Anton Chico

I spent four years of my young life going to school in Anton Chico, New Mexico. Anton Chico is a village of about 600, about 45 minutes from my hometown. It’s the kind of place with one store, and that store is clearly just a room in someone’s house, and behind the cash register there’s a curtain through which you can see the part of the family that is off duty watching TV in their living room.

The church in Anton Chico The church in Anton Chico The church in Dalia (near Anton Chico)

The four years I spent in Anton Chico are not among my favorites. I was an outsider, and life is always harder on outsiders in a place like Anton Chico. But I was also the son of a teacher, and that didn’t help. I also didn’t speak Spanish, which put me even further outside the acceptable circles.

DSC_8036.JPG Abercrombies (long since defunct) where I purchased many a candy bar after school Abercrombies (long since defunct) where I purchased many a candy bar after school

I suppose kids are the same anywhere, but Anton Chico seemed rough to me then and seems rough to me now. I got roughed up and pushed around regularly. I lived in a state of fear, and even though my life was never in danger, that fear made a permanent impression. To this day, every time I walk into a new situation, I wonder if I won’t be ambushed. I can’t help but tense up, and think about how I might best defend myself if someone steps out from behind a door and clobbers me.

Anton Chico was also cruel to my brother Diego, who was three years behind me in school. But it was probably hardest on my mom, who spent eleven years teaching there. On this trip she told me that is wasn’t unusual for her to suggest something in a meeting, only to be told, “What do you know, you’re not from here.” She left twenty five years ago, but she still feels guilty about bringing us to school there, and wonders why she stayed as long as she did.

LilliesThis trip reminded me of what a strange place it is. I saw that the local store, Lillies, still had their sign up, so we walked up to buy a soda, but I was met at the door by a young woman who asked, “Are you looking for someone?” I asked if it was still a store, and she said no, and that it hadn’t been for years. She went on to say that she had to spend her summers in the front room in order to prevent “tourists” like me from walking into her house. I was too surprised to ask why she didn’t simply take the sign outside her house down.

But she pointed us to the new store, across town (100 feet away). We walked in, bought a few things, and then I asked if it was okay if my wife, five months pregnant, could use the bathroom.

The woman behind the register looked at my wife and then toward a door in the back of the room. Then said, “Umm… no.”

But overall I’m not sure I’d change anything. I learned a lot in Anton Chico, and those experiences helped make me who I am today. Anton Chico taught me that being alone was okay. Being alone is far better than to be accompanied by people you don’t like or don’t trust. Anton Chico taught me that bullies have to be faced down, and that running from a fight is always a bad idea.

But probably more than anything, Anton Chico taught me to focus on the future. It taught me to think about where I could go and what I could do when this place was done with me, and I was done with it.

11 Thoughts on “Anton Chico

  1. Art trujillo on August 29, 2011 at 6:50 am said:

    Good, stan!

  2. Michelle on September 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm said:


  3. Wow. My father’s family is from Anton Chico. Every time he visits he tells me how wonderful everyone is and how welcoming. Of course, he is family. How interesting it is to hear what it is like to be a stranger or new resident. I am sorry for your experience and apologize if any of my family made your life difficult.

  4. Linda on June 29, 2012 at 8:34 pm said:

    Wow, I am taking a trip to Anton Chico next month to visit the town my Grandfather was born in and hopefully to find relatives. This scares me LOL!

  5. Anna Lee Pace on January 5, 2013 at 7:59 am said:

    My roots on my mother’s side go back to Anton Chico, NM. My grandfather, Santiago Rivera (was changed from Ribera, but I don’t know why) owned the bar in Anton Chico, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. He married Maria Nestora Romero from Colonias. They had two children, Guadalupe and Ophelia, my mother. I am seeking any information about the town, the area, and the people that anyone can provide. My sister and I spent a day there about four years ago. It was a wonderful experience, and I fell in love with the little town.

  6. Lawrence Montano on June 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm said:

    Because you were ahead of me in school, I only remember a little bit about you. Diego was my classmate since about the first grade. Although I lost touch with him right around high school, I still remember him fondly and will always think of him as a friend. Also, I felt that I knew your mother well and it was a surprise to learn from you how she really felt about Anton Chico. I can still vividly remember you coming down the hill from my house on the way to school in your big gray car. As an Anton Chico native, never once have I had any negative thoughts about you or your family. On the contrary, I have happy memories about you, your mom, and especially Diego (since I knew him the most). I agree that Anton Chico is not a perfect place to grow-up. But, you learn to depend on yourself and live for your strengths. I encourage you not to regret your time in Anton Chico as you made a good impression on myself and many other people. You have not been forgotten and I am honored that your family has been such a big, important, and meaningful part of my life.

  7. Adam Trujillo on July 8, 2014 at 10:19 am said:

    Thanks for writing Lawrence. I remember you as well. And thank you for the kind words. I showed your note to my mom and she says hello.

    It’s good to hear from you and other Anton Chico natives, and I hope you aren’t offended by my account of your hometown. And as I said, I don’t think I’d change anything so I don’t regret my time there. My mom did good work there (and is often told so by people she had as students there thirty years ago) but it was a hard time for her as well.

    Anton Chico, like anywhere else, only takes a few assholes to make a bad impression, and unfortunately what I remember most is the assholes. That might have been different if I’d made some friends, but wasn’t easy. I had a good friend there (Abel Holguin) but one day he showed up at school with the biggest black eye I’d ever seen (before or since) and he wouldn’t talk to me anymore.

    I know people who feel that my hometown is an utterly terrible place to grow up, and even though I can see how it was hard on them, I don’t think it was so bad, so I think I can understand your feelings about Anton Chico.

  8. Patrick on August 15, 2015 at 2:42 pm said:

    What a terrific article!! I worked in Anton Chico years ago, as a teacher. My experiences there were very much like those you described for your family. But … in my experience many isolated communities like Anton Chico are suspicious of outsiders, and treat them badly, even though they may not realize they are doing so.

    I lived in what I called a “suburb” of Anton Chico. I am not sure of the spelling but I think it was called La Loma. I rented a room in a house there, and the owner would come by every now and then, and almost always brought a jug of wine – which we would drink from glasses from Welch’s grape jelly. We became good friends over time. I mention that only because there were many people in the Anton Chico area who treated me as you described in your article, but there were many people who were friendly too.

    In Anton Chico, I always felt like the guy in the book “The Millagro Bean Field Wars” (spelling?). I think the person I am thinking of in that book was a “Vista” worker.

    You have written a really good article. It’s honest. It is a perspective of Anton Chico you don’t often hear about. Thanks for writing it!

  9. My family are the Nelsons and the Sandoval’s of Anton Chico my fathers (Chavez) from Santa Rosa. We visited my grandmother Adelina Nelson many times in the late 60′s and early 70′s. My uncle Herman and aunt Josie were always a pleasure to visit. I do remember the neighbors across the street who were always kids to watch out for! I don’t remember their last name but we always had to be aware of the rocks they shot at us with their sling shots! As children we had a great time visiting the Pecos river and the Dam in upper Anton Chico and visiting my grandmothers brothers (3) of the who never married due to being blind. I do remember my tio Blas who told me that he had eaten lunch with Billy the kid and remembered seeing Pat Garrison come into Anton Chico looking for Billy and the big wedding that Pat gave his sister when he was young and could see. At the time I was just a kid and did not keep to heart the story’s he told me but darn I wish I could remember them as he told them! I remember the little store that aunt (Sp) Keteta (Sister of my grandfather Abran Nelson)had and the story’s she would tell us of the Comanche coming into town to trade horses and raid the town for food when the winters were cold and the buffalo were killed off when she was a kid.
    on the south west side of the circle across from the school and the Abrocombies store.
    So many partial memories wish I could remember them all and post them for the future readers of this blog.

  10. Adam Trujillo on September 8, 2015 at 1:34 pm said:

    Thank you Patrick and Jim for reading and taking the time to write. I’m sorry it took me a while to approve your comments — I don’t check the blog as much as I should.

    Finding your notes made me think about another memory I have of Anton Chico, which I wrote as a story called Wilfred, and is here

  11. Beth Becerra on April 12, 2017 at 6:57 pm said:

    My mother was born in Anton Chico, and left at an early age. When I was young we visited there once. I remember going to the small store when we were there. I have never been back since. In May, there will be a family reunion there for my family. Looking forward to meeting a lot of my extended family and learning more about my family history.

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