Two women worked in the rancho kitchen, a bright spot in the center of a sprawling adobe building. La Señorita Maria Theresa, seventeen, the only heir of El Señor Duran, practiced making a display out of pink and yellow garden flowers. She struggled to prop up the blooms, surrounded by feathery ferns in a clay pot. This was a task her childhood companion, Ria, did so easily.
“My flowers will never be perfect like yours, Ria,” Maria Theresa said.
“Let me finish this, you dress for the guests,” Ria said. “You can play at decorating with flowers, but I have real work to do.” The Duran family was so different from Ria’s tribal clan, yet, there was real affection between Ria and Maria Theresa.
Maria Theresa hosted at all the social events at the Rancho including fiestas at the harvest, fandangos after cattle branding, and special dinners after holy masses.
Ria avoided the guests and remained secluded in the kitchen. She stayed hidden near the warmth of the mud-brick oven. She sorted the familiar spices and grains from her tribal territory. More importantly, from the kitchen, she could overhear the serious talk about the pueblo becoming the seat of power for this new Mexican government. No one seemed to remember the first peoples, her people, the Chuttusgelis.
“Go make yourself beautiful, hermana,” Ria said. "I will remain here."
“¿Para quien? Beautiful for whom? There is no man here worthy of my attention,” Maria Theresa said. Ria listened to her childhood companion’s high-minded rules for suitors and marriage. “My future husband must have a true love for the people, not just his own authority.”
“You have too many rules. Trust me, the right husband will soon be seated at your father’s side,” Ria said. She was more realistic about her dependence on El Señor Duran. Inside this house, her duty was her tribe’s interests. She hid her bitterness about her people being driven from their ancestral home to make way for Rancho Duran. Ria knew her tribal leaders trusted El Señor Duran, “In this house, your father makes all the rules. Accept the man he chooses for you.”
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