Mandy Curo de Quintero Reflects on the Stones in the Meadow Exhibit


Our newest exhibition, Stones In the Meadow: Irving Gill’s Church and Cottages on the Barona Indian Reservation is now open. Architecture fans, especially Gill’s, are thrilled at the opportunity to learn more about his last commission here at Barona. The Museum is offering up-close and personal docent-led tours of the church on the first Friday of every month—join us to get a rare glimpse of Gill’s work. Some folks never knew about the Government’s plan to build Barona as cheaply as possible. Some folks appreciate that Gill stepped up to the plate to build the church and houses in an effort to pursue his ongoing passion of building homes for the “everyman.” Still some are hearing all of this for the first time and are eager to learn this part of Barona’s not-so-distant history. At the exhibition opening, Barona Tribal Member Mandy Curo de Quintero was emotional after seeing the exhibition. She shares her thoughts here, very poignantly.

"I read something my eldest daughter wrote last summer. It was about the nature surrounding this timeless valley we call home. She mentioned the mountains, the rocks, and the trees and how they've witnessed so much of our history, and we'd be doing ourselves a disfavor if we didn't stop and consider those who've gone on before us, and see this land through their eyes. She encouraged me to notice not just the physical beauty of this reservation, but the story as well."

"I recently attended the opening of Stones in the Meadow at the Barona Museum. Having served on the Museum Advisory Committee for three years now, I was aware of the project, and most of the story behind the architect and structures featured in this collection, but walking through it made it real. I remember the kerosene lanterns and can almost smell them. I remember my Great Grandmother, Dora Curo sitting in a wheelchair, an afghan blanket resting on her legs. I recall her reaching out for me, and I would embrace her, then she would say something in ‘Iipay Aa. I can remember the sound of her voice, but other than that, that is all. The exhibition features an enlarged black and white image of my grandmother in 1934, standing next to her son, my Great Uncle, and an icebox, of all things. It was then that it hit me; she wasn't always old. She was once young. She was once like me, raising children, keeping house, and getting dinner on the stove. She looked out at the same field, sat on the same rocks, and probably had her run-ins with a couple diamondbacks, too. This exhibit, like my daughter, gave me a greater appreciation of where I come from, and how it all came to be."

"In 1934, the rest of the country was on their fifth year of the Great Depression; Clark Gable was all the rage, Tumbling Tumbleweeds was the hit song, and Judy Garland was just 12 years old tap-dancing on a stage somewhere with Mickey Rooney, but for my father's Grandmother, she was receiving her first home right here on the Barona Indian Reservation, just a stone's throw from my own residence. For the first time ever, she had walls, doors, running water, and a bath tub. It was all hers. Irving Gill had wanted more for her, but he gave her what he could, and because of this exhibit, I can visualize it, and imagine with more detail how Dora must've felt to be standing next to an icebox, knowing it belonged to her. Thinking about this image, and being a photographer myself, (I have quite a bit of experience asking Natives if I can take a photograph of them) I imagine this hired-by-the-government photographer had asked Grandma Dora if he could please get her photo, and reluctantly she says yes. I detect indifference in her expression as if to say, 'Come on, Mister. Just take your picture. I've got children to discipline, and a pot of beans to cook!' "

--Mandy Curo de Quintero, a Tribal member from Barona, a Museum Advisory Committee Member, a portrait and landscape photographer, a musician, a mother of two, and a wife (but not necessarily in that order!).


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