papers?

El Queso At first I thought this meant “The Cheese,” but at least one person I’ve talked to thought it was named after the church which sits at its heart. Perhaps there is an archaic word still used here very close to the Italian ‘Chiesa.’ Nonetheless, the big cheese do live here. The mayor, and old families have homes here. I am privileged to live here too, my house resurrected from ruin, trim and tailored like a barnswallow. Most of my friends, dubbed the “Condenados,” live in this, the center of town. I can survey the Northern half of El Queso from the studio window. Nolan street recalls Gervais Nolan, the French trapper who received a vast land grant from the viceroy, to have it divied up by the Feds twenty years later. I can look across the prairie plaza to Koko’s trailer where Zeke’s characterful BMW awaits new brake pads, a carrier bearing, and u-joints.

Dogs bark. A rooster crows. At night I hear crickets, frogs, the buzz of mercury vapor lamps, the muffled sounds of television through screen doors, music, and sometimes a party off in the Bacanado.



© Tasso 2000