Jason Cordova

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Jason Cordova



My name is Jason Cordova. I’m from Denver, Colorado. My father was John Cordova, and his family comes from Colorado and northern New Mexico. Specifically, from a number of small villages in the San Luis Valley.

It is a very rich and diverse area, with a lot of history tied to the people and the land. There’s also a lot of mystical history there.

The actual San Luis Valley itself is massive. It’s about roughly half the size of Estonia and it’s one of the highest alpine valleys in the world with the base elevation around 7000 feet above sea level. It’s big and it’s high, and it’s a region that has experienced waves of colonization before it was part of the United States as a result of the Mexican-American war.

In 1849 The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded all of what is now Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada to the United States. A lot of the southwestern part was the New Mexican territory in Mexico, and before that it was New Spain.

My great grandmother, Margarita Sena, was born in a village in the San Luis Valley called Capulin. She was a very kind person. To me, she represents all of the traits of an archetypal grandmother: wise, kind, loving. She had a lot of personality of her own, but she also carried a lot of the traditions with her from our indigenous ancestry.

My family grew up with this recognition of spirits being a natural and normal thing. There’s other concepts too, such as curanderismo: a traditional folk healing practice that integrates elements of old world Spanish healing as well as local indigenous practices, such as collecting healing herbs for medicines.

Most matriarchs in the family would traditionally have basic knowledge of how to take care of the family.

For more advanced sorts of ailments there would be a specialist who would address things.So there would be a bone-setter and there would also be someone who is good at lifting curses, and things of that nature. On the other side, you would need someone who knows how to create a curse, and that person would be called a brujeria. A brujo or a bruja is someone who uses the knowledge of medicines and herbs in order to take away the free will of others. So, it definitely carries a more negative connotation.

And so Grandma Sena taught me how to keep myself safe from the brujos by not being careless with my hair and fingernail clippings. The idea is that if they can get ahold of your DNA they can do bad things to you, so just keep track of all that stuff.

Grandmother told me lots of stories about growing up in the valley. As I said, she was born in this little village called Capulin in the San Luis Valley. Around 1900, when she was about 6 years old a neighbor came to her house. He was very scared, because he had seen a grasshopper the size of a man. Like a 6 foot tall grasshopper, and it walked like a person. My great-great-grandfather, Bernardino Valdez, took his gun and together with my grandmother’s older brother, Juanito, they went with this man to find the creature.

She didn’t remember how it ended, but what I find interesting is that it was told in such a matter-of-fact way, and obviously my great-great-grandfather had taken this man seriously and was interested in helping him.

What this creature was, I don’t know. We can speculate in a lot of ways, but based on what we know about the culture and the place, I think people might have thought it was a shapeshifter or someone practicing brujeria to transform into the form of this grasshopper-type being.

Then again, it could have been it’s own creature altogether; there are some indigenous Hopi stories of ant people, but they’re usually benevolent beings.

So I don’t know who that was or what it may have been, but my grandmother told me that story, and it was part of our family tradition.

Another story my Grandmother told me was that people came to her whenever they passed away. Specifically, when her brother Juanito died, he came to her, and it frightened her, it really scared her. She said all her relatives came back to say goodbye to her after they left

I remember talking to her about this. I was probably a teenager, around 13 years old. And we made an agreement that whichever one of us passed away first, we would come back to say goodbye in a way that wouldn’t be scary.

So when she died in 1996, I remember waking up that morning just knowing. I felt it. My dad came to my room and said “Grandma died” and I said “Yeah, I know.”

It was a very solemn day, and we grieved the way we grieve. Over the course of the next few weeks we had all the ceremonies and honorings for her. She was a very devoutly practicing catholic.

The night of my grandmother’s rosary, we all came back to the house. I remember it was my mom, my dad, my sister and I in the car. We pulled up alongside the house. I got out first to open the door and let everyone in.

And as I entered the door I could hear every single music box playing. They weren’t playing long, but they were playing long enough for everyone to get into the house and have an opportunity to hear it, and then they just stopped.

Obviously, these are devices that need someone to give energy to them in order to play their song. Everyone in the family recognized at that moment that that was Grandmother coming back just to say goodbye, and it was in a way that none of us were frightened by.

So that is the way she fulfilled our little agreement. I do also, you know, I look to her… she guides me still, in a lot of ways.