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Lost Alamos: Music

Adios, Californios

(Lost Alamos)
© Brian Daniell 2011 ASCAP


I have deep roots in California, but I no longer live there. I really can't, because the California I know, the California of ancient memories, lies long buried beneath suburbs, freeways, and shopping centers. I've tried for years to come to grips with this and finally have written something that seems to reflect the feelings. This song is dedicated to my great-great grandmother. Her name was Juana Maria Pantoja Machado and she was born in Los Angeles in 1831, a third generation Californian, her family having arrived there in the 1770's. Her people were known as Californios, the settlers who came from Spain with the missionaries, a small population who farmed and ranched and lived almost untouched by political upheavals in Spain and Mexico. But their lives were disrupted forever by the war between Mexico and the United States (the "Mexican War") and their lands were for the most part lost to them after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.    


My Abuela Pantoja lived through those times (she died in 1900) and she must have been there in 1847, when the US Marines came ashore to take Los Angeles.  I wonder if she saw the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, when the Marines were outmaneuvered and defeated and forced to retreat to their ship.  It's strange for me when I think "My Spanish-speaking ancestors had a battle with the Marines right there in front of their house in Los Angeles--and won!" when I am no more Spanish than a cheeseburger and fries.  But much of my music has a slightly Spanish feel, so I guess there's still something in there.


By the way, old Californians do not talk about "Santa Ana winds."  We call them "Santanas."  Some may try to argue, but I learned the term from my mother, who learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother, who learned it from Juana Maria Pantoja Machado.  And one did not argue with any of those women for very long.     

 

When the red Santana sweeps the flames

down from your thirsty hills

And you fear the very land you won

from burning ancient wills

Go down by the old adobe

and pray that you may see

the place beneath the steel and concrete

that lives in our memories

 

We were buried in California

long before you arrived

Of my ancient family numbers

some few are still alive

Our names live on the signposts of

the streets and towns you know

For the highway of the king leads straight

back to old Mexico

 

Adios los Californios

Your vaqueros have all gone

But still I dream you will ride again

Some fine Spanish silver dawn

Adios Abuela Pantoja

Though your music I cannot know

You sing to me across the years

For I am Californio

 

Now the sun sinks in the flaming sea

But angels never rest

Though we laid her stones of history

we are forgotten guests

Our paths are lost in the dust of years

Fate has said it be so

Then say adios to the fading ghost

of the Californio

 

Adios los Californios

Your vaqueros have all gone

But still I dream you will ride again

Some fine Spanish silver dawn

Adios Abuela Pantoja

Though your music I cannot know

You sing to me across the years

For I am Californio