Madeline Griego Tapia has a rich family history in La Cienega. Her ancestors were among the area’s original settlers.
Her great-grandfather, Tomas C De Baca, owned El Rancho Guicu, known today as El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Her grandparents, Leonides Rael and Adela Gallegos, were farmers, and her father, Antonio Griego, worked as a blacksmith.
The family’s genealogy and Tapia’s memories of the first 20 years of her life have been captured in her 2012 self-published book, Growing Up in Bernalillo 1934-1954. “I wanted to leave my family a legacy of the history of our ancestors that included the C de Baca, Griego, Rael and Gallegos families,” Tapia said.
In 2010, Tapia took a writing class at the Meadowlark Senior Center in Rio Rancho. As a result of the encouragement of her teacher and fellow students, she was inspired to write the book and is happy with the outcome.
“The book has been very well received. I sold 100 books the first week it was published, and every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’m at the Range Café in Bernalillo, where I average about 10 sales for the day. Some of the old-timers from Bernalillo come in to reminisce about the good old days, as well as people from Placitas and a few from Santa Fe,” Tapia said.
Tapia was born in 1934 at her grandmother’s home in the El Cañon area of La Cienega. She is the third of nine children born to Antonio Griego and Elisa Rael. Her three brothers have passed on, but her five sisters are still living.
Soon after Tapia was born, the family moved to Bernalillo, where her father, who had inherited land in an area known as El Chaparral, went to work at the local sawmill. Tapia attended Our Lady of Sorrows School, run by the Sisters of Loretto, for 12 years, and graduated in 1953. Her first job was as a clerk for the Bernalillo Mercantile Co., where she sold dry goods, groceries and hardware. In 1954, she married William H. Tapia, who lived in the village of Leyba near Clines Corners. They moved to Santa Fe and settled in the area once known as Torreon, on the west side of town. They have five children, 15 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
While her husband made a living in construction, Tapia worked for the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division and retired from her position as a purchasing agent with the Department of Health in 1987.
In 1992, the couple moved to Las Vegas, Nev., because her husband was suffering from emphysema and needed to live at a lower altitude. “The doctors gave him two years to live, but he lasted nine more,” Tapia said. After 43 years of marriage, her husband died in 2003.
Following her husband’s death, Tapia returned to Santa Fe. Not long afterward, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and recovered with the help of the Christus St. Vincent Cancer Center. “When I got better, I wanted to stay in Santa Fe, but I couldn’t afford to buy a house, so now I live in Rio Rancho. When I moved here in 2005, I discovered that many of the people I had worked with over the years were also living in Rio Rancho because they could no longer afford Santa Fe. A group of us get together regularly, so it’s almost like being in Santa Fe,” Tapia said.
In 2010, Tapia married Ricardo Gonzales, the brother of one of her former in-laws. Recently, she coordinated the placement of four new tombstones for the graves of her grandparents at the Capilla de San Jose in La Cienega and has begun work on her next book, titled My Santa Fe.
Ana Pacheco’s weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 474-2800.