Local play packs national punch


The sixth grade class of Sheri Armijo, the Cottonwood Valley Academy Spanish teacher, is about to have some national impact.

On April 26, the National Park Service taped a performance of Armijo’s play, “A Child’s Story of Socorro,” to place in its web archive, www.nps.gov/elca/photosmultimedia/index.htm.

Lisa Alvarado/El Defensor Chiefttain: Sheri Armijo’s sixth grade students at Cottonwood Valley Charter School celebrate a well-received performance of Armijo’s play, “A Child’s Story of Socorro.” The play brings to life Juan Onate’s journey and the founding of the precursor to today’s Socorro. It was filmed by the National Park Service and will be featured on its website as part of an educational series about the region. In front: Sheri Armijo. First row, from left: Eric Engler, Levi Elders, Jonathan Madrid, Joey Young and Logan Miranda. Back row, from left: Elijah Molina, Julie Oh, Zoe Esquivel, Lexie McConnell, Aubrey Anaya, Carl Lewis, Joe Olguin.

The archive is part of the park service’s initiative to reach fifth and sixth grade students with the historic account of El Camino Real de Tierra, according to a letter sent to Armijo from Lynne Mager, Interpretive Specialist for the NPS, about the nature of the project and the request to film.

Mager, who was at the school to conduct the taping, said, “The NPS website has a wold-wide audience. The story has now been broadened so that any and all people can understand Oñate’s journey and the lives of the Piro people.”

The young people’s performance will be preserved there. Additionally, the website will feature a brief written synopsis and an uploaded copy of the bilingual English/Spanish script.

The production is the zenith of a multi-year effort on the part of Armijo.

“I wrote the play when I moved to Socorro in 2004. I was teaching first grade at the time and was surprised to find that a child’s version of the historical event did not exist,” Armijo said. “I felt it was important for the children to know the story since it is the history of their hometown.

“So what better way than to have them act out the story for themselves and others? The play has been presented by several of my classes since 2004.”

Significant Legacy

Armijo is particularly excited about the added dimension the play will now achieve, and the significant history that will be shared with a wide audience.

Oñate’s legacy is one that many Socorrans take pride in as part of its rich colonial history. He was a Spanish explorer, who established New Mexico as a Spanish colony, and later became its first governor in San Gabriel, the initial state capital.

“I’m happy to see that my Cottonwood sixth grade students will be part of this project. We are excited that we were approached by Lynne Mager of the National Park Service to film the play to produce a video podcast,” Armijo said. “The focus is to reach a worldwide audience to teach them about Juan Oñate and the journey that colonists made on El Camino Real, and how they interacted with the Piro People who were already here.”

Kids Loving History

With a set decorated to simulate colonial Socorro, Armijo’s students trod the board to portray Oñate as an earnest explorer with a band of families and adventurers seeking a new home in the high desert, after a grueling trek known as El Jornada del Muerto.

The play focused on the courage of the band of travelers, and the vital help of water, food and other survival skills offered to the explorers by Native people, as well as the establishment of the settlement as a Catholic outpost.

Each performer was cheered on by a packed auditorium of fellow classmates.

Student Logan Miranda, resplendent in a hand-made conquistadores helmet, was enthusiastic after the performance.

“It was a good experience. I was glad to do it,” Miranda said.


-- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com.