The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood
There's a tether from my heart to my family in Santa Fe. Buffeted by dry wind, hardened by the sun, brittle from snow, it endures. Nourished by my dreams, fed from the font of shared memory and watered by laughter, it's a living thing.
As the daughter of a Spanish* Catholic and a Texan Baptist, I was introduced to both the self-flagellating Penitentes of New Mexico and the tent show holy-rollers of East Texas. In addition, my hometown of Santa Fe, the city of Holy Faith, is host to state politics and the attendant corruption, artists and their hangers-on, and a thriving tourist economy.
All of this went into my first book, The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood . The issues confronted by three sisters are contemporary: racism, sexual and religious intolerance, and the power of superstition. Finally, it is a story of what constitutes a family, and the myths associated with the blood and bounds of loyalty.
A Short History of Names:
My grandmother was a Sandoval, and married a Gallegos. My mother married the O’Briant. My father was no sweetheart, but I’ve stubbornly clung to his name. Growing up in Santa Fe, both my brother and I got the shit kicked out of us for having an Anglo last name. Yet, my mother had proudly relinquished her own father’s Spanish surname because of the discrimination she experienced for being Mexican. For her, an Anglo last name was a step up. She had no idea her future children would experience reverse discrimination.
Hence, my cynical world view.
So, where did the Ramos come from? I borrowed it from the slender, bookish part of a widely-traveled lesbian couple who took an interest in me, or my mother*, and gave us a subscription to National Geographic when I was ten. Yes, the gesture and that magazine opened my mind to possibilities beyond the Santa Fe city limits, but I also wanted to proclaim my heritage, and not from the ground looking up, as I had once done with my childhood tormentors: “My mom is Spanish!”*
*Ms. O’Briant’s mother would like you to know she loves men. Always has. Always will.
*Read Mexican. Spanish was the historically correct term in use in Santa Fe back in my getting-beaten-up days. In my book, the characters are New Mexicans.