Linda Covella Interviews Fernanda from Yakimali’s Gift

Yakimali's Gift Front CoverFernanda from Yakimali’s Gift

Linda Covella: Where and when were you born?

Fernanda Marquina: I was born fifteen years ago on March 21, 1760 in Tubac, New Spain. This is near the presidio commandeered by Juan Bautista de Anza, who, in 1775, led our expedition to California.

LC: What influence did your birth family have on you, your choices, your life? Explain why and how.

FM: Oh, my family has a very big influence on how I live my life and on the choices I make, and will make for my future.

First, there are my five brothers who are younger than I, so I’ve always helped care for them. Of course I love them, but they can be very irritating at times!

Papa is full-blooded Spanish and Mama was born into the Pima Indian tribe. We lived as Spaniards (everyone in New Spain wants to be known as a Spaniard, no matter if your blood carries only a tiny drop of Spanish ancestry).

Growing up, I never knew why, but Mama spoke very little about her Pima past, though occasionally she’d compare me to her “wild” grandmother, which secretly I liked because I don’t always wish to follow rules. When I and my family joined Juan Bautista de Anza’s colonization expedition to California, I knew Pima and other Indians would guide us through Apache territory, and I vowed to learn as much as possible about Mama’s (and my) Pima ancestry.

LC: How did you feel when you first saw the love of your life?

FM: The first time I saw him, he seemed angry. His sister had ridden over to me and my brother. She was so sweet and gave little Ignacio a wooden top, which later I learned her father had carved. Well, the girl’s brother rode up to us with that dark look and told his sister to stay with him. Then he suddenly stopped and stared at me with such a look—surprise, sadness…desire?—I didn’t know what, but it rippled through me and my face flushed with heat, the beat of my heart filled my ears.

LC: Why do you think we fall in love? Is it an eternal emotion or simply a trick of nature designed to sustain the species?

FM: I didn’t know if I’d ever feel love. And now I know it’s not only an eternal emotion, but a physical presence, too. Love is such a strong experience between two people that it has to be more than a trick of nature. I knew my friend Feliciana who I met on the journey had had such a love, and I asked her how would I know? She told me I would feel it in my head, in my heart, and in the center of my being. That is love; it is not a trick.

LC: Tell us why you believe women really are/are not the weaker sex?

FM: Of course women are not the weaker sex! Oh, the society in Tubac has such rules for women, and Mama wished to follow them while I did not. A lady must not gallop on her horse across the plain; a lady must marry and marry young and have children and a family right away. Yes, I want those things, but I wasn’t ready. I wanted adventure, to see new people and places. I finally had my wish for adventure, but at a terrible cost.

On the expedition, more than half the colonists were women and children. Women who chose to make the difficult journey—some with child, some birthing while traveling—because they wanted a better life for their families. The children were strong, too, even the poor Feliz children who lost their mother. All of them kept on. The women cooked over campfires, stripped the skin from slaughtered cows and made jerky; they kept their families alive and as comfortable as possible in the heat and the snow. They danced and sang and played music so people could, for a little while, forget their hardships.

I began the journey as a naïve and, yes, selfish girl, not seeing what Mama and other women do. The journey showed me the truth: that women are strong, strong as can be. They carry their families and the village and the world cradled in their arms.

LC: In your relationship with others, how are you different with family than you are with friends? Why?

FM: Mama is very reserved, so at times I have trouble feeling close to her. I certainly can’t discuss feelings of love and romance—physical or emotional—with her. When I met Feliciana on the journey, we became close. She is younger than Mama, but older than I. She’s very open about her feelings, and I found I could talk with her about things I had kept deep inside myself.

LC: How do you decide if you can trust someone? Experience with others? with this person? First impressions? Intuition? Do you test the person somehow? Or are you just generally disposed to trust or not to trust?

FM: I need to know a person, at least for a little while, before I can trust him or her. I believe when people first meet, there can be shyness or other barriers that keep them from showing their true selves. Those barriers can be lowered or disappear as you spend more time together, and then trust can come.

LC: Did you turn out the way you expected? The way your parents predicted?

FM: I know most definitely I didn’t become the woman Mama expected or hoped I’d be. But my life is going in the direction that I had always dreamed of, so I am thrilled about and grateful for that. I believe, I want to believe, that after all that has happened, she’s happy for me and approves of my choices.

LC: What really moves you, or touches you to the soul?

FM: I am moved and touched to the soul when I see honesty and passion in another person.

LC: What do you consider your special talent?

FM: I admit I have a special talent with horses. I can calm them when they’re agitated, and they willingly listen to my commands. I believe we have a mutual respect for one another.

LC: Which living person do you most admire?

FM: My father. Papa has had to deal with sadness and difficult decisions, and he’s done it with honor and grace and a strong love for his family.

LC: What is your most treasured possession?

FM: My mother’s silk shawl, old and worn, but beautifully embroidered with colorful butterflies, which are her favorite.

LC: What is your greatest regret?

FM: An unresolved argument with a loved one. I am coming to terms with it, but I know I will carry that regret with me for the rest of my life.

LC: When and where were you happiest?

FM: I was sitting on a boulder on a mountainside, sunshine warming me after the bitter cold of our journey. I had just learned some wonderful truths about my ancestry and family, and the news filled me with happiness. And then, the man I was with, the man I loved, made my happiness soar when, for the first time, he told me he loved me.

LC: What is your motto?

FM: Live life to its fullest by being true to yourself.

Covella Author Photo

Linda Covella’s varied background and education (an AA degree in art, an AS degree in mechanical drafting & design, and a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing. Her first official publication was a restaurant review column for a local newspaper. But when she published articles for various children’s magazines, she realized she’d found her niche: writing for children. She hopes to bring to children the feelings books gave her when she was a child: the worlds they opened, the things they taught, the feelings they expressed. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, Charlie, and dog, Ginger. No matter what new paths Linda may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment.

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