Natural debe ser / Listo para ser alma dulce / Listo para ser humanaterio y atento / Fundado / Solamente en aquel / Mistico mundo ingravido / Donde lo mas grande posible / Se decubri en abundar*
— from Fuera de Oscura
Roads sometimes lead where you least expect them to. Even if on a map, a road offers unknown destinations beyond its direction, and eventual turning point. Such was the journey of Ronald Chavez, a life of intersecting events that led to an evolving and eminent career as one of Taos’s premier contemporary poets.
Born and raised in Puerto de Luna, a small village off the Mother Road, Route 66, east of Albuquerque, Chavez was surrounded by 200-year-old adobes, the Blue Hole, a hundred foot deep pool off the Pecos River, and the White Cross, an enduring spiritual symbol of antiquity, commemorating the time when the Spaniard, Coronado, first arrived.
The oldest of ten children, Chavez started his outward bound as a shoeshine boy at a restaurant in nearby Santa Rosa, New Mexico. When he grew up, he came to own that restaurant, the Club Café, which served cherished Southwestern recipes. He was the owner and cook at the Club Café for twenty years and became one of the many iconic personalities who lived and worked along that famous artery of American migration.
Interviewed and sought for his commitment to quality and maintaining the color and diversity of the fertile high desert, Chavez was recognized for his travelogue memoirs of local experiences and relationships with both people and the land.
But fate intervened: the blanding of America, an empty consumerism, brought tradition and heritage to its knees. With the new Interstate, speed was of the essence. Fast food, fast cars, and faster bytes bypassed the long-revered highway of Americana. Getting there was no longer an adventure, but an equation of time and space. Club Café and Chavez fell from grace, and the man was forced to reinvent himself.
From this garnished background, the spirit of wanderlust led him to another ancient village, Taos, New Mexico. Perhaps it was the two-lane passage that was reminiscent of his old Route 66, or perhaps, the ancient clay bricks mortared with the sweat of the antepasados.
Whether it was the mythical quality of his environment, the passionate art of his cooking, his keen observational sensibilities, or all of the above, with little formal education Chavez began to reveal himself with the written word, which eventually became the short stories and poetry that depicted the multi-cultural layers of his native Southwest.
After years of being published in local venues, Chavez soon gained a reputation as a writer from the earth. Rooted in an ancient Hispanic farming family, he wrote with the perspective of a man both hibernating and flowering. His evocative short stories of the labored and dispossessed resonate across cultural lines and speak to a primal yearning in us all.
Poetry oozes from him like molasses from a harboring tree, gradually becoming a reservoir of social justice and the questing for the erotic sweetness of the human relationship. There is a certain reverie, what some might call idealism, in Chavez’s verse. But talk with him for a few minutes and you soon discover that the passion has been savored, the bittersweet digested, rather than displaced for a “grass is greener” pursuit.
Bilingual, Chavez writes in English and Spanish, and the melodic tempo of his words translates well into both languages. His most recent book, Time of Triumph, was a finalist in the 2008 New Mexico Book Awards. It is a work of stark reality and a vision of transcendent consciousness.
*Natural should be / To sweeten the soul / To be caring and kind / Found / Only in that / Mystical, weightless world / Where endless possibilities / Abound
— Ricardo Ballestré is a freelance writer who lives on the road. His interviews and stories derive from the many colorful characters and places he visits.
From HighCountry 2009