A Review of the Documentary JustUs (Existential struggles of the Mestizo culture of Northern New Mexico)

by Ana Malinalli X Gutiérrez Sisneros, Ph.D.

Mestizo culture of Northern New Mexico

This documentary shows a movement, to-ollin, illustrations of the Mestizo culture of Northern New Mexico (peregrinaciones of the people of Northern New Mexico),  so eloquently captured by the documentary film JustUs.

It captures gente fighting for justice (“JustUs”), for our place and for our people. Standing our ground, as we remain grounded, in our querencia, to try to defend and save our people and our culture from extinction, â€œâ€¦which is what our ancestors also tried to do, and succeeded at, or we would not be here” one person eluded to in the film. These strong pictures of holistic energy are painted for us in many of the scenes.


This holism, Gutierrez Sisneros (2017) noted, is the idea that a person’s mind, body, heart, spirit and energy field are integral to their health, which is of utmost applicability to Indohispano people, who Duran (2006) described as non-linear thinkers, who, often, do not practice Western medical philosophy, nor its treatments. This is embodied in scenes at the temazcal (sweat lodge), showing traditional medicine ways, understood, to me, as being tied into a bundle of prayers, of the many that are beautifully filmed. Mano Pedro is heard stating the historical fact that about the Mestizo culture of Northern New Mexico, “…we are part Spanish, part Indigenous – we had captive grandmothers who worked in house-holds to pay off their ransom (rescate) and janissary soldier grandfathers who guarded the buffer zones, to quell raids from Plains tribes, keeping the Villas safe. Many manitas/os retain the language and the customs of Spanish colonizers ancestors who arrived here in July, 1598, as well as those customs of Native ancestors.”


Lupe SalazarForward to society today, where addiction is sometimes multi-generational, has been artfully depicted in many parts of the documentary, and “…addiction plays a part on the brain but also plays a part on the soul, the very core of one’s being, said Mana Lupe, the Executive Director at Barrios Unidos in Chimayo, NM, a stronghold of empathy, healing, and strength in our community. I see in this film the memory of our national hero, Honorable Cesar Chávez who said that “In the ‘march from Delano to Sacramento’ there [was] a meeting of cultures and traditions. The centuries-old religious tradition of Spanish / [Indohispano] culture conjoined with the very contemporary cultural syndrome of â€˜demonstration’ springing from the spontaneity of the poor, the downtrodden, the rejected, the discriminated-against, bearing visibly their need and demand for equality and freedom” (César Chávez Foundation, 2021), which emanates and exudes from this film.  Where he planted seeds of justice for the farmworkers, so to were seeds planted with the Governor of New Mexico, when Mano Pedro led a group that walked to the Governor’s Office, from our Delano (Española) to the Capitol of Santa Fé, on August 14, 2018, as he carried a cross laden with the names of people who have died here from overdoses, with signed petitions of over 1000 names in hand, asking for a field hospital to help with all of the overdoses and the need for culturally competent opioid treatment. Another of the crosses that was carried looked like a huge hypodermic syringe, which has also been taken in procession to Chimayo. Mano Pedro noted that, and his words resound with veracity: â€œIt is up to each of us, just us, to make a difference. I have no expectation that the government will supply the solutions, but something is seriously wrong with the system when it is easier to find drugs in any prison system or on the streets than it is to find a job!”


And I hear and feel the words of Maestro César, that a march is a prayer, which rings true, as it is clear that this film is a prayer.  One that aims to plant the seeds of hope – that there is healing, that while there is breath, there is hope, as portrayed in the beautiful faces, faith, and actions of the people that are shown – it’s “JustUs.”



Cesar Chavez Foundation. (2021). Speeches and writings (Educational). https://chavezfoundation.org/speeches-writings/#1549064032466-167b1524-4414

Duran, E. (2006). Healing the soul wound: Counseling with American Indians and other Native peoples. Teacher’s College Press. (https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/native-american-psychotherapy )

Gutiérrez Sisneros, A. (2002). Sobreviviendo ‘La Segunda Jornada del Muerto’: Measuring the effect of daily spiritual experience on relapse rates in recovering heroin addicts in Rio Arriba County (Thesis: pilot study). University of New Mexico, College of Nursing and Iberian Institute Dual Masters Degree Program.

Gutiérrez Sisneros, A. (2017). Ethnic identity as a mediator of mental health in New Mexico’s Genízaro population at the Pueblo de Abiquiu, New Mexico, 1930 – 2017: A critical ethnography. (Dissertation). New Mexico State University, College of Health, Education, and Social Transformation, School of Nursing, Health Disparities at the Border Area Doctoral Degree Program.


Submitted by:
Ana Malinalli X Gutiérrez Sisneros, Ph.D., MALAS, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, AHN-BC Colonia San Pedro. Española, Rio Arriba, Nuevo México, Aztlan, EE.UU.

Justus Trailer

The Mestizo culture of Northern New Mexico

“This film is a prayer. One that aims to plant the seeds of hope – that there is healing, that while there is breath, there is hope.”

Ana Malinalli X Gutiérrez Sisneros, Ph.D

If your agency, health care center, college or university is working to make sure that the ongoing needs of your community are being effectively met we would like to work with you.  Organizations across the country are scheduling screenings either live or through a zoom cast to bring people together to work on transformational healing through connection and community building.

JustUs is available for community screenings and institution purchases

Trauma from the loss of a son

JustUs documents the suffering of a group of people that are trying to use every spiritual tool in their power to correct the economic and social dissolution of years of government neglect. There are no jobs, no job training centers, nor even a detox center where people can find a way out of the death spiral.  Pedro and his small cadre of people struggle to assist people in the grieving process and try by every means available to them to give comfort to their people. In the end Pedro knowing that addiction is a spiritual disease surrenders to the situation and realizes that help from the government is not coming and only his own desire for a spiritual reconciliation and a connection with his culture will deliver the justice that his people are seeking. We are sincerely grateful for the participation of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM Center for Action and Contemplation in this documentary.

The Mestizo culture of Northern New Mexico
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