People and Places
It’s clear that history is very important to Valencia County by the way it’s treasured, honored and touted.
In the past few weeks, it’s been very clear that we — or at least a lot of us — enjoy listening to, reading about and looking back at local history.
There are currently two fascinating photography exhibits on display in Los Lunas and Belen, showing how life was lived om our county way back when.
The “Belen in Black and White” photography exhibit by former mayor, city councilor and business owner Ronnie Torres at Studio 508 on Becker Avenue has been extended until Saturday, Aug. 19. The former president of the Valencia County Historical Society said he received so many inquiries about the show, he decided to make it available for a longer time so more people can view the photos.
Torres began collecting black and white photos of Belen about 25 years ago. Customers would come into his hair salon, and they’d start talking about pictures they had. Ultimately, Torres was able to obtain copies of about 600 photos of people, places and events of the Hub City.
“I love old pictures and the history of Belen,” Torres said. “I like to see what once was.”
Another great exhibit is the “Memories of Valencia County” display at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts. The photographs were all taken by Belen photographer Bob Christensen, who spent many hours over the course of the last half century capturing views of Valencia County.
“The one thing I like is the first photograph you come into on your left is Los Lunas Peak, back before it started building up around there. It’s just kind of sobering,” says Christensen about the exhibit.
The exhibit showcases Christensen’s photographs he shot in the 1970s, including barns and businesses.
The museum’s exhibition is organized by showcasing different towns and regions of Valencia County in each room. Visitors are taking an exciting journey through time and space, providing a glimpse of what the county looked like in the past.
“Memories of Valencia County” by Bob Christensen is at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, through Sept. 30.
Last month, the News-Bulletin published a special section, “Hometown History,” which included photos and history of some of our most well-known families, buildings and areas. We’ll be publishing it every summer with a different theme each year.
I was fortunate to be able to put this sections together, combing through the hundreds of photos in our archives, researching the history of our people who helped to shape our county, our community. Looking back at where we came from is a great place to look to when pondering where we currently are and what our future might look like.
Local artist Jan Pacifico is also celebrating her own history with a collection of recipes, “Sunday Sauce: The Story of a Family and its Food,” which come from Pacifico’s family — grandmother, mother, father, children and in-laws — and have been collected throughout her life.
“When I wrote it, I thought I was writing it for my family and didn’t think of the general public, but people ended up being really interested in it … but people kept telling me this is so universal even though it’s specific to your family,” Pacifico said.
We are also fortunate to have an active historical society — people who are passionate about our past and who encourage and support educating all of us in our history.
The Valencia County Historical Society was founded in 1969 by several local residents who, according to the website, “were eager to document and preserve the rich historical legacy and varied cultures of Valencia County.”
Richard Melzer, the organization’s president, has been a treasured source of information and education, having written a multitude of history columns, La Historia del Rio Abajo, for the News-Bulletin for a quarter century, and numerous books about numerous subjects and people of Valencia County.
History is more than dates, names and places. It describes how cultures remember events, how those events are presented to the next generation and how the present engages with the past.
Valencia County’s history is complicated, and can be very challenging to figure out, but it’s important to learn about how we got to where we are now.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.