Richard J. Griego responds to El caballo en la cocina (email to the editor 3.27.20)
“I am reading El Caballo en la Cocina. The translation is very good. It is accessible and unadorned, much like Ralph’s writing. I have found some New Mexican words such as “cubeta” instead of the standard “cubo” for bucket in El Toro de Elutherio. Patricia Padilla did a good job. A Nuevomexicano audience will find her translation familiar. I am looking forward to reading more of the book.”
Richard Griego was the first director of Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico. Richard has recently written The Spanish Language of New Mexico: A Cultural History, a book which I hope will soon be published.
Tomé Dominguez de Mendoza Community Center
Thursday, August 15, 2019 from 7-8 p.m.
Ralph Flores’s Tales from La Perla and The Horse in the Kitchen: Stories of a Mexican-American Family
Reading by Geri Rhodes
2933 Highway 47, Tomé, NM 87060
Q & A and Refreshments afterwards
Albuquerque Journal review by David Steinberg
July 14, 2019
‘Tales from La Perla’ shares inside stories
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ralph M. Flores’ posthumously published book “Tales from La Perla, A Misspent Hippie Youth” combines fact and fiction.
Most of the tales are based on Flores’ recollections of four-plus years in the mid-1970s living in La Joya – fictionalized as La Perla – a village about 20 miles north of Socorro. A few other tales are set in southwestern New Mexico, San Francisco and Tomé.
The characters who populate the stories are real people, though their names have been changed. Older La Perla townspeople are sometimes at odds with the younger self-identified “freaks” (aka hippies) who dropped out of mainstream society and moved to the village.
In the tale “TV in La Perla,” the author tells how he arrived in town with unwanted worldly possessions from a divorce. One possession was a TV, the only one in town. Soon the TV was on day and night and drew crowds. Flores couldn’t cope.
But it did get him to speculate about what his fellow freaks really wanted by distancing themselves from the big city and from thoughts of the Vietnam War and President Nixon. Or maybe these dropouts didn’t even know for sure what they wanted.
Flores finally solved the TV dilemma: It ended up in a bathtub. The tale “Feast!” tells of two annual parties for freaks in La Perla.
The Spring Equinox celebration began in the evening with music, dancing, drinking and marijuana smoking. It attracted people from towns along the Rio Abajo such as Polvadera, Veguita and Las Nutrias, as well as freaks from Socorro, Albuquerque and from as far north as Dixon and Taos, Flores writes. The other major party was at Thanksgiving. It was a daytime, dinner-centered event and was more contemplative, as he put it.
In the tale “La Perla People,” Flores concludes that La Perla’s freaks probably just wanted to be left alone. “We had a little island we lived in and were happy there,” he writes. Overall, he recalled La Perla’s freaks as a “stream of misfits and discontents who would come, move into an empty house, stay for two or three months, sometimes longer, and then leave.”
Life was not all love and peace during their stay. There were relationship disputes, emotional turmoil and moments of anger, he writes.
The freaks eventually returned to the world they had rejected. “Ultimately, I think we all learned that it is possible to live in modern society without feeling trapped,” Flores explains.
He had taught at the University of New Mexico and years later retired from teaching at Central New Mexico Community College. Flores also wrote “The Horse in the Kitchen, Stories of a Mexican-American Family,” a work based on the life of his father. A Spanish language edition is planned.
Flores died in 2017 at age 77. His widow, Geri Rhodes, edited “Tales from La Perla.”
“He was a homebody,” Rhodes said of her late husband, “and … could spend a lot of time in his study just thinking, so much so that somebody once gave him a T-shirt that said ‘Lost in thought – Send out a search party.’ The best way to know who he was would be to read his poems and moral tales …” Several poems are in “Tales from La Perla.”
Review of Tales from La Perla
by Peter Chase, singer, songwriter, colleague, friend
28 June 2019
Ralph Flores’s Tales from La Perla is a collection of short prose pieces about the author’s time in La Joya, NM, which he renames La Perla (The Pearl) for the book. Published posthumously by Geri Rhodes, Ralph’s wife, the pieces recount Ralph’s time in the early 1970s, living in a small community of people who, like him, were searching for a simpler and more meaningful existence, less focused on materialism and more focused on self-sustainability and the rhythms of nature. The residents were varied. Some, like Ralph, were academics who had tired of that life. Some came from well-to-do backgrounds; some were fleeing the law. But all considered themselves “freaks,” not “hippies” (an important distinction) and were searching for an alternative to the mainstream madness.
For readers who grew up in the 60s, there is much here to relate to. For younger readers, it may seem like a magical, mythical time, and, as Ralph tells us, in many ways, it was. But, as he also warns, “living harmoniously with others can be very difficult.” La Perla, he writes, “was a filter which separated those who truly wanted community from those who thought they wanted it, but for their own reasons were incapable of grasping it.” And indeed, among the residents, we see examples of pride, pettiness, jealousy — in short, all of the vices and foibles of conventional, mainstream society. Yet we also see an innocence, a decency, and a sincere belief in the virtues of community that are very attractive in these times. We could do worse than La Perla.
Ralph’s prose is a delight, always lithe and clear, never self-indulgent. Each piece draws us in, whether it focuses on the dynamics of personal interactions or how to build a house. Ralph himself alternates in these tales between being the main participant and an almost invisible narrator.
The last few chapters of the book take us away from La Perla to San Francisco and Silver City, and though curious readers might like to know more about Ralph’s eventual exit from La Perla, they will have to content themselves with what we have: excellent tales, seemingly sprung from a time capsule, and a handful of finely chiseled poems.
At the beginning of the book, Ralph writes that the freaks of La Perla truly believed in forming a community “where people live together, cooperate, and help each other and even learn to love each other.” He adds, “We may seem foolish and naive to the pundits for thinking so, but even now, more than forty years later, I don’t believe we were either wrong or foolish.”
They weren’t, as this book lovingly attests.
Other 2019 Readings
Tranquil Buzz Coffee Shop in Silver City
“Just Words” at 2 p.m. Saturday July 20, 2019
Geri Rhodes reading from Ralph Flores’s “Beyond La Perla” in Tales from La Perla
112 W Yankie St, Silver City, NM 88061
June 16, 2019, Saturday in La Joya, NM
starting at 1 p.m. (outdoors)
“Celebration for Fathers”
Sponsored by Rio Abajo Community Library (Donna Mathieus, Library Director)
Calle De Centro S, La Joya, NM 87028
Gair Linhart, MC and Special Orchestra leader
Performing: Youth orchestra and possibly Special Orchestra
Reading: “A Father’s Tears” from The Horse in the Kitchen reprint (2019)
READINGS from Tales from La Perla
May 21, 2019, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107
between Montaño and Griegos on Rio Grande
Book Review: Tales from La Perla
Rio Abajo Community Library Leaves
Newsletter of the library in La Joya, NM
January/February 2019 / Volume 7, Issue 4 p. 8
In the 70s, quite a few “hippies” moved into the area, including La Joya, which Ralph Flores dubbed “La Perla,” meaning “The Pearl.” They made quite an impression, and the community made quite an impression on them. One such free-thinking soul was Ralph M. Flores. This book relays the stories about the people and experiences he had during the five years he lived here. Mr. Flores eventually settled in Edge City, but the lessons, memories and pictures of his time in La Joya are wonderful. It is a hard book to put down! We are so pleased that the Rio Abajo Community Library was provided a copy by Geri Rhodes, who took Mr. Flores’ manuscript and had it published. It is available to borrow, and if you want your own copy ($12), contact Geri at email@example.com or at PO Box 458, Tome, NM 87060
Tales from La Perla also featured in Cover Reads
(bimonthly notice to bookstores and libraries)