Diego Medina


Curator Diego Medina (Piro-Manso-Tiwa) is an artist and writer from Las Cruces, New Mexico.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Diego chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Piro jar

Piro jar
Precontact, n.d.
Clay and paint
3 x 3 in. (7.6 x 7.6 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

A Covenant of Salt

to remember in English
means to return back to the memory.
return back
as in: been there before,
now homecoming.

In Spanish, to remember
translates to recordar—record
from re- and cordis
meaning: back
through the cardiac
system; restore to the heart.

this means
respire means

(in)the (spirit)third (again)part.

There is a harvest implied in every restoration
that was laid in prayer
in respiration.
To reap from the spirit
what is then revealed to the heart.

I don’t know the Piro words for remember,
restore, or even respire,

But I know the words

and that is enough for a homecoming.


My first Piro ancestor recorded in the Paso del Norte missions was given the surname Salado, a Spanish word meaning “salty”—a less-than-illustrious way of denoting the part played by our ancestors in salt stewardship. In fact, the Salinas Pueblos played an incredibly important cultural, economic, ceremonial, and medicinal role for the entire Southwest. Salt is multidimensionally necessary for life, and the salt harvested by Salado hands has been traded between the Pueblos of New Mexico and Mexico, as well as into the plains, for thousands of years. When our ancestors were separated from the sacred salt beds, so began a centuries-long chronicle of cultural displacement. That is why I am writing about this jar, which I call my little salt friend, as an act of re-membering, re-cording, or perhaps even re-spiring.

In an alkaline crystal form, salt embodies the principle of recordar. It literally passes back through the heart, electrically communicating with the body vital and functional information. Like clay, salt is the result of minerals praying themselves into formation over the course of millennia. Long before any words were spoken on this continent, salt crystals were formed here with information waiting patiently in prayer to pass through spiritually related hearts. When I saw this jar hidden in the collection, I tasted the shock of salt on my tongue. That was a sign to me that it had an important story to tell, one that I would re-cord too, as we come to the convergence of familiar hearts.

The jar’s resonant designs remind me of the crystalline patterns of salt. Moreover, its cuteness seems like a clever testament to its perseverance (salt being an agent of preservation)—the fact that something so small and easily overlooked has survived long enough to quite literally pass back through my heart.

Etymologically, salt implies a type of sal-vation—or perhaps it is that salvation implies a saltiness on the tongue. Salt is a purifier, a preserver, and a neutralizer, along with being an emissary of mineralized prayer. I am not sure if that aspect of sal– was ever spoken to when my ancestors were named Salado, but I do know that there is salvation in the things that make it back to your heart. In that awareness, I offer this as an extension of gratitude to my cute little salt friend. This one is for you, so-an-e.

1 Pe-n’e is “heart,” ya-pol-ya-we “heaven,” and so-an-e “salt.” In other words, “in heart, in heaven, salt (salvation).”