Cleofes at his farm with his grandson Roberto - 1984

Cleofes at his farm with his grandson Roberto - 1984

We met Cleofes Ortiz on Aug. 25th at the People's Fair in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was Jeanie's birthday and she still feels it was one of the best birthday gifts ever. We went out to visit him soon after this and our friend, Sharon Wirtz, took this picture. Roberto still lives in his grandfather's house in Bernal. We had learned some of Cleofes' tunes from a tape we made at the People's Fair and checked with him how we should play them. We eventually learned almost all of his tunes and recorded many stories of the old days from him. We would often go play at a bar near Pecos, New Mexico where people still knew the dances without being prompted or even told the name of the dance. Eventually all of those people ended up in the Senior Center, and, like Cleofes, they died. As far as I know, that was the last place the dances were done without any teaching, they just knew the dances from their parents and grandparents. In 1986, Cleofes had a stroke just before we were all going to play a dance in Dixon, NM. We almost lost him but some local EMTs and Jeanie's whistling of one of his favorite tunes, brought him back. He was quite depressed after this and couldn't use his left and at all. We kept going out to visit him and playing his tunes and sticking the fiddle into his hands. He had forgotten most of his tunes, so we started re-teaching them to him and eventually he was able to recall them himself. It was after this stroke that we recorded his first Cassette (now on CD), Violinista de Nuevo Mexico.