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I Came from El Valle, by Ruben E. Archuleta

Review by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

I Came from El Valle
by Ruben E. Archuleta
Published in 1999 by the author
ISBN 0962974838

PRACTICALLY EVERY TIME I read a regional novel, history book, or poetry collection, I think, “This could have been a lot better.”

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy local lore, and autobiographies are a great way to preserve history. But couldn’t the author and publisher spend a few bucks on editing? And proofreading? I’m tired of wading through misspellings and errors in grammar, capitalization, and syntax to try to get to the story.

This is a particular problem in I Came from El Valle. The author says up front that he asked a friend to edit the book — but not alter the dialogue — on a very short deadline. Those restrictions led to sentences like this: “I was unconscious while being transported in the Ambulance and I think that might have been when I heard the distant sirens.” What?

If readers can overlook these problems, the story is a classic American tale of one man’s rise from humble beginnings to a position of prominence. Archuleta traces his family’s arrival in the San Luis Valley in 1842, interlacing personal lore with regional history.

His own story begins in Antonito in 1945. He was raised by both grandmothers while his parents worked in Pueblo. This upbringing was rich in Hispanic tradition, and Archuleta’s stories of his childhood are filled with both Spanish customs and boyhood adventures. Time spent with his parents introduced him to alcoholism and domestic violence.

A stint in the Navy broadened Archuleta’s horizons, both geographic and emotional. He returned to Pueblo after his discharge and joined the police force, rising through the ranks to become chief of police, an admirable achievement for someone who grew up in a home without water, power, or a bathroom.

Archuleta’s experiences include working with law enforcement in Mexico, training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, and battling police corruption in Pueblo. Along the way he married, had three daughters, and was host to two kids from other countries. He’s escorted and partied with visiting dignitaries, made many dramatic arrests, and effected positive changes in his workplace and community.

The book is packed with photographs of San Luis Valley landmarks, as well as Archuleta’s family, co-workers, friends, and celebrities. They enhance the tale of one man’s life and experiences.

I Came from El Valle is an entertaining personal history. It may have been better, though, as a book on tape. That way readers could have savored the story without stumbling over the errors.

I Came from El Valle can be ordered for $16.95 from Ruben E. Archuleta, P.O. Box 7871, Pueblo West, CO 81007.

— Marcia Darnell