About Maria Johnson

I was born on the northwest coast of England. I first arrived in Santa Fe in 1984. I had traveled extensively for many years as a fashion model, and lived in many amazing places; New York, Paris, London, L.A. I was so taken by the diverse culture, history, landscape, weather and lifestyle of Santa Fe that I decided to make it my home. I finally moved here permanently in 1990. I feel Santa Fe is my true home and I'm so glad that I have been able to live in this enchanted place for so many years. In 2010, I began Santa Fe Selection, the free mobile and online guide to the authentic Santa Fe experience. It is aimed at helping guide travelers to the businesses and experiences that I believe make Santa Fe unique. I hope you're able to visit here someday. There really is no place like it. And if you like my blog, please comment. I am available to help you with your questions about your trip here. Feel free to comment on my blog or contact me directly at info@santafeselection.com or (505) 470-2991. I look forward to hearing from you. Best Wishes, Maria Johnson.

Santa Fe Things to Do – Art Classes

In this series of “Santa Fe Things to Do,” art classes rank highly on the popularity scale – especially if you know a professional artist who will welcome you into their studio and show you the ropes…and paints. Accredited artist and teacher Lauren Mantecon does just that. Whether you’ve had any prior art experience, or none at all, Lauren invites you into her professional art studio to discover your own inner creative landscape.

Lauren Mantecon studio

Lauren Mantecon studio

Thanks to Lauren, a few friends and I got to unhook our brains from the daily grind and take a flight of fancy into uncharted territories of paint and mixed media. No rules, no inhibitions, and no insecurities. You can leave those at the door of her bright, spacious studio retreat in a quiet Santa Fe neighborhood.

Lauren provided a fun, relaxed atmosphere, all the materials, and her 20+ years of art expertise. With a few simple instructions, we were off on our individual creative journeys.  In two hours we each created finished pieces we could take home.

Dave(top left), Mason (top right) and me. Just getting started.

Dave(top left), Mason (top right) and me. Just getting started.

This particular class involved making two paintings. The first piece was on large weighty paper, and I let my mind and brush strokes go wherever they wanted. I didn’t care whether the colors or shapes made any sense or had any purpose. It was fun to see what we each created under such “free range” conditions.

Jennifer working on her wood panel.

Jennifer working on her wood panel.

While the large piece was underway, Lauren introduced smaller wood panels to our worktables. This helped me focus a little. While simultaneously playing at being totally random and crazy on one piece, the second piece felt as if it had a purpose and my mind naturally wanted to make something with intention behind it. I gave a little more thought to the colors, and I chose to use dictionary pages as part of the medium. What evolved was my Word Flower with bright red roots.

Me, lookin' all proud of my Word Flower.

Me, lookin’ all proud of my Word Flower.

Mason working and enjoying a glass of vino.

Mason working and enjoying a glass of vino.

We each played freely and at the end had lots of fun offering our interpretations of the different pieces.

Jennifer's work left, and Mason's right.

Jennifer’s work left, and Mason’s right.

Jennifer created a beautiful piece in tribute to Margarete Bagshaw, renowned artist and dear friend. Sadly, Margarete passed away recently.

She took it home and framed it. Beautiful!

She took it home and framed it. Beautiful!

This is definitely an easy and affordable way to get a true taste of working in an artist’s studio. You also get to relieve stress and possibly discover some latent talent, or hidden subconscious landscapes yearning for expression.

Because I’ve always been curious about encaustics, I returned to the studio at a later date, and Lauren showed me how to do the encaustic process. From the Greek word enkaustikos, meaning “to burn in,” encaustic is the melting of beeswax into the artwork. It’s a good way to create another layer of interest in mixed media work.

Word Flower encaustic.

Word Flower encaustic.

Lauren specializes in painting and mixed media. She earned her MFA from Portland State University.

Blue + Maze - Lauren Mantecon

Blue + Maze. Mixed Media – Lauren Mantecon

She was formerly an art professor at the University of Portland, and has exhibited her works in numerous top galleries, museums and shows across the United States and in Mexico.

Constellation - Mixed media. Lauren Mantecon

Constellation . Mixed media – Lauren Mantecon

In the late 1990s, she first came to New Mexico to visit an artist friend who lived in an Earthship in Taos. The people, scenery, unique lifestyle and art residencies enticed her back many times since.

Lauren Mantecon studio with hanging mixed media works.

Lauren Mantecon studio with hanging mixed media works.

Finally, she settled in Santa Fe in 2013, and the pieces fell nicely into place for her to have her own studio and work at what she loves – art and teaching.

Lauren taking a break between classes.

Lauren taking a break between classes.

Since the early 1900s, Santa Fe has been iconic for its art communities. Many famous artists found home and inspiration in this unique cradle of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Will Shuster, and Gustave Baumann, to name a few.

For anyone in search of fun creative art experiences, Lauren offers many classes to individuals and groups. Her rates are very reasonable, starting at only $175 for a private two-hour class, all materials included. Group rates are also available. She can customize to your needs and schedule with two-hour, half-day, or all-day workshops, and multi-day art retreats.

She recently added Art Play & Wine Day classes, which are proving very popular. (There is a four person minimum for that particular class.) You get to create art and taste delicious New Mexico wines, made locally in the oldest wine country in the United States. (Yes, older than California!)

For rates and complete information of Lauren’s classes, workshops and retreats go to: Art Alchemy Painting & Mixed Media Classes. It’s always helpful if you can give Lauren at least 24 hours’ notice for booking a class. Call (505) 428-9469. Or email: lauren.mantecon@gmail.com.

"-4." Mixed Media on panel. Lauren Mantecon.

“-4.” Mixed Media on panel. Lauren Mantecon.

Thank you for reading my article. Please sign up to receive my monthly posts on the people, culture and history of Santa Fe, by going to the home page and entering your email address in the “subscribe” field. Cheers!

Santa Fe Things to Do – Pottery Classes

There are plenty of fun things to do in Santa Fe; one I highly recommend is playing in the mud by taking a pottery class. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, a couple of hours in an artist’s studio can wash away the stresses and cares of any lifestyle. Whatever the weather outside, there’s plenty of mud to play with at Santa Fe Clay Play, or Green River Pottery Gallery & Studio. Recently, a small group of us took an afternoon class with self-taught potter and Green River studio owner Theo Helmstadter.

Beginning Demo by Theo.

Beginning Demo by Theo.

I had never thrown pots before, and the idea of a rapidly spinning wheel under my inexperienced care brought to mind images of wet clay projectiles flying off in all directions. I’m happy to say that didn’t happen, and we all had a terrific time. In less than twenty minutes, Theo had us fully absorbed and focused in the primal, timeless feeling of creating with clay.

Up to our elbows in mud and loving it!

Up to our elbows in mud and loving it!

This is no ordinary clay. As in the “good ole days,” Theo personally gathers his clays from local areas to create a unique mix. He also uses local glazes that add a stunning surface finish. The raw ingredients coupled with a ‘reduction-firing’ process, make for beautiful, durable stoneware designed for the rigors of daily use, and for plenty of admiration.

Dinner Set by Theo Helmstadter: Green River Pottery Gallery & Studio

Dinner Set by Theo Helmstadter: Green River Pottery Gallery & Studio

Theo says, “A good pot is one you keep getting to know – you encounter it again and again for the first time.”

Lidded jar with celadon glaze 22″ x 10″. Green River Pottery.

Throughout his childhood, in his hometown of Ithaca, New York, Theo found himself gravitating to the creative atmosphere of artist studios, “It was where I wanted to be – learning to use tools, to engage and create with raw materials.”

In 1998, Theo came to Santa Fe on an internship with an outdoor adventure company, teaching children about the wilderness. He then taught English in the public schools. Pretty soon, Santa Fe worked its magic, giving him the inspiration to change direction and fulfill a lifelong dream of being a full time potter, owning his own studio, digging local materials and turning them into functional art.

Bowl with blue glaze 5" x 14". Green River Pottery

Bowl with blue glaze 5″ x 14″. Green River Pottery

Theo says, “What got me out of the classroom and into the studio full time was the unique geology and grand scale of the landscape here – the sense of ancient time, and the rich, historic pottery tradition here are all inspirational to my work.” Now, seventeen years later, Theo owns a successful gallery and studio on a quiet street in midtown Santa Fe.

He creates modern, elegantly simple forms that reflect the area with unique hints of the ancient and rugged. Throughout the year, he works to fulfill orders commissioned by customers who want his special creations customized to suit their personal tastes and home decor. You may also purchase finished work directly from the gallery or website.

Inside Green River Pottery Gallery.

Inside Green River Pottery Gallery.

I was surprised how many “throws” I was able to make in a short time. I had some very sad beginning failures, but I am proud to say I eventually threw a couple of mini miracles.

Me, trying for a vase...

Me, trying for a vase…Dave, way ahead of the game.

Three of us had no previous experience at the potter’s wheel, but the knack was picked up.

Jennifer and her first bowl.

Jennifer and Jane and their first bowls.

Dave admitted he had a few lessons, but that was more than fifteen years ago. He soon got the hang of it again.

Dave's first completed vase of the day.

Dave’s first completed vase of the day.

The end results of our two hours in the studio weren’t too bad for beginner efforts, and rendered a few unique and useable pieces. It felt like quite an accomplishment to see them collected on the table.

Four proud students

The rest is up to Theo. He fires and glazes, using a nice variety of colors and finishes, and fires again. He mails the pieces to his students, or they can pick them up at the studio. You need to allow approximately 3-4 weeks for completion and delivery. Once Theo glazed and fired our work, even my strangely shaped little pieces look somewhat intentional.

All our finished pieces with a variety of glazes and finishes.

All our finished pieces with a variety of glazes and finishes.

I have mine prominently displayed in my kitchen. They serve as lovely reminders of our afternoon party.  And of that unbeatable feeling of primal joy and clear-minded focus that had us all firmly rooted in the moment, and feeling like carefree kids again.

Green River Pottery Gallery & Studio on Lena St.

Green River Pottery Gallery & Studio on Lena St.

Green River Pottery Gallery & Studio: To book a private workshop or group session, call Theo (505) 614-6952 and mention Santa Fe Selection.

Update: In October 2015, Theo told me he’s doing more traveling, so his workshops are less available. But Santa Fe Clay Play is a wonderful option. Ginny Zipperer offers excellent pottery classes for groups and individuals in her professional, brightly lit studio in the heart of an old residential neighborhood in Santa Fe. Ginny works in various ways, in addition to using the potter’s wheel, you can create beautiful tiles, or bas relief pieces too.

Santa Fe Clay Play-Tile work by a group.

Santa Fe Clay Play-Tile work by a group.

Sessions last from 1.5 to 2 hours – and the time just flies by. Call Ginny for rates. Rates include all materials and shipping of your work once glazed and fired. (505) 204-6236.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up to receive my monthly posts by going to the home page and entering your email in the “sign up” field. Cheers! Maria.


Allan Houser-The Making of a Legend

Allan Houser is known world-wide as one of the most important American artists of the 20th Century, but he experienced a winding road to the status of legendary art icon. Given the dramatic impact of his art and its continued status even 30 years after his death, you might rightly expect that his art was his only means of support for the better part of his life. But he had to take various jobs to pay the way, including construction, handyman work and his favorite, teaching. In truth, it wasn’t until much later in his life that he felt ready to “retire” and concentrate solely on his art.

Allan Houser working on a bronze sculpture.

Allan Houser working on bronze “Navajo Runner” sculpture. (1975)

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing David Rettig, a family friend and curator of collections for the Allan Houser Estate. He knew Allan Houser for the last 20 years of his life, and has worked for the family since shortly after Allan’s death in 1994.

David Rettig left with renowned Native American artist T.C. Cannon. 1973. Two years before T.C introduced David to Allan Houser

David Rettig left with renowned Native American artist T.C. Cannon. 1973. Two years before T.C introduced David to Allan Houser

I took the opportunity to learn more about Allan Houser the person, and gain access to photographs from the family’s personal archive that show a little backstory behind the making of this legendary artist.

Allan’s parents, Sam and Blossom Haozous, were of the Chiricahua Apache tribe — a hunter-gatherer tribe that moved between northern Mexico and New Mexico.

Sam Haozous-Apache Soldier at Fort Sill O.K. c 1900. Image courtesy of Houser family archive.

Sam Haozous-Apache Soldier at Fort Sill O.K. c 1900. Image courtesy of Houser family archive.

Blossom Haozous and daughter Ethelene. Fort Sill circa 1911. Courtesy Houser Family Archive

Blossom Haozous and daughter Ethelene. Fort Sill circa 1911. Courtesy Houser family archive

Sam Haozous’ father was first cousin to Apache leader Geronimo, and a member of the band of Chiricahua known as Warm Springs Apaches. (Warm Springs was a location they frequented, about 60 miles north of Truth or Consequences, then known as Hot Springs, New Mexico.) In 1886, after heavy fighting, and two years in exile, Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. Army in northern Mexico. As punishment and retribution, Geronimo and those related and sympathetic to him were imprisoned and transported by train, often in cattle cars, to various prisons in Florida, Alabama, and finally Oklahoma.

Geronimo and Warm Springs tribe members on the way to Florida by train. 1886. Image: Floridamemory.com

Geronimo [front row-3rd from right] and Warm Springs tribe members on the way to Florida by train. 1886. Image: Floridamemory.com

Eventually, in 1894, approximately 250 Chiricahua were confined at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where they were held for 20 more years.

This population of Chiricahua Apaches, who had become known as the “Ft. Sill Apaches” were finally released in late 1913 and early 1914. They were given the option to return to New Mexico, where they could choose to join the Mescalero Apache on their reservation, or to stay in Oklahoma and receive land parcels to farm. Sam and Blossom were among the 14 families who chose to stay and create farms, raising livestock, alfalfa, cotton and vegetables.

Allan C. Haozous was born on June 30th, 1914.  While in captivity, it became a custom among the Chiricahua to use the last name of the commanding officer as the middle initial for children. Even though Allan was the first to be born out of captivity, his parents maintained the tradition. The “C” in Allan’s name represents Capron, the name of the commanding officer at Fort Sill.

Cousin Alfred, Allan and cousin Mildred. Circa 1922. Courtesy Houser family archive.

Cousin Alfred, Allan and cousin Mildred. Circa 1922. Courtesy Houser family archive.

Through his childhood, Allan attended school and worked on the farm. He was diligent and had a strong work ethic. Even as a teenager when he became a Golden Gloves boxing champion, he showed his ability to apply himself and be one of the best at whatever he turned his attention to.

Allan Hauzous circa 1930. Courtesy Houser family archive.

Allan Hauzous circa 1930. Courtesy Houser family archive.

But it was his eye for artistic imagery and an innate talent for drawing pictures that was a steadily growing seed throughout his childhood. From an early age, he’d smuggle paper out of school to sketch on.  Not until his adolescence did the artist seed truly break soil.  Allan once said in an interview, “I was twenty years old when I finally decided that I really wanted to paint. I had learned a great deal about my tribal customs from my father and my mother, and the more I learned the more I wanted to put it down on canvas or something. That’s pretty much how it started.”

In 1934, Allan saw a notice at the Indian Office in Anadarko, Oklahoma, inviting applicants to join the Painting School at the Santa Fe Indian School, under the guidance of renowned teacher Dorothy Dunn.

Dorothy Dunn Kramer circa 1968. Well known for teaching art at the Santa Fe Indian School. Image: Wikipedia.

Dorothy Dunn Kramer circa 1968. Well known for teaching art at the Santa Fe Indian School. Image: Wikipedia.

Much to the disappointment of his father, Allan applied and was accepted. It would be many years before Sam would forgive his son for such an unorthodox diversion from the family tradition and livelihood. Allan attended the Santa Fe Indian School from 1934 to 1938. At 20 years of age, he was the oldest in the class, but was to become the most famous.

It was during his time at the Indian School that his name was formalized from Haozous to Houser. Perhaps due to the Haozous name’s unfamiliarity to Anglo ears, he was assigned the name Houser by his elementary school administrators, and he chose to use it in signing his paintings. In the Apache language, Ha-oz-ous represents the sound or sensation of “pulling roots”.  David Rettig described it to me as “that feeling when you pull a plant from the earth and the point at which the earth gives way. That is haozous.”

In a sense Allan did “pull away” from the family livelihood of farming, which worried his father and was cause for a rift between them for many years, but he also remained deeply rooted in his tribal culture through his artistic representations of Native American life.

Allan Houser. Apache Gans Dancer- Pen and Ink. 1939.

Allan Houser. Apache Gans Dancer- Pen and Ink. 1939.

When Allan first arrived in Santa Fe to attend the Indian School’s art class, he’d work odd jobs and construction to make enough to survive. Shortly after graduating in 1939, he exhibited at the World’s Fair in New York City. Also in 1939, he married Anna Marie Gallegos. They had five sons, Lon, Roy Philip, Bob and Stephen. Bob and Phillip became renowned artists in their own right.

Anna Marie, youngest son Stephen, Allan, Bob, Phillip and dog Bully. 1962. Houser family archive.

Anna Marie, youngest son Stephen, Allan, Bob, Phillip and dog Bully. 1962. Houser family archive.

In 1938 and 1939, Allan was commissioned to paint full-size murals in the Department of the Interior’s headquarters in Washington D.C.

"Breaking Camp During Wartime." circa 1938. Mural commissioned at Washington D.C Dept. of Interior. Image: Houser family archive.

“Breaking Camp During Wartime.” circa 1938. Mural commissioned at the Dept. of Interior, W.A. D.C. Image: Houser family archive.

Despite the initial flux of commissions and shows, there were gaps in the road to financial stability that called for Allan to travel in search of work to support his family.

Allan. Steelworker in L.A circa 1942. Image: Houser family archive.

Allan. Steelworker in L.A circa 1942. Image: Houser family archive.

From 1942 to 1947, Allan moved his family to Los Angeles. During the war years, there was a demand for construction workers and welders. Allan found work as a pipefitter’s assistant. He’d work a full day shift and then continue working on his art at night.

David Rettig told me of a turning point for Allan that came in 1947. Back in the early 1940s, Allan had carved several small wooden sculptures. They were his only endeavors in sculptural work to that point.

Allan Houser's first Pine carvings of Apache Dancers height 9.5". Circa 1941.  Image: Houser family archive.

Allan Houser’s first Pine carvings of Apache Dancers height 9.5″. Circa 1941. Image: Houser family archive.

In 1947, he was contacted by Interior Department officials and asked if he could sculpt. When Allan said, “Sure,” they asked him to submit a proposal to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, for a monumental sculpture commission. He submitted his application and underwent the interview process that convinced the board he could undertake the task. Undaunted by his lack of sculpting experience in any material, let alone in large stone, Allan created a beautiful seven-foot-tall marble monument to honor the Native Americans lost in WWII. This piece was the foundation of his path toward worldwide recognition.

Allan Houser carving "Comrade in Mourning." circa 1948. Image: Houser family archive.

Allan Houser carving “Comrade in Mourning.” circa 1948. Image: Houser family archive.

Comrade in Mourning was finished and dedicated in 1949. Allan took his parents to the dedication ceremony. It was at that point Sam began to acknowledge and respect his son’s choice to break from family tradition to become an artist.

From 1948 onward, the string of prestigious awards and commissions gathered momentum. To paraphrase, you might say that “the rest is art history,” as Houser’s work infiltrated the art world and transformed Native American art from the parochial to the monumental in myriad ways.

In 1951, he began his teaching career as artist-in-residence at the Inter-Mountain School in Brigham, Utah. As museums around the world acquired works for their permanent collections, and gave him honorable recognition and awards, Allan continued an intense schedule. He worked hard teaching by day, and dedicated his nights to his art studio, developing his unique vision of the modernist style in both representational and abstract works in sculpture and painting.

Allan teaching sculpture.

Allan teaching sculpture.

In 1962 the family returned to Santa Fe, where Allan taught painting and sculpture at the Institute of American Indian Art. He loved teaching and was very devoted to his art students. His teaching career spanned 24 years.

Allan [at right] teaching art students at I.A.I.A. circa 1963.

Allan [at right] teaching art students at I.A.I.A. circa 1963.

In 1975, at the age of 61, Allan finally felt it was time to retire from teaching and focus full- time on his art. For the next 19 years, he maintained a rigorous schedule practicing his passion, exhibiting works in museums, and earning prestigious commissions and numerous national and international awards. During his career, major exhibitions of his work were presented in Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Vienna.

Allan working on "As Long as the Waters Flow." circa 1988. Houser family archive.

Allan working on the plaster for bronze casting of “As Long as the Waters Flow.” circa 1988. Monument was commissioned for the Oklahoma State Capitol Bldg. Houser family archive.

However well known and well honored Allan became, it never seemed to change him. David Rettig remembers him as “humble, and very generous with his spirit and time. A soft-spoken man who would offer you the same attention as he’d given the President that he’d just received an award from.”

Receiving Medal of Art from President Bush.

Allan was the first Native American to receive the nation’s highest honor for artists. Awarded National Medal of Arts by President George. H. W. Bush. 1992.

In 1993, David recalls spending Christmas Dinner with the family. Allan had a cut on his hand that he received when pulling canvas off a stone he had been working on. It was particularly slow to heal and he told David that he didn’t feel too good. But he continued to work. Eight months later, on August 22nd, in his Santa Fe home, Allan died of cancer. He is survived by four of his sons, three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and his wife Anna Marie, who celebrates her 103rd year in 2015.

Mr. & Mrs. Houser Haozous.

Mr. & Mrs. Houser Haozous.

Allan maintained his rigorous schedule to the end. In his final year he completed over forty sculptural works, including the twelve-foot-tall monumental bronze “Unconquered,” as well as hundreds of drawings and sketches.

"Unconquered II" -  Bronze, 1994. Allan Houser.

“Unconquered II” – Bronze, 1994. Allan Houser.

Allan Capron Haozous Houser was devoted to his art and created a vast, vibrant legacy that lives on.

Allan painting in his studio. 1994. Image: Houser family archive.

Allan painting in his studio. 1994. Image: Houser family archive.

Allan’s extensive body of work, imbued with his spirit and that of his Native American ancestry is legendary, and continues to work as hard as he did, with numerous museum exhibits and shows each year. The Allan Houser Gallery celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2014, with multiple exhibitions that carry forward into 2015.

In the Allan Houser Gallery "Like the Eagle." - bronze. Allan Houser Haozous - 1991.

In the Allan Houser Gallery “Like the Eagle.” – bronze. Allan Houser Haozous – 1991.

We’re fortunate his teaching career brought him back to Santa Fe. Today, the Allan Houser Gallery offers us a close connection to his iconic art at 125 Lincoln Ave, suite 112. Just steps from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, the gallery shows a variety of Allan’s work year-round, and David Rettig is often there to offer deeper insight into the man and the artist he knew.

Allan Houser Sculpture Garden

Allan Houser Sculpture Garden

During the summer months, by appointment, you can take a guided tour of the spectacular sculpture garden at the family property off Highway 14 (the Turquoise Trail). Call (505) 982-4705.

For more information on Allan Houser go to: http://santafeselection.com/galleries/allan-houser-gallery

References: Allan Houser: An American Master (Chiricahua Apache, 1914 – 1994) Author: W. Jackson Rushing III. Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Thank you for reading my article. Please sign up to receive my monthly posts on the history, culture and people of Santa Fe by entering your email address in the “subscribe” field on the home page. Thank you!

The Famous Plaza Café – From Greece to Santa Fe

Anyone who has ever been to Santa Fe in the past 110 years knows that a must-visit spot is The Plaza Café. Before then, it was the Star Restaurant.

1918-20 The Star Restaurant, on Lincoln Ave west side of the plaza, where The Plaza Cafe now stands.

The Star Restaurant, on Lincoln Ave west side of the plaza, where The Plaza Cafe now stands. circa 1800s.

The Ipiotis brothers, originally from Greece, first opened the Plaza Café in 1905.

Lincoln Ave, west of the plaza circa 1918. Image courtesy of Razatos Family Archive.

Lincoln Ave, west of the plaza circa 1918. Image courtesy of Razatos Family Archive.

In 1947, a young Greek immigrant named Dan Razatos bought the cafe, and his family has continued the legacy that has successfully kept us feeling welcome, warm, and well-fed to this day!

Plaza Cafe, circa1940s. Courtesy of Razatos Family Archives.

Plaza Cafe, circa 1940s. Courtesy of Razatos Family Archives.

I was curious to find out how Dan Razatos, a young boy from the Greek Isles, traveling alone, ever found his way to Santa Fe in the early 1930s.

Daniel Razatos was born in Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian islands. It has endured a tumultuous history of economic hardship, WWII enemy occupation, and earthquakes (it’s situated along an active fault line).

In early 1917, when Dan was only 12 years old, for his safety his parents sent him to live with a relative in Alexandria, the largest seaport in Egypt. In his early teens, he worked as a cabin boy on the ships that toured Europe, and he hoped to be on a ship to America one day. He was 19 years old when he finally arrived in New York City. Dan jumped ship and never looked back.

His only connection to the U.S. was an uncle who lived in Denver, and that was where he headed. While living in Denver, he traveled around the Southwest, and lived in California for a time, but when his travels brought him to Santa Fe in the early 1930s, he knew this was his home.

Dan Razatos and Dan Pomonis. Image courtesy of Razatos Family Archive

Dan Razatos and Dan Pomonis. Image courtesy of Razatos Family Archive

By this time, The Plaza Café had changed hands and was owned by Dan Pomonis, also originally from Greece. The two Dans met, and Dan Razatos worked on the café staff for many years.

Plaza Cafe Staff in 1947. Dan Razatos and Dan Pomonis are side by side in center. Image: Razatos Family Archive.

Plaza Cafe Staff in 1947. Dan Razatos and Dan Pomonis are side by side in center. Image: Razatos Family Archive.

He worked hard to save his money, and eventually bought the café in 1947.

Dan Razatos outside The Plaza Cafe. Image courtesy of Razatos Family Archive

Dan Razatos outside The Plaza Cafe. Image courtesy of Razatos Family Archive

In 1961, Dan fell for a local girl named Beneranda Saiz. They married and raised a family of six children. Beneranda also helped her husband in the café – she still comes to visit every day.

2014 - Plaza Cafe today.

2014 – Plaza Cafe today.

Dan passed away in 1989. During his lifetime, he returned only once to Greece for a brief visit. He had successfully fulfilled his dreams in the country he loved. “Why would I go back there?” he’d say. “This is the best country in the world!”

Now, in 2015, the Midas touch of running a successful restaurant remains in the competent Greek and New Mexican hands of his family.

During a rare quiet moment between lunch and dinner time.

During a rare quiet moment between lunch and dinner time. December 2014.

Some of the great comforts about this restaurant are that they’ve kept the same American diner decor, and remained dedicated to serving a diverse, multi-cultural menu of fresh ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, year-round, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

December view of Santa Fe's plaza. 2014.

December view of Santa Fe’s plaza. 2014.

Though little has changed inside the restaurant, through its large windows, The Plaza Café has watched the change of seasons and trends at the heart of town for decades. It’s such a part of the landscape and history here that it wouldn’t feel like Santa Fe without the Plaza Café there to welcome you.

Plaza Cafe as the Fiesta Queen drives by, circa 1957. Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Plaza Cafe as the Fiesta Queen drives by, circa 1957. Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Tragedy struck in 2010, when a kitchen fire caused irreparable damage. For almost two years, Dan’s and Beneranda’s sons Andy and Daniel, and a large crew of builders worked tirelessly to restore the café to its original décor.

After the restoration, the counter looks almost exactly as it did before the fire.

After the restoration, the counter looks almost exactly as it did before the fire.

In June, 2012, at last, the doors opened and we all flooded back as if nothing had ever happened – glad to have our breakfast burritos, tortilla soup, and all the yummy goodness back on our plates. Many of the staff remained loyal during the hiatus, and were happily there to greet us on day one.

Tortilla Soup. Perfect on a cold winter's day. Followed by a tall glass of  Mexican Hot Chocolate!

Tortilla Soup. Perfect on a cold winter’s day. I followed that with a tall glass of Mexican Hot Chocolate. Yum!

Manager Daniel Razatos (junior) told me he loves how much like a family it feels. “Seeing the joy people get from eating here,” he says, “It’s like an extended family. I’ve seen so many families grow up here. The children become parents and bring their sons and daughters. It’s a terrific feeling to be connected to generations of people I couldn’t have met otherwise.”

Daniel Razatos II.

Daniel Razatos II.

The remarkably low staff turnover at The Plaza Café is a sign of how happy they are to work there. Many have been with them for their entire careers. Dan said, “Some of our staff have been with us for 26 years or more. Esther, the head waitress, has been with us for 27 years! The waitstaff really are the cornerstones of the restaurant. They make everyone feel welcome and a part of the family.”

When that young boy from Greece arrived in Santa Fe back in the early1930s, I wonder if he had any idea he’d be responsible for sustaining a legacy that has not only survived, but flourished on the west side of the plaza for more than a century. With delicious abundant servings, bulbously huge pies and desserts, its retro ambience, great views, and friendly staff, the Plaza Café’s recipe for success has been bubbling for 110 years! Bravo!

2015 - A bustling Plaza Cafe.

2015 – A bustling Plaza Cafe.

To the Plaza Café family of staff and customers, “Congratulations and Happy 110th Anniversary to you!!… See you tomorrow for brekky!” 🙂

The Plaza Cafe, Lincoln Ave. December 2014.

The Plaza Cafe, Lincoln Ave. December 2014.

For more information about The Plaza Café go to: http://santafeselection.com/restaurants/the-plaza-restaurant or call: (505)982-1664

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up to receive my monthly articles on the history, culture, people and traditions of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico by entering your email address in the ‘subscribe’ field on the ‘home’ page. Cheers! Maria.

A Colorful Passion – Barbara Meikle Fine Art

Some of us spend our entire lives in search of our passion, that thing we can enjoy obsessing over that sustains us with its rewards and a unique sense of gratification. Since the age of three, when she drew her first horse image, native New Mexican Barbara Meikle has known what fuels her fire, and her works of art demonstrate it beautifully. She never lost sight of her goal to be an artist. Since her first display of work in a gallery a little over thirteen years ago, she has gathered a worldwide following of clients and collectors of her unique works. Now she has her own gallery on Delgado Street, just off historic Canyon Road.

Outside the Delgado St Gallery.

Outside the Delgado St Gallery.

Barbara is one of seven children and the only artist in her family. Her brothers and sisters – including two sets of twins – cover the spectrum of professions of doctor, lawyer, scientist, engineer, teacher and public health professional. Barbara grew up with a love of all animals, and she drew them as soon as she could hold a pencil. As the only artist in the family, Barbara remembers being assigned the job of creating the family holiday and celebration cards. “I think that’s probably the biggest reason I never make cards anymore,” she laughs.

Barbara’s personality and colorful perspective shows through in her effervescent art. (She’s often in her gallery on Fridays and weekends, painting a new piece.) Her media include oil on canvas and bronze sculptures. Her works are less about imitating reality and more about capturing the essence of the feelings she experiences from her subjects. She says, “I express what I like best about a place or subject through color.”
Looking at her work, you can feel how much she loves what she’s doing, and her heartfelt connection to the subjects she chooses.  There’s often a sense of nostalgia in Barbara’s work. Most everything she paints has an organic, curvaceous appeal. Even her paintings of inanimate objects elicit empathy, as if they were living beings telling their secrets from the past.


Off Road Vehicle - Barbara Meikle.

Off Road Vehicle – Barbara Meikle.

Of the old trucks, she says, “They wear their hearts on their sleeves. You can see everything they’ve gone through. The peeling paint, scratches, rust and dents are worn like badges of honor. They are so loved by their owners, many have brought pictures to the gallery and commissioned portraits of them.”

New Mexico’s unique landscapes and casts of light are also brought to life through her vivacious expression of energetic color.  “I aim to capture the spirit of a subject and the essence of a moment.”

CanyonRiver Daybreak 32x44

Canyon River Daybreak – Barbara Meikle

Hers is a “Fauvish,” Expressionist, Impressionist painting style that brings a smile and lightness of heart to its audience. When I see her work, I feel as if she’s liberated her subjects from the confines of their earthly limits with her unorthodox color-play.

The Mystic - Barbara Meikle

The Mystic – Barbara Meikle

I always enjoy visiting her gallery — images of animals, birds, landscapes, adobe buildings, and the ever-iconic old New Mexican trucks appear to almost vibrate off the walls. Her works in bronze also portray the vibrance of nature. Here is one of Barbara’s favorite shaggy donkeys, with a blue bird issuing orders from the back seat.

Back Talk - Bronze - Barbara Meikle.

Back Talk – Bronze – Barbara Meikle.

Her love for animals developed early. She grew up in Albuquerque and spent as much time as she could along the Rio Grande River Valley riding horses, working in the stables in exchange for rides, visiting the zoo and painting her muses. She went to the University of Denver for her degree in painting and printmaking. She studied watercolor at Cambridge University in England, and later worked in galleries in Chicago and New York City, while all the time practicing her own art. She now lives her childhood dream to be an artist. Her home and studio is in Tesuque, just north of Santa Fe – another dream she had since childhood. “I visited Tesuque when I was very young, and I just knew there was no other place for me to be.” The quaint, historic area is full of painting opportunities.

“I like to paint my neighborhood,” she says, “I live behind the old San Ysidro church that I’ve painted many times and it always feels different.” San Ysidro is the patron saint of farmers. Tesuque was once a flourishing farming village.

San Ysidro Church, Tesuque - Barbara Meikle

San Ysidro Church, Tesuque – Barbara Meikle

There’s also no shortage of animal models to paint. In addition her neighbors’ donkeys, llamas and mules, Barbara has two mules and two horses of her own.

Dancing on Red - Barbara Meikle

Dancing on Red – Barbara Meikle

Barbara’s involvement with animal rescue organizations gained strong momentum about 13 years ago, when she began donating proceeds from her painting sales to animal sanctuaries.  The New Mexico Wildlife Center is one of the wonderful organizations in the region that help wounded animals. Among their patients are injured eagles, hawks, owls, bobcats, and bears.

Strolling into Summer - Barbara Meikle

Strolling into Summer – Barbara Meikle

Many of these creatures, whose injuries prevent them from returning to the wild, have become educators. They are taken to schools and lectures around the country to teach of their beauty and their value to the natural ecology.

Mayor of Whoville- Barbara Meikle. Rescued Mexican spotted owl named Manchado. Now works as an educator.

Mayor of Whoville – Barbara Meikle. Rescued Mexican spotted owl named Manchado. Now works as an educator.

Three to four times a year, Barbara holds a live model painting session at her gallery to paint rescued animals and raise funds for the sanctuaries.

In October I stopped by as she was painting these two adorable fuzzies, Raphael (age 14) and Cobweb (age 30).

Raphael and Cobweb

Raphael and Cobweb

In 2009, Barbara published two books, “Donkey Diaries,” and “Horse Power,” featuring her artwork accompanied by the animals’ stories.” Proceeds from the sale of these books, priced at $85 and $135 respectively, go to the Longhopes Donkey Rescue (Longhopes.org), and The Equine Protection Fund of New Mexico (APNM.org).

If you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend stopping by anytime to experience the passionate colors and vibrant energy of Barbara and her work. I know it’ll bring a smile.

Maybe Yes, Maybe No - Barbara Meikle.

Raphael and Cobweb in – Maybe Yes, Maybe No – Barbara Meikle.

Barbara Meikle Fine Art Gallery is open daily 10am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm. (505) 992-0400.

Upcoming Events

April 25th, 2015 – Live painting session of Eagles, Hawks and Owls. 11am – 3pm.

For more information on Barbara Meikle Fine Art Gallery, please go to: http://santafeselection.com/galleries/meikle-fine-art

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up to receive monthly articles on the people, places, traditions and history of New Mexico, by going to the home page and entering your email in the “subscribe” field. Thank you!

A Salute to El Día de Los Muertos and Halloween

According to the calendar, October 31st through November 2nd sees a convergence of cultures in the Halloween and Día de Los Muertos celebrations. Over time, as more and more cultures have adopted variants of these two festivals, a few distinctions about their origins and meanings have become a little blurred.

Truchas Peaks and Cemetery by Maria Johnson

Truchas Peaks and Cemetery by Maria Johnson

The Mexican El Día de los Muertos celebrations are said to trace back to the Aztecs as many as 3,000 years ago. From October 31st through November 2nd, the dearly departed are welcomed back for a visit to the hearts, minds and homes of the living. Death is considered a welcome guest during such celebrations. Often depicted by the skeleton La Catrina, death reminds us, with her toothy grin, to enjoy life while we can, seize the moment, and honor our ancestors that connect us to our cultural roots. Many costumes today are in representation of La Catrina, with the ornate death mask make-up.

Calavera de la Catrina engraving by Jose Guadalupe Posada circa1800s

Calavera de la Catrina engraving by Jose Guadalupe Posada circa 1800s

A traditional altar or ofrendas is created in the home, and decorated with those essentials that help the dead on their journey between worlds. It’s a time of celebration – a time for joyful memories of the departed and how they touched our lives. Sharing stories with those who knew them and those who didn’t, makes their presence more strongly felt.

I recently visited a traditional altar in Casa Chimayo Restaurante. It honors owner Roberto Timoteo Cordova’s grandparents, Timoteo and Sophia. In the early 1930s, they built the adobe house that the restaurant occupies now.

Traditional Ofrenda in honor of Timoteo and Sophia Cordova at Casa Chimayo Restaurant, Santa Fe.

Traditional Ofrenda in honor of Timoteo and Sophia Cordova at Casa Chimayo Restaurant, Santa Fe.

Roberto’s good friend Minerva created the altar according to the authentic Mexican traditions she learned as a child from her mother.

“Marigolds are the flowers used most,” she said. “They have a distinct, almost sour odor that is meant to catch the soul’s attention, and their brilliant colors are the lights that guide the dead to the altars that honor them. Salt is considered the essence of life, in Mexico, and is intended to rejuvenate them. Water is to quench their thirst after the long journey. And often a dish of the person’s favorite food is placed out for them on the actual day. The sugar skulls and ornately decorative make-up and costumes are a way of poking fun at the Grim Reaper. In a way, they say that death has no power over the bonds that connect us to those who are gone. It is a celebration of the lives of those who have passed on, and an appreciation for life by those who are still here.”

Minerva remembers the first time she attended a traditional Mexican Día de Los Muertos. “I was very, very young, maybe only four or five years old. My mother took me to Juarez to meet up with our relatives and visit the gravesites of our ancestors. It was a little scary for me at first, with all the skeleton imagery, but it actually became so amazing, so beautiful.

All the graves in the cemetery were beautifully decorated and there were so many people there. It was a vibrant place. At night, everyone lit candles and small bonfires, told stories, laughed, and played music. It was such a happy time. The celebration is an odd juxtaposition of happiness and sadness. But that first experience made a big, lasting impression on me.”

Dia de los Muertos Calavera painting by Minerva Paez.

Dia de los Muertos Skull painting by Minerva Paez.

For centuries, and despite its spread across the globe into many diverse cultures, Día de los Muertos has maintained its traditional meaning.

The origins of Halloween date back 2000 years to the ancient Celtic New Year’s harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). November 1st marked the end of summer and the start of cold, short winter days. It was a time to harvest and prepare for adverse conditions. Superstition and fear were prevalent in the themes of the festivals.

Celtic Druid Samhain Festival

Celtic Druid Samhain Festival

To honor and appease the Celtic gods, they built sacred bonfires and gathered to burn sacrificial crops and animals. They wore costumes of animal heads, skins and skulls. It was a time for divination and attempts at predicting the future. It was also a time to appease and honor the gods, to ensure spring’s return as they felt the onset of the harsh winter season. The Celts believed that the eve of November 1st was when the veils between the living and dead were weaker, and ghosts returned to earth to wreak havoc by damaging crops and playing tricks.

Though factual records are scarce it is said offerings of food and wine were placed outside homes in an effort to distract the ghosts and prevent them from entering the house. It is also said that people didn’t go out after dark for fear the ghosts would attack them. To be safe, those who did venture outside wore ghastly masks in the hopes the ghosts wouldn’t notice the living were among them.

Over the centuries, many influences have brought variants to the original Druid tradition. In the first century A.D., the Romans invaded Britain, bringing their seasonal harvest tradition of worshipping Pomona, the goddess of fruit and vegetables with them.  In the 8th century A.D., the Roman Catholic church declared November 1st the day to honor their saints. It was originally called All-hallows, or All-hallowmas, and later the church chose November 2nd as All Soul’s Day, to honor all dead. Over time, October 31st became the Celtic Samhain or harvest festival, and was known as All-hallows Eve, All Hallows E’en (short for ‘evening’) and subsequently Halloween.

In early America, colonial New England was the first area to celebrate Halloween. As more diverse ethnic groups arrived and people interacted with Native American harvest traditions, Halloween began to emerge as its own American identity.

It became a time of community, dancing, singing, telling fortunes and stories of the dead, ghosts and playing pranks. Even by the mid-1800s, the annual festival was not yet nationwide. A big shift happened when an influx of Irish immigrants fleeing the perils of the 1846 potato famine brought their Celtic influences with them.

It was then that Americans began adopting the tradition of dressing up in ghoulish costumes and knocking on neighbors’ doors asking for food or money, and “trick-or-treating” became common practice.  By 1900, Halloween was more about community gatherings for all ages that included games, seasonal foods and festivities. Costume themes expanded beyond the gory ghosts and ghouls to include everything from movie stars to fairytale and comic book characters. After these changes, the religious and superstitious elements took a back seat.

Ronan The Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. Photo Courtesy of Mason Wagner and Jennifer Lang

Ronan The Destroyer, Rocket Racoon and Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. Photo Courtesy of Mason Wagner and Jennifer Lang

So, whatever you’re up to this fall weekend, remember to enjoy yourself!! Here are a few of the fun events going on around Santa Fe to help you celebrate.

Oct 31st – Canyon Road Trick or Treating 4pm – 6pm. Cruise the galleries of historic Canyon Road. Kids in costumes get free treats at participating locales. Look for the Jack-O-Lanterns.

Oct 31st – Monster’s Ball at El Farol Restaurant and Cantina: Have a blast with live music from Girl’s Night Out Band, and costume prizes. $5 cover 8:30pm – 11:30pm

Oct 31st – Halloween BASH at The Cowgirl: Live music with Chango, Santa Fe’s favorite dance-band, 8:30pm – Midnight. Lots of fun! $5 cover.

Nov 1st – Museum of International Folk Art: Día de los Muertos 5pm -7pm. Create a community ofrenda (shrine or altar). Bring a picture or memento you do not need back to add your loved one to the altar. Mariachi music and refreshments. FREE event for all ages.

Nov 2ndMuseum of International Folk Art: Día de los Muertos 1pm – 4pm. Decorate sugar skulls, make memory boxes/muertos nichos, enjoy live music and Aztec dance and sample pan de muerto. Museum Admission. NM residents FREE every Sunday.

Here’s wishing you a safe and festive Día de Los Muertos, Halloween, All Saints Day from Santa Fe!!

Rosario National Cemetery, Santa Fe.

Rosario National Cemetery, Santa Fe.




Artists of The High Road Arts Tour

Every year since 1997, during the last two weekends of September, local folks know it’s time to head along the High Road for the annual High Road Arts Tour.

The High Road Art Tour follows the Scenic High Road to Taos.

The High Road Art Tour follows the Scenic High Road to Taos.

Northern New Mexico’s historic, tiny land grant villages along the Scenic High Road to Taos are vibrant with the colors of fall, and beautiful art from over 50 artists and artisans. Studios and galleries open their doors to greet visitors from near and far. Some of the galleries are open year-round, but the annual tour offers the chance to buy directly and meet all the participating artists, see inside their studios, and gain insight into how they approach their creative process.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to briefly introduce you to a sampling of the tour’s artists to whet your appetite for a wide variety of art, crafts, and colorful characters that make up this popular fall tradition.

Dr. Rey Montez – Truchas

Rey Montez: N.S de Guadalupe. Painting on wood.

Rey Montez: N.S de Guadalupe. Painting on wood. Montez Gallery Santa Fe and Truchas.

Meet Dr. Rey Móntez in the Móntez Gallery in the lovely old adobe church, La Capilla, in the village of Truchas. A native of Chimayó, Rey’s artistic influences stem mostly from his childhood. His parents were both artists; his father a “santero” (maker of Christian saints), his mother a weaver of the Chimayo tradition. The two churches he attended as a boy, Santuario Chimayó and Santuario de Guadalupe, remain a strong theme in his work today,  . Rey began painting at the age of nine.  The path of his life shows how his love for the arts is most important to him. He has worked to support education on and the preservation of Spanish Colonial Arts, won awards, co-authored and authored books and articles on the traditional arts. He is also featured in the Museum of New Mexico’s 2012 documentary “Living Traditions: Folk Art of New Mexico.”  And that’s just the beginning. Rey is an important part of the local arts community both as an artist and supporter, and a fun guy to chat with when you meet him in his gallery. (575) 689-1082.

Trish Booth – Truchas

Trish-Booth. "Chisos Crown" - Oil on Canvas.

Trish-Booth. “Chisos Crown” – Oil on Canvas.

Trish Booth was born in Oregon and raised in Montana on her father’s family homestead. Her ancestors were among the first to journey over the Oregon Trail. Her connection to the land and the spirit of its ancestors are part of what inspires her work. “There have always been metaphysical underpinnings in my works,” Trish says. Her work involves sketches and photographs on location and using oils in the studio to create the final desired result. Her works can take weeks and sometimes months to complete and has been described as “hyper-real and surreal at the same time,” and also “more suggestive than literal.” She earned her B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Trish’s work has been featured in numerous art publications. She has exhibited in museums, universities, galleries and shows across the United States. Currently she exhibits at the Hollywood Cinema Arts Gallery, Hollywood, California, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa in Santa Fe and her own Ghost Pony Gallery in Truchas, New Mexico. (505) 689-1704.

Sally Delap-John – Truchas

Sally Delap-John. "Truchas".

Sally Delap-John. “Truchas”.

Sally hails from Minkler, California. She is well-known for her works in oil and watercolor. She started on the artist path early in life. At the age of 5, she pedaled by tricycle to sketch in her rural neighborhood; she was already bitten by the “plein air” bug – so to speak.  She has completed a B.A. and M.A. at Fresno State University; she studied for a year in Florence, Italy, and has taught in Australia. Her work includes watercolors and oils and among her many accomplishments and awards, Sally has exhibited in museums and galleries across the country. She is also featured in multiple art and culture publications. The lure of New Mexico runs deep for Sally, she says: “After many years of seeking new horizons, the mountain villages of northern New Mexico have become home.”  Her studio is also in Truchas. (505) 689-2636.

eRic Luplow – Truchas

eRic Luplow - "XC Ecstasy".

eRic Luplow – “XC Ecstasy”.

From a very early age, drawing and painting for eRic were his “dearest friends”. “Sur-Folk” is his trademarked style – his unique play with color and image that is “a collision between surrealism and folk-art.” Both in technique and result, his works express vibrancy and “soul,” along with humor and the unconventional. An outside wall of his Truchas studio displays the fun colors and images that invite visitors in. He says of his work that it is a culmination of a life of unfettered spirit, and a tribute to overcoming personal hardships. (505) 660-7409. 

Charlee Newman – Ojo Sarco

Charlee Newman - "Moon Over Truchas."

Charlee Newman – “Moon over Truchas.”

Originally from south Texas, Charlee began drawing at the age of five. She soon discovered pastels and by age eight she was already delving in oils. She earned her B.F.A. from the University of Texas, where she majored in sculpture, and went on to a career in architectural illustration. She notes that painting in oils as a child was a calling that has never left her. The northern New Mexico light and vistas have influenced her work greatly, she says. “The light in the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains cinched the directions of my paintings.  Some artist said that light is all that is worth painting.” In her studio in Ojo Sarco, Charlee devotes all her time to painting. “Both oils and pastels have the rich ability for catching the light and shadows for all to see. It’s just up to the artist the use it.” (505) 689-2372.

Donna J. Caulton – Chamisal

Donna J. Caulton. "Por Las Truchas" - Acrylic on canvas.

Donna J. Caulton. “Por Las Truchas” – Acrylic on canvas.

Donna began her art career later in her life’s path. She grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and although she studied art as part of her B.A., she considers herself mostly “self trained.” She was Artist-in-Residence for the state of Washington in the late ’80s, and also taught watercolor classes in the state prison. She says, “I gained the dubious recognition of being the first woman to teach a painting class in the maximum security unit of the Washington State Pen.”

Donna lived in Seattle for thirteen years, and she credits the development of her unique creative style to that period. She works in watercolor, acrylic, monoprinting, and solar etching. In 2007, she won a painting Fellowship at the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, which brought her to her “true heart home” in New Mexico. She lives in the tiny land grant village of Chamisal and is inspired daily by the “light and sky that sets me free.”

Clôdie François a.k.a Mesdames Carton – Chamisal

"Esmerelda" and "Winter Solstice." - Mesdames Carton

“Esmerelda” and “Winter Solstice.” – Mesdames Carton

Clôdie François, a French native, is a self-taught artist who loves to create lamps and furnishings of whimsy from willow branches, cardboard (carton in French), recycled wood, and other materials. Of her work she says, “In these landscapes of primal chaos, we are compelled to experience the fleeting fragility of our existence, and the feeling of being only passers-by. The very material of cardboard favors creations that can express the lightness of being, and the imagination and flexibility necessary for life in such an environment, where extremes marry… And it’s also a form of mockery of obsessive consumerism.”

The Mesdames Carton studio is also in Chamisal. (505) 689-1194

Lise Poulsen – Peñasco

Lise Poulsen. "Rain" Kimono. Hand-felted Merino Wool, Silk, Yarn, Willow - Gaucho Blue Gallery

Lise Poulsen. “Rain” Kimono. Hand-felted Merino Wool, Silk, Yarn, Willow – Gaucho Blue Gallery

Lise Poulsen was born in England, also into a family of artists, those of the needlework tradition. Knitting, sewing, embroidery and tatting (lace-making) were her family’s forms of creative expression. Although she tried to deny its influence at first, she eventually succumbed to her innate love of fabrics and fibers in the late ’80s. Initially, she juggled a career in software with her developing love and obvious talent for the fiber arts. Lise and her husband Nick Beason took an early retirement and moved to Peñasco, a place she considers “the most beautiful part of the Southwest.” Lise and Nick run Gaucho Blue Fine Art Gallery in Peñasco.  She loves being able to explore new and innovative directions in the contemporary felting arts, teaching and offering workshops. (575) 587-1076.

Nick Beason – Peñasco

Nick Beason - Gaucho Blue Fine Art Gallery - Peñasco.

Nick Beason – “Madame Bouillabaise” – Monotype + Mixed Media + Chine Colle. Gaucho Blue Fine Art Gallery – Peñasco.

Also an English native, Nick Beason’s love for print making began in his youth, in London, where he enjoyed “hanging out” at a gallery in Chelsea and became highly influenced by it. He studied etching and drawing at Winchester Art College. His path brought him to New Mexico in 1990 by way of the Bay Area and the Pacific Arts League of Palo Alto, where influences drew him to monotype printmaking. Nick says, “Monotype printmaking is the most painterly method of printmaking techniques, producing a one-of-a kind print.. truly a combination of printmaking, painting, and drawing media.” He loves the “spontaneity of the medium, the quality of light created,” and the ultimate result, “a surface that is unlike any other art.” NIck and Lise run Gaucho Blue Fine Art Gallery together in Peñasco. (575) 587-1076.

Remember, The High Road Arts Tour is always the last two weekends in September. This year it’s the 19th, 20th and 26th, 27th September, 2015. You can find a High Road Tour Map that plots all the studios by number at this link: http://highroadnewmexico.com/map

For more information on these and many more High Road artists, studios and galleries in the villages along the Scenic High Road, go to: http://santafeselection.com/day-trips-activities/high-road-artisans  and http://highroadnewmexico.com/







“At The Edge of Town” : A Timeless Classic

The Shed and La Choza are two beloved restaurants in the heart of Santa Fe. They have become as much a part of authentic Santa Fe history as the buildings they occupy.  It’s hard to believe that each was once considered to be “at the edge of town.” From burro shelter, to a governor’s home, to a ranch house, the path of the Carswell family legacy has certainly been unique.

Shed closed door

Thornton and Polly Carswell were originally from Springfield, Illinois. They were part of the migration west after the Great Depression, and first settled in Carmel, on the California coast. Polly was a weaver and artist and Thornton was a professional printer with a local newspaper press. Always in search of unique cultural experiences, they came to Santa Fe in 1949 on vacation.  They camped in Black Canyon in the Santa Fe National Forest, on the way up to the ski basin, where they met the park’s caretaker Dave Steele.

Dave was preparing to leave the position, and offered it to Thornton. Having already fallen for Santa Fe, Thornton and Polly took the job.

They moved into the Girl Scout Lodge, now known as the Evergreen Lodge, on Hyde Park Road. Polly was an excellent cook, and before long she was serving up homemade soups and sandwiches to local skiers and hikers. The popularity of the Carswell’s food soon attracted the attention of the ski basin owners, who invited them to run their ski lodge restaurant during the season.

The young family moved into town, to Rodriguez Street, a small neighborhood just off East Palace Avenue, then known as Banana Hill (If anyone knows why it was called Banana Hill, please leave a comment below). They ran the ski lodge restaurant during the winter season, and during the off-season, took camping trips with their two boys, Courtney and Rodney.

Being the free-spirited entrepreneurs they were, after about two years at the ski lodge, the Carswells were ready to start a restaurant of their own. They wanted to share the authentic, local home-cooked food and hospitality they experienced with their friends in their own neighborhood.

They found a spot on Burro Alley situated between West San Francisco Street and West Palace Avenue, in the shadow of the Lensic Theater. Back at the turn of the century, this had been known as a ‘seedy’ part of town. In the book, Turn Left at the Sleeping Dog, by John Pen La Farge, I came upon a tidbit about the “lower San Francisco Street” area as it was at the turn of the 20th century.  Amalia Sena Sanchez was a very young girl in the early 1900s. Her family owned and lived in Sena Plaza along East Palace Avenue on the other side of the main Plaza, in the late 1800s early 1900s.

Late 1800s. Looking down Burro Alley from W. San Francisco St. and Jake Golds Old Curio Shop and Museum. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archive.

Late 1800s. Looking down Burro Alley from W. San Francisco St. and Jake Golds Free Museum. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archive.

Amalia described the part of town just past Burro Alley, “Lower San Francisco Street, they told us that was the red light district…The men used to go there. Shoot, nobody decent ever went down there… Nobody poor would go there. All these high-toned men used to go—and, during the legislature, the legislators.”

Golds_Old_Curiosity_Shop_San_Francisco_Street_at_Burro_Alley_Santa_Fe_New_Mexico W.E.Hook. Mid-late 1800s. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

Looking west toward “lower San Francisco St.” Golds Old Curiosity Shop San Francisco Street at Burro Alley by W.E.Hook. Mid-late 1800s. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

During the mid-1800s, the buildings along the Palace Avenue side of Burro Alley were home to an infamous gambling house owned by one of the most renowned and controversial female figures in Santa Fe history, Doña Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, also known as Doña Tules, the Gambling Queen.

Amalia tells of the wood vendors who used burros to carry their bundles to sell on the plaza. “Then there were the Native guys from Tesuque. Seventy-five cents a load. And, you know, it seemed like an awful lot, but it really wasn’t, ‘cause of all the work. Just think, they had to come all that way.” The journey was likely between seven and ten miles one way.

Burro Alley Scene, Santa Fe, N.M 1889. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

Burro Alley Scene, Santa Fe, N.M 1889. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

At the end of the day, they’d tie their burros to a post under a low-slung shelter, in a courtyard behind the gambling house and corner shop, and spend some of their earnings in a nearby cantina before starting the long walk home. It is said they used colorful blankets thrown over the burros’ backs, so they could recognize which was whose – after a few tequilas.

Burro Alley Statue, 2014.

Burro Alley Statue, 2014.

By the 1950s, cars and trucks had replaced most of the burros. Who knew that a stable for burro parking at the edge of town would one day become a James Beard Award winning restaurant?

Manuel Carillo-Connie's brother working on the renovation from shelter to The Shed - 1952.

Manuel Carillo-Connie’s brother working on the renovation from shelter to The Shed – 1952. Carswell Family archive.

On July 4th, 1953, after a lot of hard work, and help from their good friends and neighbors Connie Carillo and her brother Manuel, the Carswells gained their independence as restaurateurs and opened The Shed, seating twenty-two, at number 27 Burro Alley. Neighborhood friend Connie, an excellent cook, joined them in the kitchen.

Thornton, Polly and Connie outside The Shed. 1953. Photo: Carswell Family Archive

Thornton, Polly and Connie outside The Shed. 1953. Image from the Carswell family archive.

For six years, The Shed flourished. Polly, Thornton and Connie ran the kitchen, prepping and cooking up the heart-warming food from fresh ingredients daily.

The Shed in 1953. Photo: Carswell Family Archive.

The Shed in 1953. Photo: Carswell Family Archive.

“Recipes came from the way local people cooked in their homes in the neighborhood. So good and usually so simple,” Courtney Carswell says.

They served only lunches for many years, making it an ideal workplace for young mothers as wait-staff, finishing up their shifts in time to pick up the kids from school. The waitresses wore uniforms styled in the Spanish theme of Fiestas, with tiered “broomstick” skirts and white embroidered blouses.

In its early days, The Shed only operated during the summer months, leaving the rest of the year for the family to drive and camp through central Mexico and soak up the culture. Courtney remembers, “The locals there would laugh at our Jeep wagon as we drove by with ‘Burro Alley’ written on the side of it.”

In 1960, the alley was bought by a uranium tycoon.  Sadly, the corner buildings that once held Doña Tules’ gambling house were torn down and replaced by a large office building. It was time for The Shed to relocate.

A friend knew about Prince Patio, then owned by the Fields, who were dedicated supporters of preserving the Spanish Colonial history and culture in the area.

Palace Avenue at Cathedral Place. Sena Plaza at center. Photo by Witter Byner. circa 1900s. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Palace Avenue at Cathedral Place. Sena Plaza at center. Photo by Witter Byner, circa 1900. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Located within the compound that is now known as Sena Plaza (Amalia Sena’s family home during the late 1800s-early 1900s), Prince Patio is a red brick courtyard surrounded by 18 rooms. The Shed occupies the rooms in the north portion of the building.

Prince Plaza and the welcoming door of The Shed at the far end of the courtyard.

Prince Plaza and the welcoming door of The Shed at the far end of the courtyard.

“It was way on the other side of the Plaza,” as Courtney tells it. “It was considered kind of out of the way. You have to understand that in those days all the action was right on the Plaza. Anything outside of that felt like the edge of town.” Literally half a block from the Plaza, Prince Patio became the ideal new home for The Shed, which now had room to grow from twenty-two seats to over a hundred and twenty.

One of the many dining rooms of The Shed.

One of the many dining rooms of The Shed.

This entire block of Spanish Colonial buildings has a rich and important history. The plaque embedded in the wall, just two doors down from Prince Patio, says  A building stood here before 1680. It was wrecked in the great Indian uprising. This house incorporates what remains.

The block of Spanish Colonial buildings housing Prince Patio and Sena Plaza. Title: Prince Plaza and Sena Plaza Palace Avenur at Cathedra Place Santa Fe, NM. circa 1920-30. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archive.

The block of Spanish Colonial buildings housing Prince Patio and Sena Plaza, Palace Avenue at Cathedral Place. circa 1920-30. Photo: Palace of the Governors Photo Archive.

The King of Spain awarded General de Vargas the land with a hacienda, as reward for his “peaceful reconquest” of Santa Fe in 1692.  In 1697, by Spanish royal decree, a large portion of the property was awarded to Captain Diego Arias de Quiros, also in recognition of his participation in the reconquest. From 1889 until 1893, it was the home of L. Bradford Prince during his term as territorial Governor. In 1942, the property was purchased by the Field Estate and used for the U.S. Army as an enlisted mens’ club and dance hall during WWII.

Sena Portal-The Shed west

The Shed fit right in to its new, historic home. In the early Seventies, they extended their hours to serve dinner as well as lunch. Their extremely popular fare that blends influences of Pueblo, Spanish and Mexican dishes is famous for its red and green chile, both of which have won local popular vote awards for decades.

Blue Corn Enchiladas and Posole with Christmas (red and green chile)

Blue Corn Enchiladas with Christmas (red and green chile)

Courtney worked at the restaurant while in junior high. He came on board in a managerial capacity at the end of the 1960s, after college. “I didn’t expect to return to Santa Fe and work in the family restaurant, but it worked out to be the best route for us at the time.” Courtney’s wife Linnea also joined the family business and remains active in its running. In the mid-1990s eldest son Josh joined Courtney and Linnea, gradually overseeing food production and operations. A few years later daughter Sarah joined the efforts with emphasis on the human resources side of the business.

During the early Eighties, as more businesses were moving into the Prince Patio and surrounding areas, and rents were being driven higher, the family felt they might need to move again to ensure a foothold for the restaurant.

Once again, whether it was by luck, friends, or fluke, they found another property at… yes, “the edge of town,” alongside the railroad tracks on Alarid Street.  By this time “the edge of town” had moved just over a mile away. The area had been grazing land up until the mid-1900s.

Santa Fe near railyard, Alarid St. 1928. Photo: Palace of the Governors Archives.

Santa Fe near railyard, Alarid St. 1928. Photo: Palace of the Governors Archives.

The building had been the headquarters of the Mercer Ranch during the early 1900s. The Carswells opened their second restaurant in 1983, and called it La Choza (Spanish meaning the shed or hut). The rooms it occupies were once the bunkhouse for the Mercer ranch hands.

La Choza's main bar and dining room, once the bunk house for Mercer Ranch hands.

La Choza’s main bar and dining room, once the bunkhouse for Mercer Ranch hands.

In the 1980s, their neighbors consisted of an old residential barrio, some industrial offices and storage buildings, and the train depot nearby. Now, the same block is northeast of one of the busiest intersections in downtown Santa Fe, and every day the Railrunner commuter train slowly rumbles by the patio.

La Choza's summer patio.

La Choza’s summer patio.

In 2007,  Sarah Carswell was able to take over its management. “She really brought the family ethic and feel to the place. It was in need of her attention,” Courtney said.  La Choza has also earned its own regular spot in the limelight of chile contests and popular favorite awards over the years.

Recently, The Shed’s Prince Patio location underwent property management changes, and the future of The Shed was alarmingly in jeopardy. With more hard work and negotiation, the Carswells were able to hold on to the lease. Perhaps the owners realized there’d likely be a riot on their hands!  Together, the historic buildings and the Carswell family legacy are synonymous with authentic Santa Fe culture that is appreciated by hundreds of customers every day, year-round.Shed door-hat-dogCourtney has loved the life he didn’t expect to lead running his family’s restaurants. “It’s very hard work, and unpredictable. It’s kind of like an opera. You’ve got to make it work because you can’t afford not to open. But it’s all worth it, especially when you hear from your patrons how much they appreciate it. When they say ‘Thank you for doing what you do,’ it makes it all worthwhile.”

Now in his seventies, Courtney is ready to pass the running of the restaurants on to his family, Linnea, and their children, Josh, Sarah and Kenji, and their loyal staff, many of whom have been with the family for decades.

Sarah, Kenji, Josh and Courtney.

Sarah, Kenji, Josh and Courtney.

In 2003, The Shed won the acclaimed James Beard Award as an “American Classic of Timeless Appeal.” That came as no surprise. By 2003, they had already kept Santa Feans’ hearts and bellies happy for over 50 years!

On July 4th, 2014, The Shed celebrated its 61st birthday. Thornton and Polly Carswell’s determination to be independent and share their family brand of Northern New Mexico hospitality and good, simple, wholesome food has ultimately created two important cornerstones in Santa Fe’s circuit of world-class restaurants.

Remember, when heading to either restaurant, reservations are highly recommended. The Shed (505)982-9030, La Choza (505) 982-0909.

For more information on The Shed go to: http://santafeselection.com/restaurants/the-shed 

For more information on La Choza go to: http://santafeselection.com/restaurants/la-choza

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up to receive my monthly articles by entering your email address in the ‘subscribe’ field on the ‘home’ page. Thanks, Maria.

Reference: Turn Left at The Sleeping Dog: scripting The Santa Fe legend, 1920-1955. John Pen La Farge [editor]. U.N.M Press, Albuquerque, 2001.





Indian Detours Then and Now

Indian Detours were the idea of the legendary Fred Harvey Company, renowned in part for their chain of ‘eating houses’ hosted by Harvey Girls along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad between 1876 and 1968. In response to economic hardships of the early 1900s, the Harvey Company developed a unique collaboration with the Native American pueblos throughout the Southwest that permanently changed the traveler’s experience.

Indian Detour Brochure cover with Taos Pueblo

Indian Detour Brochure cover of Taos Pueblo

Initially, Harvey’s famous eating houses helped boost rail travel in the late 1800s. His inspiration came from working as a mobile mail clerk on the railroad during the civil war, enduring bad food and service. In 1876, Harvey began his first lunchroom in the AT&SF train depot in Topeka, Kansas. Harvey’s trained staff provided good, wholesome dishes, and polite, professional service to passengers, earning him the name “Civilizer of the West.”

Fred Harvey. Image: Kansas State Historical Society.

Fred Harvey. Image: Kansas State Historical Society.

By 1891, the booming business had expanded to 15 Harvey House restaurants. At the time of his death in 1901, the Fred Harvey empire had spread to 12 states, with 45 restaurants and 20 dining cars. Harvey was 65 years old when he died from cancer. His son Ford took over.

In 1902, train travel and Southwest tourism was waning.  To help rejuvenate enthusiasm, the Harvey Company created an “Indian Department”, which commissioned artists, photographers and ethnographers to depict the Southwest’s unique “Indian” lifestyle and culture. Images portraying the “romance and mystique of the Southwest” appeared on brochures, pamphlets, menus and postcards.

Arrow Maker: Harvey House menu cover.

Arrow Maker: Harvey House menu cover. Santa Fe Dining Car – Houston

1920 California Ltd in Apache Canyon, N.M. Image: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

1920 Postcard of The California Ltd in Apache Canyon. Image: Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

During this time, they built the first Harvey Indian Building and Museum in Albuquerque at the El Alvarado Hotel Harvey House (neither of which exist today).

Fred Harvey Indian Building. Albuquerque.

Fred Harvey Indian Building. Albuquerque. Rail travelers buying Indian arts as souvenirs.

The Indian Building exhibited Native American arts, crafts, cultures and people. During a one-to-two-hour respite, travelers were invited to wander through the extensive displays of art, and “live exhibits” that included Native Americans from many tribes around New Mexico – Navajo, Isleta, San Ildefonso and Santa Clara to name a few. Indians would be in traditional dress and often situated working on arts and crafts that were available for sale, such as pottery, weavings, and beading.

Navajo Weaver. Image: The Harvey Library

Navajo Weaver. Image: The Harvey Library


In 1925, up against the slump of business caused by the increasing popularity of automobile, and airplane travel, the Harvey Company began developing the idea of “Indian Detours” at their Southwest hotel locations, from the Grand Canyon to Santa Fe. The specialized tours by car were to divert passengers from the train for 1 to 3 days and drive them through the “wilderness panoramas” of Northern New Mexico to Indian ruin sites, and living pueblos.  Cars were bought, and drivers and couriers were educated by field trips and up to four months of in-depth study on the area. In May, 1926, the Indian Detours officially began.

1929 Cadillac Harvey Indian Detour Car outside La Fonda, Santa Fe. Image: Palace of the Governors photo archives

1929 Cadillac Harvey Indian Detour Car outside La Fonda, Santa Fe. Image: Palace of the Governors photo archives

The fleet of “Harveycars” included Packards, Franklins, Cadillacs and White Motor Co. Buses. They whisked “detourists” or “dudes” (as they became known) away into the heart of the rugged New Mexico terrain in style. Harvey Drivers were always men, wearing a western, cowboy-style outfit. The tricky effects of New Mexico’s steep dirt roads on those big, beautiful cars called for each driver to have at least four years experience as a mechanic. Cars were inspected regularly, cleaned thoroughly after every tour, and replaced every other year.

The success of the Harvey Girls in the dining rooms and hotels across the country inspired the continuation of hiring only women for the role of tour guides or “couriers.” Harvey Couriers were dressed in “Navajo-style” costumes, which included velveteen skirts, concha belts, and squash blossom necklaces.

Harveycar Courier.

Harveycar Courier. Image from Indian Detour Brochure. Caption says: In 1926, there were three of us. Now we are many more.

By the 1930s, a one-day tour cost $14 per person, two days was $30, and three days was about $40 (ahh! The good ol’ days). Keep in mind, $14 dollars was equal to about $190 today, and $40 would be about $550 now. These rates didn’t include meals, but did include the hotel stay and any fees that were required to enter the pueblos. And a tip for packing your suitcase was:

Suitable Clothing

Clip from Indian Detour Brochure

Tours included stops at the pueblos such as San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Taos. The three-day detour was the “most comprehensive.” Guests were driven from Santa Fe to Frijoles Canyon, Puye Cliffs, Taos and back. They often included a drive through the Spanish land grant villages on the road now known as The Scenic High Road to Taos, with a stop in Truchas. Travelers would “stroll about” the various ruin sites and pueblos and often bought Native art as souvenirs.

San Ildefonso Pueblo. Image: Harvey Indian Detour Brochure.

San Ildefonso Pueblo. Image: Harvey Indian Detour Brochure.

Sometimes there was a partial dance performed in authentic ceremonial dress. The full ceremonies were not then open to outsiders.

Image: Harvey Detour Brochure

Image: Harvey Detour Brochure

The Harvey Indian Detours were the most successful tours being offered at the time. And telling of the times, the interaction between detourists and pueblo people was limited. The experience was like being a museum patron observing live exhibits, with Harvey brochures and couriers providing detailed information, as seen from the Harvey perspective. A Harvey brochure sets a scene of an ancient culture caught in time as the fancy car zooms by on the way to Puye Cliffs: On the broad highway modernity flashes past horse-back Indians and tiny burros packing firewood to Santa Fe just as they did three centuries ago…Everywhere on the open upland above are evidences of the Forgotten People.

Detourists at Puye Cliffs. Image: Harvey Indian Detours Brochure

Detourists at Puye Cliffs. Image: Harvey Indian Detours Brochure

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought fewer and fewer travelers to the area. After WWII, many roads in New Mexico were improved and travelers preferred to drive their own vehicles.

By the late 1930s, Harvey Indian Detours were verging on obsolete, but not without having radically changed tourism in the Southwest. The tours had brought outsider awareness to the distinct, complex societies of the agrarian, pueblo-dwelling Indians of the area. With this awareness came an appreciation for the unique art and traditions that remain a source of income for Native artists, and are valued by travelers, collectors, ethnographers, artists and photographers to this day.

Image of Pueblo woman and child. Harvey Indian Detours brochure.

1920-30s Image of Pueblo woman and child. Harvey Indian Detours brochure.

Attempts were made to revive the Indian Detours in the late 1940s, and early 50s, but by then, times were very different and they dwindled. Fred Harvey’s sons and grandsons ran the business until 1968 when it was sold to a hospitality business based in Hawaii.

The original Harvey Indian Detours sign still hangs in the La Fonda lobby by the Concierge desk.

For more memorabilia and history on the Fred Harvey Company in Santa Fe, visit the New Mexico History Museum’s long term exhibit: Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now.


With nineteen pueblos in New Mexico, eight in the northern territory, there are numerous villages to visit. Today, travelers prefer to gain an insider perspective of other cultures and make more meaningful connections — I know I do. But it can still be difficult, unless you connect with someone they know.

Thanks to Robbie O’Neill’s Cultural Treasures Tours and her personal connections at many northern pueblos, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Garcia, an important elder at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo just north of Santa Fe. He is a Storyteller and educator, teaching of his people’s ancient customs, dances and songs. Since 1974, he has travelled the world with his dance troupe, Tewa Dancers From The North. “We’ve performed in India, Singapore, Columbia, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Mexico and all over the U.S. It’s important to share cultures.” Andy says.  “We performed the Buffalo and Eagle Dances for a quarter of a million people in the Washington Monument Mall at President Bill Clinton’s Inauguration.”

Andy Garcia showing a ceremonial feather head dress.

Andy Garcia showing a ceremonial feather head dress.

In his pueblo home, Andy showed us some of the ceremonial costumes, many of which he and his family have made. Andy has been pivotal in keeping the knowledge of his pueblo’s ancient dances and songs alive, sharing with other cultures, and ensuring it is passed down through further generations.

Me with a heavy white Buffalo Head dress.

Me with a heavy White Buffalo head dress. Hard to imagine dancing in this all day.

One of the many dances at the Ohkay Owingeh pueblo is the Annual Feast Day on June 24th. They celebrate with the Buffalo and Comanche Dances. An interesting insight I learned from Andy is that the Comanche Dances and songs were created by the Pueblo people, probably around the mid-1800s (when more Comanche were in the area, and raids were a regular occurrence.) “It was a sign of respect for them,” explains Andy. “Not all Comanches were bad. Some were, but some were peaceful. It depended on the tribe. When they went to war or performed ceremonies, their outfits, body paint and regalia were very impressive. The Comanche Dance is a way to show admiration for their culture’.”

One of Andy's grandsons in Comanche regalia.

Taken from a photo of one of Andy’s grandsons in Comanche regalia.

Part of the Cultural Treasures tour included a home-cooked lunch at another friend’s home, this time at the San Ildefonso Pueblo. The traditional meal included beans, squash and Indian Tea made from plants picked from the land. To learn more about Cultural Treasures Tours, go to: http://santafeselection.com/tours/cultural-treasures  You can also call (505) 231-0855, or email: Robbie@santafeculturaltreasures.com.

Throughout the year, many pueblos are open to visitors, except on certain holidays. There are Ceremonials and Feast Days that visitors are welcome to watch, but not always allowed to photograph (see here for a complete calendar). The Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo does welcome visitors to photograph and video most of their dances, once you’ve paid a nominal fee for a permit. (See below for June 24th Annual Feast Day Info.)

Researching this article, I saw so many images of the area’s ruins and sites taken in the 1920s. It was comforting to see that many places have changed little since then. One of the great things about New Mexico is that there are still many areas that feel untouched by “modernity” today. Being an incurable romantic with a nostalgia for the “good ol’ days,” I’m in the right place.


Among their many custom tour options, Sue and Georges of Santa Fe Walkabouts offer fun trips to Puye Cliffs, Frijoles Canyon, Bandelier, and Taos Pueblo.  They also have a terrific Pinzgauer off-road vehicle that makes light work of any rugged terrain and is a lot of fun. Call (505) 231-9161) or email: Sue@santafewalkabouts.com.

Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing includes tours to Bandelier National Monument, Frijoles Canyon, and many other wonderful known and little-known ruins and wild nature spots around northern New Mexico. They are also well versed in the area’s geology and flora and fauna. Call Karen Denison at (505)660-0394, or email: GoHiking@outspire.com 

June 24th Ohkay Owingeh Annual Feast Day : The dancers will perform in the Pueblo’s plaza from around 10.30 a.m till around 5.30 or 6 p.m. It’s free to the public. There’s only a nominal fee, usually around $10 – $20 if you want to photograph or video. You can find an official, who’ll be in the pueblo’s plaza area, and ask them for a permit. (Click here for map to San Juan/Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo north of Santa Fe approximately 25 miles.)

For more tour options or to book your tour call: (505) 470-2991.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up to receive my monthly articles via email by going to Subscribe. Thanks, Maria.

Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Harvey_(entrepreneur)



El Farol – The Welcome Light in the Canyon

Since the mid-1800s there’s been a welcoming light along Santa Fe’s Canyon Road. It was known then as La Cantina del Cañon, a popular saloon owned and operated by the Vigil family. It was a time when Canyon Road was a raw dirt trail that ran through the Santa Fe River Valley, and the low-slung adobe homes served as rough and ready shelter, not as the world-class art galleries they’ve been transformed into today.

Adobe buildings on Canyon Rd by Jesse Nusbaum-1912- Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

Adobe buildings on Canyon Rd by Jesse Nusbaum-1912- Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

La Cantina was a long, narrow saloon serving food, beverages and liquor. In typical fashion for the time, the family lived in the same building as the bar. The Vigils ran it successfully, well into the mid-1900s. More than a hundred years later, the legacy of La Cantina lives on – thrives, actually. For over thirty years, it has been known as El Farol Restaurant & Cantina. Since July of 1985, it has been successfully owned and operated by native New Mexican David Salazar.

David was born and raised in the small town of Hernandez, just across the river from the first capital of New Spain, Ohkay Owinge (San Juan Pueblo). Hernandez is a tiny town caught in the past, about 40 miles from Santa Fe. It is best known for its haunting image captured in moonlight by Ansel Adams.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Ansel Adams

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Ansel Adams – October 31st, 1941. Photo Courtesy of Palace of the Governors photo archives.

David’s father Rosenaldo (Ross) Salazar owned the only mercantile store in Hernandez. He supplied the town and neighboring areas all the way up to the Colorado border with every basic supply from food to clothing and even gasoline. “He was an amazing businessman,” recalls David. “He was ahead of his time when it came to marketing and running a successful business. Even in those days, he knew about spreading the word to communities, long before computers and social networking.”

Young Ross Salazar with family. Ross is under the hands of his father.

Young Ross Salazar in front of his father and family.

David remembers growing up in the home attached to the store, and working with his father and brothers. Ross had started work at the age of twelve in the coal mines in Colorado. He worked hard his whole life, but sadly, the early exposure to the coal dust cut his life short at the age of 53 from black lung. He left six children who would work to live up to his legacy, and his widow, Carmen, who kept them grounded in reality whenever their egos got the better of them.

Young David with his mother Carmen

Young David with his mother Carmen

There was one day in the family home when he and his brothers were boasting to compete with one another about how well they were doing running their respective businesses, and their mother turned and said, “Your father already did all that back in the fifties.” David laughs, “She put us in our place.”

A dapper businessman, Ross Salazar

A dapper businessman, David’s father Ross Salazar

“When you live and work on the same property, you can’t help learning a lot about the running of the business,” David said, but he was determined to get out of Hernandez and earn an education. He admits he was very young and naïve when he emphatically told his father, “I’ll never own my own business.” David won a football scholarship to a small college in Kansas, and graduated with a degree in a subject that came easily for him – business. After college he had an interesting road ahead of him, and never returned to live in Hernandez.

During his “footloose” years, he backpacked around Spain and other parts of Europe. Back in the U.S., his writing skills earned him a place working with labor leader and farmworker advocate Cesar Chavez, helping write his speeches. David was in California at a casual speaking venue with Chavez when he met Bob Bergland, the first Secretary of Agriculture hired by the Carter Administration.  This meeting led to David working with a team in the Carter administration helping develop rural policy, much of which is still used today. “It was such rewarding work,” says David.

Cesar Chavez in the United Farm Workers March-1970. Photo courtesy of UNM Archives

Cesar Chavez in the United Farm Workers March-1970. Photo courtesy of UNM Archives

David was also on the team that started the first “Juntos” (Together) project, which was part of Carter’s “War on Poverty” effort. Juntos was a nonprofit, inner-city program designed to educate children in poverty-stricken areas, and rehabilitate, counsel and find employment for ex-convicts. David traveled the country with this project. He spent time in many cities from east to west, including New York, Washington, and at the office headquarters in Santa Fe.

After four years with the Juntos project and the end of the Carter administration, David moved permanently to Santa Fe and decided to become a realtor.  His first listing was for the sale of the business of La Cantina, which had been bought by two businessmen in the 1960s and given the new name of El Farol. He remembered the place from his earlier years in town. It turned out to be David’s first and last listing. He bought it and the rights to the property it was on, and promptly quit the real estate business. This was in July of 1985, just shy of thirty years ago.

Immediately after the purchase, David experienced severe buyer’s remorse. “What have I done?” he said to himself. “I’ve made a huge mistake!” It was his mother who turned things around for him. She called him one Sunday and asked him to meet her at El Farol. “It’s Sunday,” David said to her,  “I really don’t want to go in today.” But she insisted and when he arrived, he saw his mother had brought a priest. “I couldn’t believe it. She’d brought a priest to bless the damn place!” he says, laughing. The priest admitted to never having blessed a bar before. It must’ve worked, because since then David has successfully run the oldest cantina and restaurant in Santa Fe.

El Farol Restaurant & Cantina

El Farol Restaurant & Cantina

Once David’s buyer’s remorse was blessed away, he started on the track of being the business owner he swore he would never be, and he has never looked back. The restaurant now rambles through the entire property, and offers live entertainment every night of the week. El Farol is known for its extraordinary Saturday night Flamenco Dinners, where guests can enjoy a delicious prix fixe menu and top-quality flamenco performances. The original cantina remains at the heart of the place, with its creaking wooden floors, low-hung vigas, artist murals, and the long saloon-type bar.

El Farol Cantina

El Farol Cantina

The original Cantina menu was a “mish-mash” of many things, but soon another twist of fate brought about its transformation. When David was in New York City during his Juntos years, his favorite Spanish restaurant was The Board Room. It was an upscale place serving authentic Spanish cuisine and showing top-class entertainment. “I saw Eartha Kitt perform there,” he said. Just a short while after the “blessing” day, David was introduced to Denise Dressman, a friend of a friend looking to enjoy some time off in Santa Fe, away from her hectic New York life. Turns out her New York job was as the sous-chef at The Board Room. She completely transformed the El Farol menu, and stayed on for two years as the head chef. Authentic Spanish tapas (small appetizer-sized dishes, served in groupings) and larger entrees like their amazing signature Paella, are hugely popular.

El Farol’s cantina remains reminiscent of its origins over a century ago. It now rambles through the property that was the Vigil home, and includes a patio garden area. Its walls uphold the tradition of artists’ murals begun in the early 1900s.  Originally, the frescoes were made by visiting artists as a means to pay their tab. Now the walls are a veritable museum of works by such well-known names as Taos artist Alfred Gwynne Morang (1901-1958), whose tragic demise came in 1958 when his Canyon Road studio burned down.

Alfred Gwynne Murang Murals

Alfred Gwynne Morang Murals

Other famous artists with their own fascinating histories include Native American artist Stan Natchez, Sergio Moyano of Cordoba, Argentina, and Hawaiian-born Roland Van Loon; all have left their mural mark at El Farol.

Van Loon Mural in El Farol Dining Room

Van Loon Mural in El Farol Dining Room

Throughout its lifetime, El Farol has seen many a famous name pass through its doors. Willa Cather, Mabel Dodge Luhan, John Wayne, and Bob Dylan, to mention a few.

The Galeria is at the back of the restaurant by the patio area. You take Flamenco Alley to get there.

The Galeria is at the back of the restaurant by the patio area. You take Flamenco Alley to get there.

Now in his mid-seventies, David’s mind continues to brim with new ideas for El Farol – so much so that his restaurant manager Freda has placed a moratorium on how many novel ideas he can come up with, “I’m allowed only one a week,” he laughs. “She’s the whoa! to my go.” One idea that is blossoming nicely is the new Galeria El Farol that sits behind the restaurant along Flamenco Alley. It is run by Viviana Cloninger who shows works by a variety of local artists. Another is a new Spanish Cultural Tour project that involves taking Santa Feans to Spain and bringing Spanish travelers to Santa Fe, to show them their heritage in both the Old and New Worlds.

David Salazar, owner of El Farol. Flamenco Mural by ??

David Salazar, owner of El Farol. Flamenco Mural by Sergio Moyano of Cordoba, Argentina.

El Farol’s legacy is a point of pride for native Santa Feans, and longtime locals. It represents a history and authenticity that makes Santa Fe unique. As one of the most popular restaurants and nightlife spots in town, it certainly lives up to its name. The word “farol” originates from the ancient Latin word “pharus” meaning “lantern” and “lighthouse”.  For more than a hundred and fifty years, this unique locale has been a warm and welcoming light on Canyon Road; a place where locals and travelers gather to celebrate life, and enjoy connecting amid the authentic flavors, sounds and sights of a rich and colorful heritage.

El Farol's Patio Garden

El Farol’s Patio Garden

For more information call (505)983-9912 go to: http://santafeselection.com/restaurants/el-farol-restaurant

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