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Though cast as fiction, these stories show what dropping into a small New Mexico town at the end of the highway in the Rio Abajo was like for freaks rejecting the madness of the Vietnam War and mainstream U.S. culture. This posthumous collection includes photographs by Bob Christensen and others and depicts the narrator’s evolution from a 1960s dropout to a man finding his way to connection with others.
La Perla shows Raf and others working out how to live, work, and celebrate with other misfits and their neighbors. “Shane Revisited,” for instance, explores the difference between real and fake La Perla wannabes, while “Law West of the Rio Grande” humorously depicts the challenges of gaining respect from La Perla natives. A section at the end, “Beyond La Perla,” continues the author's evolution after he and La Perla friends move farther south to a place he calls Edge City. “My Life and the Existential Duck Pop,” an interlude in San Francisco, shows the alienation and philosophical underpinning of the author’s choices.
Book Review: Tales from La Perla
by Donna Hernandez-Mathieus Librarian/Editor of Library Leaves, the newsletter of the Rio Abajo Community Library in La Joya, NM: January/February 2019. Volume 7, Issue 4: 8 <https://ralphfloresbooks.com>.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or at PO Box 458, Tome, NM 87060.
The first great pleasure in reading Ralph's book was the sense of sitting around a table listening to his stories. But a second pleasure took me by surprise, the feeling I was meeting another Ralph for the first time. Tales from La Perla offers keen observations of the people and adventures of that time and place--sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious--but it's also the autobiography of a man in search of answers. The third pleasure is his wonderful prose, shining with common humanity and polished clean as a desert bone.
Laura F. Sanchez, author of Killer Miracle and Freaking Green
Ralph Flores evokes memories of village life in the Rio Abajo, a part of New Mexico about which little is written. He writes of the sense of community that once existed (still exists?)--how everyone knew what everyone was up to--and the compassion and caring that come from that knowledge, not so much intrusive and gossipy, although there is some of that community voice too. Rejects of mainstream modern society come to La Perla looking for the roots of the culture that gave the village its past verve and vitality. Both newcomers and villagers realize their way of life is passing, but its lessons live on in them.
Richard Griego, first director of Chicano Studies at UNM, Ralph's co-worker, and a freak in the sense that Ralph would appreciate and understand
Born in East L.A. in 1940 to his father who was an immigrant from Sonora and his mother, an orphan raised with her sister by an Anglo woman, Ralph Miranda Flores could have gone in a different direction from the one he chose. Once his father asked Ralph's teacher if he read too much, but she said, "Let him be." Ralph would cruise along library shelves picking whatever interested him. Early he felt himself a misfit, struggled with existential nausea but managed to gain a B.A. and M.A., survived the Army on a missile base in Turkey, went in and out of his first marriage teaching in Guam before he ended up dropping out to live in La Joya, N.M. and then Silver City during the 1970s--the years fictionalized in Tales from La Perla. After writing and editing for Mothering Magazine, he resumed teaching first at UNM-VC and then at CNM, married again and had children, published The Horse in the Kitchen, and tended his garden in Tomé until he died in 2017, leaving behind a passel of unpublished stories, essays, poems, even an apocalyptic novel called Farmhome. Ralph was happy when folks thought he could be Mexican, Indian, Filipino, or someone else of dark-skinned derivation, a member of la raza cósmica.
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