Meliton Medina died at his home in Canova on June 10 – meaning the world just lost some soft music, according to friends and family.
Medina, 80, died of natural causes. He has spent much of his life dancing and making music for Los Matachines de Alcalde.
The tradition of matachin dances dates back hundreds of years. Today there are a myriad of versions of the dance across the southwest and Mexico. The dance is performed in Hispanic and Native American communities at various times of the year and for different reasons.
Medina was dancing with a group of matachines when she was 14, his wife Guadalupe Medina said on Sunday. Over time, he learned to play the violin, guitar and harmonica on his own, and later became a musician with the cultural group.
“He’s always loved music,” she said of her 60-year-old husband. “He played harmonica all the time. Then he started playing guitar. Then he bought an electric guitar because he wanted to learn more.”
He last performed with the matachines in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic caused performance to stop.
Medina was born in the small community of La Villita in August 1940. A cheerful person from the start, music and dancing called her from an early age.
“He played by ear, but he knew it pretty much his entire life,” said Benny Martinez, Medina’s son-in-law. “He played all kinds of instruments. If it made music, he played it.”
Over the years, he has held a number of jobs, including as a contractor and school bus driver for the Spain school district. He then worked in the construction services division for Los Alamos County, his wife said.
But music was still his main love, and he played when and where he could, sometimes pushing the tempo of ranchera and rock’n’roll numbers by “speeding up a bit,” Martinez said. “Quick stuff.”
Medina loved to play and almost always won thanks to a seemingly endless streak of luck, Martinez said. He was an avid fisherman who often brought home more fish than he could cook and eat, so his friends were also lucky when he gave them a portion of his catch.
His pride and joy was a 2013 golden Cadillac that he drove through the streets of Spain and Alcalde. His wife said he last drove for a ride the day before he died.
Medina liked to call himself “the mayor of La Canova,” Benny Martinez said in a eulogy he read at his stepfather’s funeral.
“He was also a spiritual man and often read his Bible,” Martinez said in the eulogy. “And when he couldn’t attend Mass, he would watch it on TV. We were all always in awe of him when he recited scriptures and verses by heart.”
Guadalupe Medina said she misses her husband’s laughter and his music.
“It’s so quiet here,” she said. “It’s sad.”
Besides his wife, Meliton Medina is survived by five children, 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.