ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Joy and tragedy experienced over generations are at the root of the family history of many New Mexicans.
For Josephine Zamora Padilla it was important to share what she had learned about her ancestors and where she came from with the world. Not because her family history was so unique, but because it is one that can be told through the voices of many in the Land of Enchantment.
Zamora Padilla’s story begins in the town of Manzano where she lived in home with a red tin roof. The home was just as strong as the Zamora family that occupied it for generations. It survived a fire and a flood, and was the habitation where deaths, births, weddings and dances had taken place. Walls cannot talk, so Zamora Padilla decided to tell the story of the house and the history of the Zamora family that occupied it in her book “Under the Red Tin Roof.”
“It kind of started when we recorded my dad over 20 years ago, my niece and I,” Zamora Padilla said. “And he told me so much about the actual house and about the store that his father had in the house. So then I thought, my God, it’s such a historic place that I should talk more about the house, so I had those stories … Once a year my cousins and I used to get together and have lunch, so we talked a lot about different things growing up and I had gotten a lot of information from them at that time, so that’s kind of how a lot of the information came about.”
As she learned more about her family’s history Zamora Padilla learned more about herself.
“It kind of made me realize that I didn’t come from a family with a lot of education, however, they taught us hard work,” she said. “They taught us organization. They taught us about religious beliefs. They taught us storytelling and a lot of the New Mexico traditions. It’s not formal learning, but it’s very important life lessons, and I think I have carried those things forward with me in my life.”
The traditions carried on by the Zamora family included preparing food. Zamora Padilla put together several recipes for the traditional foods to add to the book including arroz dulce, bizcochitos, natillas, tortillas and sopaipillas. Many out-of-state readers have reached out to her with excitement to try them out and have a piece of New Mexico with them.
“Growing up, I inherited those recipes,” Zamora Padilla said. “The one from the bread, which was my mother-in-law’s recipe, when I first got married, she used to make that bread very often and she said ‘I don’t use a recipe’ so she actually went through the trouble of measuring and making a recipe for me.
“But other than that, the others are just things that we grew up with and I believe our people were poor and they were farmers and they were ranchers so they made due with what they had. And so some of these dishes were the dishes of the poor, but now they’re specialty.”
Opening up about personal experiences was something Zamora Padilla briefly contemplated.
“I think it’s important for people to know that, especially our culture sometimes, we tend to be really private and by sharing your personal stories, I think you open up the door for other people to understand that they’re not alone,” she said. “For instance, I talk about wearing a bra and I’m sure there are a lot of other young ladies that have the same situation, or the fact that I was overweight and how I devised this system in my head of ‘Yeah I’m going lose it.’ Or meeting a guy in the hallway and looking at each other but you’re too shy to speak to each other and those are feelings that everyone has.
“And it’s kind of good I think to open up the dialogue so that you talk about these things. I had to think about it. Do I really want to share this story? But you know, it’s true.”
The book extends beyond the Zamora family tree. It also includes a brief history of Manzano and its surrounding area that includes the ruins of Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira that have been incorporated into the Salinas Pueblo Missions by the National Park Service.
Zamora Padilla provides a brief history of the ruins and the significance they play in New Mexico. She also includes travel directions to the ruins and other historical markers mentioned in the book.