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Rio Puerco memories: Native of Rio Puerco recalls growing up in iconic valley in film on PBS

Nasario García is a storyteller.

Since 1970, the New Mexico native has been sharing the stories of life and loss, myth and magic, farming and drought throughout the Río Puerco.

Located near Cuba and southeast of Chaco Canyon, the Río Puerco villages thrived from the 1900s to the 1950s.

This iconic valley, noted for the volcanic plug Cabezon Peak, is deeply connected to New Mexico’s history.

For the past five years, filmmaker Shebana Coelho has worked with García on creating the documentary “Nasario Remembers the Río Puerco.”

It will air at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, on New Mexico PBS, Channel 5.1.

“We’re thrilled to have this film air on New Mexico PBS,” Coelho says. “Through the broadcast, this film will reach statewide audiences, and we want this story of New Mexico to be shared with as many audiences as possible, faraway and close.”

Coelho’s friendship with García began about five years ago.

“I heard Nasario speak about his abuela in 2012,” she says. “That was the beginning of our friendship. Then we did a play about his stories. With Nasario’s energy, the entire documentary came alive in a different way.”

In the documentary, viewers can join García as he does what he loves – wandering through landscape and memory amid the ghosts towns of New Mexico’s Río Puerco Valley, reviving memories of his youth when the ranching villages thrived and elders told stories beside a river that once ran.

“From a one-room schoolhouse in my native Río Puerco Valley to my retirement as a university professor has been a marvelous journey,” García says. “But the capstone to the dreams in my life is reflected in the film … about the past and present of my beautiful valley.”

García is proud of the film and hopes that audiences will enjoy his stories.

“First and foremost, I hope the audience comes away with an appreciation for what life was like in the late 1930s,” García says. “It was a very difficult time for parents like mine. They were trying to raise a family during the Great Depression. I hope that audiences get a feeling of what life was really like and the kinds of challenges that kids like me faced. We were able to pull forces together and ultimately survive. And there are more facets to the film.”

As the film is ready for the PBS airing, Coelho and García are ready for the world to see it.

“It’s been the most mysterious journey for me,” Coelho says.

García adds, “I’m ready and I’m excited. Suffice it to say that I truly hope that all the people who see it will enjoy it. I trust my family will appreciate it.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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