Ray John de Aragon stands between one of his carvings and a huge painting by his also-famous wife, Rosa Maria Calles, which depicts a gallery featuring several of her paintings.
ALBUQUERQUE – If you ever bump into Ray John de Aragon, don’t listen to anything he says about living in a house.
What he and his wife, Rosa Maria Calles, reside in in Northwest Albuquerque is more of a combination art gallery-museum, a gorgeous home with a an adobe wall on one side of the great room, which has large vigas supporting the ceiling – but the real beauty is in all the artwork throughout.
Also, don’t think de Aragon is “only” an author, because although he may be working on his 21st book, he’s an author-artist-craftsman “and educator,” he adds, proud of three decades of teaching.
He chuckles, but agrees, it’s good thing he didn’t become what he initially wanted to be as a youngster: an archeologist, although he has a nice collection of relics from a century or two ago, plus some pottery chards and some other odds and ends, many gathered on 640 acres that once belonged to his family in Los Chavez.
But he’s stayed a lot cleaner in what became his professions.
There’s no doubt this 1964 graduate of Robertson High School in Las Vegas, N.M., doesn’t have a real love for the state, its beauty and its history. He resided in Albuquerque, remembering seeing movies at the historic KiMo Theater and even playing cowboys and Indians after watching a western on the silver screen.
And, from what he’s heard and read, there have been a lot of misconceptions about what really “went down”, oh so many years ago.
The Aragon roots are deep in the Land of Enchantment’s past, and de Aragon says he can trace his ancestors back to the Spanish arrival in the New World back in 1598.
He has fond memories of accompanying his father, Maximo de Aragon, a traveling salesman, and learning about the state’s history and culture, which have remained ingrained in Ray John.
In his 20th book, “New Mexico Native American Lore: Skinwalkers, Kachinas, Spirits and Dark Omens,” The History Press labels him a recognized ethnohistorian.
Beyond Las Vegas Robertson, where a counselor told him he shouldn’t even think about attending college, de Aragon enlisted in the military and, later, the New Mexico Air National Guard.
He gained bachelors’ and master’s degrees through his New Mexico Highlands University, University of Albuquerque and University of New Mexico days, and was a student activist, by then realizing unfair treatment of Hispanics, Native Americans and Blacks.
Today, this man who was urged to be like his father – a traveling salesman – is in his sixth decade, not counting something he wrote as an LVR junior, as a writer, with the bulk of his books dealing with exposing historical inaccuracies.
“I’ve done well,” he says, deciding he’ll best be known in the future for “the next book,” and even though he’s 76, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
Don’t even try to quote a line from “An Officer and a Gentleman” with de Aragon. He can handle the truth, and that’s his goal – writing, he says, “to record the true history.
The words speak for themselves; (there’s) nothing I have to make up.”
In setting the record straight in his just-published “Native American Lore,” de Aragon’s final chapter relates the efforts of Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo, the U.S. Department of the Interior secretary, who is researching the mistreatment of Indians in American history, including those who attended boarding schools in New Mexico.
Indeed, de Aragon is a passionate man about his myriad subjects.
“Native American Lore,” in fact, is “dedicated to a beloved ancestor and progenitor in my family, Juana ‘Juanita’ Arzate. She and other Spanish girls were victimized, raped, brutalized and enslaved by Popé and his followers during the so-called Great Pueblo Indian revolt of 1680.”
That next book, started last month and expected to be off to the publisher in November, deals with “Spanish culture” festivals and celebrations in New Mexico, and you can bet Bernalillo’s “Los Matachines” will be included.
You can find de Aragon’s books on amazon.com.