I had not been to my grandparent's ranch since I was around 10 years old, so in the middle of lockdowns in November 2020, my partner and I decided to take a road trip to my family's ranch in the very secluded town of mora, new mexico.
My grandpa on my dad's side built this house in the '70s and 70-acre property line stretches up to the top of those cliffs in the distance. 
both of my grandparents passed away in the early 2000s and left the ranch to my uncle, Salvador. He was renting it out to family friends for a few years, but when he retired in late 2019, he made the ranch his permanent home. 
Uncle Sal has since been working on renovating some of the exterior by adding things like a chicken coop and a porch. In this photo, you can see the wood posts he's cut to create an overhang for the porch.
Keeping true to our family roots, Uncle sal used my grandma's old blankets to make curtains for every room in the house.
in order to keep 70 acres of grass at bay, uncle sal bought some goats to give him a hand. He also bought some chickens and built a coop to collect fresh eggs not just for himself, but for his elderly neighbors as well. With a small population of just under 700 people and the nearest big city 45 minutes away, the mora community trade goods like eggs, milk, cheese, and produce with one another to keep costs and covid exposure low. 
This neighbor was an old childhood friend of my grandpa's. When my grandparents were young, they immigrated from Mexico and settled in Carson, California. Their friends came to the United States in the '70s and settled in new Mexico because they thought it would feel closer to home. Together, my grandparents and their friends purchased 140 acres of land together and split the property line down the middle. You can see this house from the side of my grandparents' house. Uncle sal goes over to check on them a couple of times a week.
My uncle keeps some of my grandpa's old trucks and a tractor on hand for visitors to borrow in case they need it. I'm not actually sure that they run, but it's a nice sentiment either way.
Uncle sal is a pretty solitary guy. after years of working and traveling for the internal revenue service, he likes how quiet and peaceful the ranch is. when the weather isn't too hot or too cold, he likes to grab some beers and hike around the property.
when my dad and his 9 siblings were growing up, they named all of their pets petey to make it easy to remember. in the spirit of this naming tradition, Uncle sal wanted to make naming his dog easy. So this is dog. He's technically a puppy, but big enough to knock a grown man to the ground because he thinks he's a lapdog.
There is one older storage shed and a couple of trailers scattered around the property. My uncle's end-goal is to refurbish these buildings and turn them into guest houses so he can eventually resume my grandpa's old tradition of hosting family reunions every 4th of july weekend. Everything my uncle does for the ranch is in honor of my grandpa.
Inside of the trailers are old vintage appliances that don't work, like this welbilt stove.
I have a very strong core memory of falling into the ranch's creek and getting stuck in the mud when I was around 7 years old. Despite global warming, the mountain run-off still flows and fills up the creek today. As a kid, my grandpa would take us fishing for baby trout in the creek. They don't really get too much bigger than this one anymore, but there are plenty of little swimmers still residing there.
Across the creek up on a hill, There is an old Los penitentes church and small graveyard on the ranch property. Los penitentes were a roman catholic cult of men who believed in flagellation (self-mutilation by whipping) in the name of christ. Some of the graves are from as early as 1940.
Uncle sal explained that In the late 19th century, a roman catholic archbishop classified the brotherhood of los penitentes as an americanized church in central and northern New Mexico, as well as southern colorado. this classification forced los penitentes to go underground and become more of a secret society than anything.
On September 7, 2000, my grandpa, mauro cortez, was on his way to a doctor's appointment. he  was about 20 minutes from the ranch when he had a heart attack while behind the wheel and ran his truck off the road.  He was 76 years old. 
There's a stretch of highway along the NM-434 dedicated to him with this handmade cross on the side of the road. Uncle sal pulls over to this spot once a month to change out the flowers and make sure the cross is still standing.
This is what the ranch looks like today. In this image, you can see the original home, the property well and the modern home my aunt nancy had built for herself. As of 2020, Uncle Sal is slowly building his way to a Cortez family commune. his dream is to build several small homes for my cousins and i to always have a place to go and be with family. 
I think it's a dream worth holding onto.

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