Conversations with Isabro Ortega
By Patricia Trujillo Oviedo
On July 14, 2018, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Isabro Ortega for the first time. Even though we probably had crossed paths as children at the time that the Parish of Truchas was established by Father Casimiro Roca in 1954, we did not know each other then.
He was an established member of High Road Artisans, and well known for his woodcarving. On the day I met him, he gave me a tour of his home, where he displayed his wood carvings, and showed me how he decorated his home with intricate woodcarvings that he did on window frames, window sills, staircase, doors, cabinets, doorways, and displayed in the walls some of his wood carved santos in nichos he had designed.
As we conversed, we came to the conclusion that we were distant cousins, since his father was from the Ortega family of Chimayo. We talked about how it was when we were growing up, and about memories that most stuck in our head that influenced what we were doing now. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind writing down what he remembered, and he delivered his handwritten essay to me a few days later.
Exactly a month after we met, Isabro died on August 14, 2018, and I share with you the following essay he wrote and gave to me a few days after we had talked:
My name is Isabro Ortega. I am writing the things I remember growing up in Truchas. I was born and raised in Truchas. Growing up was very nice. I have a lot of good memories growing up. My Mother and Father raised us very strict. There were nine of us. I was one of the youngest. I have a younger sister. Even though we were raised very strict Mom and Dad gave us a lot of love, respect, discipline. We were very poor growing up, but we had plenty of love. As far as love is concerned, we were very rich.
My parents raised us to always go to Mass on Sunday. My father was a Penitente, and I became one when I was a freshman in High School. In those days, the special days of the Church were observed. The feast of San Isidro on the 15th of May, and in June Corpus Christi, In July the feast of Nuestra Señora del Carmen on the 16th of July, and the feast day of Santa Anna which is the patron Saint of Truchas.
On the 15th day of each month, brought the Sagrada Familia Chapel to our house by my Tío Nicolás and Tía Verónica, another member [of the cofradia]. Even though they weren’t our uncle and aunt we were raised to call them that. We called all our elder neighbors tías and tíos. We were raised to always wear our escapularios (up to this day I still wear mine). It is very sad to see our beautiful traditions dying. I guess it’s part of life.
Growing up I was an altar boy until my senior year in High School. There were two Moradas in Truchas, one in El Llano Abeyta and the other in town. The one in El Llano Abeyta was the one my father and brothers belonged to. But when I became a Penitente it was no longer in existence, so I joined the one in town. In those days there were about 20-30 members. Today we’re only seven, but our love and faith for our Morada is very much alive.
My father was from Chimayo, Juan Antonio Ortega, and my Mother was from Ojo Sarco, Estefanita Pacheco. I have officially been a carpenter since 1976, but since I was a little boy I used to carve cedar that my father brought from the mountains.
My father was a jack-of-all-trades. When I was in fifth grade I carved a little cedar heart that I sold to Elena Fuentes for a quarter. I believe she still has it. I would someday love to see it. I have been building my house since 1984. I have carved every possible space I can find. It has been featured in the New York Times, Sunset, and New Mexico Magazines.”
May Isabro Rest In Peace. Patricia Trujillo Oviedo