ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A computer linkup has helped New Mexico's small Hispanic communities create an electronic ''place in the sun'' intended to preserve their traditional way of life.
Tomas Atencio, a University of New Mexico sociologist, explains the significance of the project he conceived - La Resolana Electronica.
''La Resolana is a place on the south side of the wall, the sunny side of the wall, where men have traditionally gathered in winter, spring, and fall months to talk when the sun is shining,'' Mr. Atencio says.
Atencio recalled accompanying his father to such gatherings, listening to the men share ideas. When computers came along, it seemed only natural to Atencio to use them for the same purpose. La Resolana was a good metaphor - ''a place of light and discussion and dialogue brought to light.''
Antencio finds a ''collective memory'' of culture in the towns of northern Mexico. Today, he says, the computer can help share it and thus preserve it.
SalsaNet, a two-year-old Hispanic computer bulletin board at the University of New Mexico, provides the means of communication for residents in Taos, Embudo, Dixon, Mora, Abiquiu, and residents in several Indian pueblos.
Antonio Medina, a Presbyterian minister, helped set up La Resolana at a clinic in Mora, about 50 miles southeast of Taos.
''We share the cultural, traditional body of knowledge with other communities and they with us,'' Mr. Medina says.
La Resolana in Embudo, south of Taos, also is located in a community health center. Atencio says he hopes that the library in Dixon, near Embudo, can become a Resolana link.
Federal funding from the AmeriCorps program provided 46 students last summer to serve in the Hispanic communities - helping prepare children for school and helping reclaim traditional agriculture. The students also helped train villagers how to use computers.
La Resolana provided a key communications link to offer villagers information on water law, forfeiture, and land-tenure law. ''These students - most from their own communities - began to collect the stories of the elders about agriculture, land, and water,'' Atencio says. ''They started community gardens. They documented as much as they could of the work they were doing to turn it into a curriculum so it could then be used in schools.''