Santos Y Mas—saints, retablos, paintings and more

Patricia Reza 1

Originally published in Taos News

Santos Y Mas is a unique store, not only because of the handmade santos sold there but also due to the “mas” part.

You can find more than wooden saints in this Arroyo Seco shop. From the ceramic Christmas ornaments, available year-round, to the furniture, clothes and other consignment pieces displayed in the back room, Santos Y Mas offers un poquito de todo, a little bit of everything.

Supporting local artists

The store carries the work of thirty-seven local artists, among them owners Patricia Reza, Patrick Reza and Ray Romero.

Patrick Reza carves saints in wood and his wife Patricia decorates them. She also uses a technique called reverse painting on glass, which gives considerable depth to the images and magnifies the effects of light on them.

“It seems as if you were looking through a window,” she said. “They add color and texture to any room.”

Patricia Reza will be “Artist of the Month” at Taos Cow (across the street from Santos Y Mas) during February and the beginning of March.

Her brother Ray Romero created the Santos Y Mas store sign and has several paintings for sale in the store.

“Most of our products sell well because they are reasonably priced,” said Reza. “One of my main goals is to keep prices as low as possible. Now, our number one bestsellers are the Christmas ornaments made by my aunt BeckieLee Couture. Last July we sold one hundred fifty, in the middle of summer!”

The store also carries retablos by Lynn Garlick, who has been making them since the early seventies.

The retablos are dedicated to popular saints like San Judas Tadeo, patron of desperate and hopeless cases, Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats and cat lovers, and Santa Rita de Casia, invoked against infertility, loneliness, tumors, and unhappy marriages.

“We also have pocket santos,” said Reza. “They are a smaller version of the retablos, around three-inch long, and can be carried in your purse or wallet.”

There are many wood carvings (bultos) that also represent saints, the Holy Family, the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

“My Catholic faith is very important to me,” said Reza. “That’s why I named this store Santos Y Mas and feature santos prominently.”

Postcards by Rose Reza, BeckieLee Couture, Lynda Jasper Vogel and Ray Romero, among other artists, are available too. There are also different kinds of crosses: hand-carved, multicolored, Celtic, and traditional ones.

“Our newest products are Jan Nelson’s recycled lamps,” said Reza. “Whimsical and useful, they are a good example of practical art.”

The business

Santos Y Mas opened in 2010.

Patricia Reza was working for the people who owned Firenza Gallery, located where Santos Y Mas is now, and when they closed the store she decided to take the space and make it her own.

“I had always wanted to have my own business,” she said. “I was already familiar with many of the artists who had their pieces here in consignment and basically knew how to run the store, so it seemed like the thing to do.”

The jewel of Taos County

As every business owner knows, location is a key element of success. The small, but colorful and touristy village of Arroyo Seco, right on the way to the ski valley, is prime real estate in that sense.

But for Reza, the decision to open Santos Y Mas here went beyond the pure commercial purpose.

“I really enjoy this area,” she said. “Arroyo Seco is the jewel of Taos Country. It’s also a great spot to meet people… and the best place to eat.”

Her favorite restaurants are Abe’s Cantina and Taos Cow.

“I love to get a beef enchilada plate with red chile at Abe’s and a turkey club sandwich at Taos Cow,” she said.

Work and dedication

Reza says she is living her dream of being a shop owner, but points out that it takes a lot of work and dedication to stay in business.

“You have to be at the store when you say you are going to be there,” she said. “If possible, thirty minutes early…don’t keep people waiting or they may not come back.”

Having a big, prominent sign also helps.

“You don’t want prospective clients wandering around, trying to figure out where your shop is,” she said.

Santos Y Mas is open seven days a week. Reza attributes its success to the fact that it is a dependable shop.

“When you come in, you know you will find good products and smiling faces,” she said. “That makes all the difference in the world.”

A dog-friendly store

The three owners take turns working at Santos Y Mas.

When Ray Romero is there, he brings Cinnamon, a small and lively rescue dog. Reza goes to work with Meggy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

“Both are very good with people,” Reza said. “Meggy may bark a bit at first but she is super friendly. She loves everybody.”

Dan and Joe Wardlow come in with their two dogs: Arlo, a Labradoodle and Alice, a Goldendoodle.

“We are looking for bandanas,” says Dan Wardlow. “For them.”

Reza offers a treat to Alice, who grabs it in the air.

“Our slogan is ‘we cater to all,’” Reza said. “Dogs included.”

Mention this article next time you visit Santos Y Mas to get a ten percent discount.

Santos Y mas is located at 484 New Mexico 150, Arroyo Seco.

Phone: (575) 776-2088.

Reza offers a treat to Alice

Frank English brings the art and craft of custom-made boots to Taos

Frank English 1

Story and pictures originally published in Taos News

Custom-made, hand-tooled and hand-painted cowboy boots are both a fashion statement and a symbolic representation of the American spirit.

They grew out of a need for dependable and protective footwear, and became, thanks to the movie industry, an icon of the West. Now they are trendy items, while still considered working shoes.

Frank English Custom Boots is a one-person shop that just moved to El Prado, next to Camino Real Imports. English does everything, from measuring his clients’ feet to the last stitch on his signature-carrying boots.

Before coming to Taos English lived in Montana, but he got tired of the long winters.

“I needed more sunlight and I thought that people here would be interested in my work,” he said. “So here I am.”

From barber shop to boot shop

Frank English wore his first pair of custom-made cowboy boots in 1995 in Boulder, Colorado, and was so pleased with the way they fit him that he decided to learn the craft.

“In 1996 I asked the person who had made the boots to become my mentor,” he said. “At that time I owned a hair salon and, for the next two years, I closed my business down one day a week and went to his shop to apprentice with him.”

Later, English turned his hair salon into a boot shop and started making boots for his customers.

Boot-making became his full-time business in 1998.

“My boots were very popular,” he said. “There is a good reason for it: when you are wearing them, you feel as if you were standing barefoot on the floor in a neutral position.”

The perfect fit

The difference between store-bought and custom-made boots, English says, is that the latter are made to keep people in proper alignment with their body.

“The boots that you buy in the store are made to look ‘perfect,’ but most of us don’t have perfect feet,” he said. “I try to make them look as normal as possible, but I also adapt them to the specific characteristics of the person who will wear them.”

First, English takes seven or eight measurements of his clients’ feet. He then makes an imprint of the foot and finds out if the boots will be used for dress or everyday work.

“This is very important,” he said. “When people use them for work, I steer them to certain kinds of leather.”

After his clients choose the leather, English makes the pattern and adds inlays, colors and designs. Finally, he builds the last and makes the boot around it.

Products and services

Besides cowboy boots, English makes purses, belts, computer bags and motorcycle bags.

“They are all made of high-quality leather,” he said.

He plans to make jackets and vests in the future and can also repair certain kinds of boots.

“Unfortunately, many of them are not made well enough so it isn’t worthwhile to repair them,” he said.

The proper care of leather boots

Quality boots are an investment. They are expected to last a long time if taken care of properly.

“Taking good care of leather boots means proper conditioning, polishing, and drying, if they get wet,” said English. “Never, ever put them in front of a heat source, which will dry the leather out.”

Do you want to make leather boots?
Those interested in western boot making can contact English about classes. He will be taking students soon.

“I like to teach small classes that last at least two weeks, and preferably longer,” he said.

English says that boot making is a complex process that can’t be learned in a quick crash course.

“You need to make at least twenty-five pairs of boots before you can figure out what you are doing, or what you should be doing,” he said. “Some people intuitively have a good eye and know what works and what doesn’t. In other instances, this awareness has to be developed. In any case, it takes several years to master the art and craft of boot-making.”

A niche business: quality over quantity

Selling made-to-order cowboy boots falls in the category of “niche business,” which offers a highly specialized product to a specific group of people. It is also built on a strong relationship between clients and providers.

“I have many repeat customers,” said English.

When you order a pair of boots from English, you can be assured of its quality, but you should also be prepared to wait up to a year, or longer, he said.

“I had someone ask how many pairs of boots I made in a day, if three or four,” said English. “Well, it usually comes down to two or maybe three in a month if I am making boots for a repeat customer and if they aren’t very ornamental. I don’t take shortcuts and I don’t like to rush. My name goes inside the boots and I am not going to put it on something that is not made right.”

Frank English Custom Boots is located at 1299 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte.

Phone: 406-260-1179

Frank English at work

Claireworks Studio and Gallery

Originally published in Taos News in November 2014

Image taken from

Claireworks Studio and Gallery has been in business for over eighteen years. Owner and artist Claire Haye works in many mediums like sculpture, jewelry and mixed media paintings.

“I make everything you see here in the store,” she said, “from small and delicate earrings to the big ceramic mural on the wall.”

Haye started building figurative sculptures in clay, bronze and steel during the eighties.

“I enjoyed making dramatic pieces, but decided to explore painting and jewelry design as well,” she said.  “Then, my jewelry began to sell so much that in the early nineties I had a collector base. I was so happy that I could make a living off my art!”

She sold her jewelry line in many different places, including the Shopping Channel QVC. This gave Haye a national following and the financial resources she needed to start her own business, Claireworks Studio and Gallery, which she opened in 1997 in Arroyo Seco.

Now, she only sells her art in the gallery and through her website.

“People come here to buy something for themselves and often return with friends, or buy gifts for them,” she said. “I am very grateful to my loyal collectors.”

A wide range of design

Haye spends many hours a day creating designs that “simply look good on those who wear them.”

“That’s the whole point,” she said. “Not only to sell, but make people happy with what they buy.”

Her jewelry has evocative names like “After Matisse” (square silver earrings) and “Floating World,” “Captured Heart” and “Flowers in the Snow” —silver pedants and earrings.

Her “Astarte” pendant is a representation of the goddess of love and fertility with a small inlaid belly stone.

“Some of my pieces are very dramatic,” Haye said. “You can’t be shy to wear them!”

The Milagro necklace, also known as “Grand Talisman,” is one of such pieces.

“It was inspired by the universal theme of safety and protection, with the local touch of the milagros,” she said.

“Saints on Parade” is another massive necklace with hanging retablos (with inset stones) and silver crosses.

“It is intense,” Haye said, “the kind of piece that people can’t help but notice.”

Saints on parade: image from

“He loves me” is a silver or bronze necklace that can be purchased by itself or as a set, with matching earrings and a bracelet. Collectors get to choose the kind of stone they want in it.

“Turquoise is very popular,” Haye said, “but we also have amber, coral, garnet, jade and many others.”

Haye gets her inspiration from the Taos energy and landscape.

“I look at the blue sky, the clouds, the mountains…” she said. “My garden also inspires me.”

Every year Haye creates several different designs. She is currently planning the new ones for 2015.

“They are very joyful,” she said.

A great team

Haye can be found in the gallery two days a week. There are three more women who work for her.

“We have a great team,” she said.

A member of the team is Nancy Birk, who has been working at Claireworks for eight years.

“Claire is very generous and creative,” she said. “I also love talking to the people that come to the store. And the jewelry is so beautiful that it sells by itself.”

Take the high road

Haye advises aspiring businesswomen to “take the high road.”

“Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams,” she said.

She also recommends paying close attention to their clients and above all, being honest, ethical and hardworking.

“I go the extra mile,” she said. “Repairs and adjustments for the pieces people buy are always complimentary. My business has been built on a generous and friendly relationship with our collectors.”

The holiday sale

Haye believes that an important part of the holiday spirit is giving back to the community.

“Christmas is such a commercial celebration that I end up feeling sad if it is just about buying and selling,” she said. “Since I have been successful, I love sharing my good fortune with other people.”

For the last ten years, Claireworks has donated to Habitat for Humanity fifty percent from each sale of their holiday offering.

“We will also do it this year, through December 24th,” she said. “We already mailed a postcard image of one local lady wearing my jewelry designs to all our collectors.”

She always gets positive feedback on her mission and the images she mails, Haye said.

“Everyone likes the pictures of these women of Taos,” she said. “My daughter, Melissa Haye-Cserhat, is the photographer and she also does a great job.”

In 2013 Claireworks donated $3100 to Habitat for Humanity.

This year’s holiday items are the Feliz necklace and Feliz earrings, made of sterling silver and turquoise, and the Starry Night ring (sterling silver with turquoise inlay).

To order them, visit the gallery or its website.

“We credit all gallery and Internet sales,” said Haye.

Claireworks Gallery is located at 482 A State Highway 150 in Arroyo Seco.

Phone: (575) 776 5175

Prosperity necklace. Image taken from

Taos Retirement Village promotes healthy, independent living

Flamenco 010

Jo Swann and her dog Cassie

Story and images originally published in Taos News

Next door to the Taos Public Library and a few blocks away from the Farmers Market, Taos Retirement Village is “one of the hidden gems of Taos,” says its general manager and administrator Brian Chew.

The Village is designed for people 55 years of age or more and offers several levels of care, from independent apartments and private casitas to assisted living and skilled nursing.

“We take the headaches of home ownerships away from our residents and give them the opportunity to enjoy a carefree, fulfilled life,” said Chew.

The facility employs qualified staff to help people through all the stages of aging.

“We have access to 24-hour nursing staff and all the medical care that our residents need, when they need it,” said Chew. “We also have an in-house therapy department and can create individualized plans for everyone. But above all, we want to help them achieve and maintain an independent, healthy lifestyle.”

Chew is originally from Massachusetts. He has lived in Taos for 17 years and has extensive experience in senior care.

“I also feel a personal connection with this place because my father-in-law lived in one of the units here, in the late 90’s,” he said. “I’ve always liked Taos Retirement Village and I treat our residents the way I would treat my own relatives.”

Chew remarks that the Village is a microcosm of Taos with its numerous residents of diverse backgrounds, cultures and ages.

“They are all the way from 101 years old, like Jenny Vincent, down to their early sixties,” he said. “Many of them travel for several weeks and come back excited to participate in our Life Enrichment Program. Here, we believe that retirement is meant to be enjoyed.”

A pet-friendly community

Pets are welcome in the facility. Several residents have cats, dogs and birds.

“We wouldn’t tell anyone that they couldn’t come here without their significant other,” said Jennifer Spillar, the business office manager. “So why should we separate them from their pets, that are also part of the family?”

Texas-native Jo Swann and her dog Cassie have been living here since last November.

“I came for a visit in September and liked the Village very much, so Cassie and I decided to give it a try,” she said. “I love the fact that everybody has accepted her. She has other dog friends and they all play together.”

Other residents plant their own gardens or grow flowers in their backyards.

“It’s all about making them feel at home,” said Spillar. “We offer them comfort and security, plus the freedom to engage in the activities that they prefer. There are many options here and we also arrange transportation if they want to shop in town, go to the beauty parlor or visit their friends.”

The Life Enrichment Program

Among the available options are all the activities offered through the Life Enrichment Program. They include yoga, tai chi with Master Teacher Trisha Yu, Feldenkrais and massage.

“Residents can also meet with program director Bonnie Golden for coffee, comments, questions and feedback,” said Spillar. “That happens the first Thursday of every month and we welcome their input.”

There is a writing group that also meets monthly and an active Book Club.

A creative community

The Village Bistro and Center for the Arts houses an art gallery that exhibits paintings and sculptures made by the residents.

“Some of them have been artists all their lives while others have taken to their medium well in their seventies or even later,” said director of marketing and sales Katrina Bryant. “We just assembled a new art studio for them.”

There is a library with over 4000 books.

“Again, some of them have been written by our residents,” Bryant said. “We have eleven published authors here. This is a very creative community.”

The large theater space provides a venue for plays, concerts and community events.

The Village Bistro

The Village Bistro offers breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by Chef Ronnie Saunders.

“Chef Ronnie has a vast repertoire of foods from all around the world,” said Bryant. “He has worked in Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, South America, Europe and Australia, among other places. We are lucky to have him here.”

The Bistro has dine-in, take out or delivery options and Chef Saunders caters to residents who have specific dietary needs.

“Most of the ingredients he uses are organic and local and he makes several specials every week,” said Bryant.

A resident’s perspective

Blanche and Tony Scalora have lived in the Village for three and a half months.

“I like being in a community with people our own age, where everybody is extremely friendly,” she said. “We are really enjoying it.”

Scalora keeps active with the Life Enrichment Program. She started her own sewing business when she was 70 years old and she is 83 now.

“But I am one of the babies here,” she said, laughing. “There are many residents who are in their nineties and very spunky as well.”

Taos Retirement Village is located at 414 Camino de la Placita.

Phone: 575-758-8248

Blanche Scalora at lunch

Blanche Scalora

Casachokolá: multicultural flavors, innovative recipes

Javier Abad 1

Originally published in Taos News

Love and chocolate came to Javier Abad’s life at the same time.

Abad, a native of the Basque Country, was working in Merida, Venezuela, when he met Taoseña Debi Vincent in 2002. Vincent had her own artisan chocolate company which she had started at age nineteen, when she was awarded an internship in Chocolates El Rey.

They fell in love and got married.

“Debi taught me everything about the business,” Abad said. “From 2003 to 2008 we worked together and grew a company that we called Chocolates La Mucuy.”

Abad’s father-in-law, Larry Vincent, born and raised in Taos, had spent around thirty years working at Los Andes University in Merida. By 2008 he came back to Taos to take care of his mother, Jenny Vincent, the famous folk singer and lifelong human rights activist, who was 95 at that time.

“Debi and I had the opportunity to sell the company,” said Abad, “so we did that and moved to Taos in November 2008 to help take care of Jenny. She is now living in the Retirement Village. She is 101 years old, yet every Tuesday, at 11 a.m., she leads a lively jam session with other remarkable musicians.”

Movies and chocolate

Abad attended the International Film School in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. He worked in the film industry there, in Venezuela and later in New Mexico.

“I’ve been a member of the union Local 480 as a film technician, but by the end of 2011 work in the film industry hit a slow period here,” he said. “Debi and I decided to start Casachokolá in 2012. We joined a partnership with Golightly Cashmere to create C+C (Chocolate + Cashmere). In August 2014 we left the partnership to better grow our own company.”

House of chocolate

The name Casachokolá combines the words casa (house) and chokolá.

“We decided to use ‘casa’ because we are a family business,” said Abad, “together with the way ‘chocolate’ is pronounced in Spanish—though here it is taken from the French word chocolat.”

Where to buy Casachokolá products

Abad and his wife plan to eventually acquire a store to sell their products directly to clients but, for the time being, they distribute through retailers.

In Taos they sell their products in Garden and Soul, Magpie Gallery, Cid’s, Taos Market, Sol Food Market, and Molly’s Sweet Escape in Taos Ski Valley.

In Santa Fe they are sold in O’hori café (both locations), Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, and Santa Fe Olive Oil.

“Right now we are customizing some products, like chocolate bars, for our markets,” Abad said. “We are working with an amazing selection of olive oils for Santa Fe Olive Oil and Balsamic Company.”

A rewarding profession

Abad said that he and his wife were motivated to open their chocolate factory again because, first of all, they have always loved chocolates and secondly, they consider the production of handmade artisan chocolate “a very rewarding profession.”

“We admire the power of the cocoa bean,” he said, “the wonderful act of sharing it and the infinite combinations you can create (for example, Casachokolá just introduced our dark chocolate goat cheese bonbon in Taos and Santa Fe) and the priceless reactions you see in people when you offer them a piece of chocolate. It’s a great feeling when you hear someone saying ‘hmmm’! Then we know we are doing something good.”

Multicultural flavors

Casachokolá products draw inspiration from the multicultural nature of its owners.

“We blend the tastes and scents of the Mediterranean and Cantabric seas, the powerful fruity flavors with the Latin-American cocoa bean and the richness of New Mexico flavors,” Abad said. “We create handmade artisan chocolates —no preservatives, no additives— using chocolate from Venezuela, Ecuador and Santo Domingo and organic local ingredients.”

Among their most popular products are bonbons with ganache fillings and a variety of flavors like sea salt caramel, dark caramel, Earl Gray, Greek olive oil, rosemary, lime and basil, raspberry-green chile, lavender-ginger, coffee cream, coconut cream, goat cheese, passion fruit and many more.

“We also make chocolate bars with sea salt almond, olive oil, coffee, and hazelnut,” Abad said. “They are organic and soy and lecithin free.”

Happy clients

Dan Wardlow is among Abad’s most enthusiastic clients.

“When Joe and I got married, Javier made a four-chocolate sample for every guest—and we had about ninety people for dinner,” he said. “For us and our wedding officiant, he made a twelve-chocolate sampler. Everybody loved the chocolates. No one ‘accidentally’ left theirs behind! Javier is a really talented chocolatier with innovative flavors and recipes.”

Carrie Field considers Abad’s chocolates “artful works of love.”

“I began eating them around a year ago and I loved them,” she said. “I like to give them as gifts and every once in a while, to give them to myself as a treat. My favorite is the ginger and lavender combination bonbon.”

“Casachokolá would like to thank the Taos community for their support and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” said Abad.

To buy Casachokolá products visit the stores mention above, call 575 779 6174 or email They offer home delivery in Taos.

Casachokola 007

Aztec Hair Salon—taking a leap of faith

Diego Sagredo outside Aztec Hair Salon

Story and images originally published in Taos News

When Diego Sagredo opened his first hair salon in April 2010, he didn’t even know one person in Taos.

“I had just graduated from Vogue College of Cosmetology in Santa Fe and then moved to Taos in a whim,” said the Monterrey, Mexico, native. “I had never owned a hair salon and didn’t have friends here, but I was sure that I would make it.”

He worked for Great Clips briefly, but soon decided to venture on his own. He got a business license and launched Aztec Hair Salon, named after his Mesoamerican ancestors.

“I opened a small parlor in the Plaza and, of course, no one came,” he said. “I hadn’t advertised or told anybody. I was getting nervous, so I went outside, stopped a lady who was passing by and offered her a free haircut.”

Though surprised by the impromptu proposal, and after a brief hesitation, she agreed to it.

“She trusted me with her hair,” Sagredo said, “and I did my best to make her look fabulous!”

That very day, around seven p.m., when Sagredo was going to close the salon, three women came in. There were all friends of his first client, who had sent them there.

“I stayed busy until late at night,” he said. “And that was my start in Taos.”

Happy hair tips

Today Sagredo doesn’t need to offer free haircuts anymore. His new salon, located next to Guadalajara Grill (the south side location) is always full.

“People can call and make an appointment, but walk-ins are welcome too,” he said. “They may have to wait un poquito, a little bit, but I will take care of them.”

He has built his clientele one customer at a time.

“For me, word of mouth has worked better than anything else,” he said. “A satisfied client is a loyal client and the best recommendation a hairdresser can have.”

He does colors, highlights, and haircuts for men, women and children, and additional services like eyebrow waxing.

“I listen to my customers,” he said. “I can offer them advice but I recognize that, in the end, they are the experts on their own hair, the ones who know how it behaves.”

Sagredo gives his clients what he calls “happy hair tips” and “brush-and-go suggestions.”

“I teach them to be practical,” he said. “A certain style may look gorgeous in a magazine, but if you need to spend half an hour on it every morning, it will be difficult to maintain. Sometimes I suggest a similar cut, but less fussy.”

He also respects his clients’ budgets.

“I don’t sell products, but tell people how to use whatever they have at home,” he said.

As someone engaged in the business of beauty, Sagredo keeps current with hair trends and styles.

“When a style is in vogue, I adapt it so it compliments people’s natural looks,” he said. “But a good hairstyle should reflect your personality. It should suit you, not the other way around.”

Ultimately, he wants his customers to feel good about themselves when they leave his salon.

Quiero que mis clientes hagan el dia,” he said. “I want my clients to have a great day. I want them to feel and look their best. Confidence plays a big role in people’s mood.”

Satisfied clients speak

Marilyn Christian has been coming to Aztec Hair Salon for over two years.

“Diego keeps improving his parlor and he has a great personality,” she said. “Many friends ask me where I get my haircut and I am delighted to refer them to him.”

Luis Garcia gets a haircut with Sagredo at least once a month.

“He is the best one in Taos,” Garcia said. “He does my hair short and spiky, the perfect cut.”

Joey Brown describes Sagredo as “cool and fun.”

“We both love coming here,” said his mother, Juliet Brown. “Diego makes my son look good and he is very entertaining.”

A recent graduate

This summer, Sagredo graduated from the Adult Learning Center. He received his GED diploma and plans to continue studying while working on his business.

“All the teachers and staff were very helpful,” he said. “I improved my English skills and made many new friends at the Center. I recommend it to anybody who wants to learn in an encouraging environment.”

Today, Sagredo reflects on the leap of faith that led him to open a business in a place where he knew no one.

“I’m so happy that I trusted my instincts,” he said. “Taos has totally changed my life. It has given me not only a way to make a good living, but also an education and a number of clients who have become my friends. I’m very grateful to the city and the people, la ciudad y la gente. Muchas gracias a todos.

Aztec Hair Salon is located at 1384 Paseo del Pueblo Sur (next to Guadalajara Grill)

Phone: 575 613 0129

The Egoscue method

Egoscue method

Photo: Katharine Egli

Story and image originally published in Taos News

L. Abair knows firsthand what Egoscue exercises can do for people with chronic pain.

A certified massage therapist, she had watched some of her clients deteriorate over time even though they came to see her regularly and exercised in the gym.

“Something wasn’t working” she said. “I didn’t know how to help them. Then one of my clients, an avid golfer who had been diagnosed with degenerative neck disease, found a book that she thought might be useful and she sent it to me. It turned out to be the best, most helpful volume I had ever read, a first-aid book that should be in every house.”

The book was Pain Free, a Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain, by Pete Egoscue. Abair said the techniques described made perfect sense to her so she decided to try them out on someone who was in excruciating pain after gotten out of a cast that had been put in badly.

“That was myself,” she said. “I had lost sensation in my foot and felt extremely uncomfortable. I started doing some exercises and the pain began to diminish. By the fourth day, it was totally gone.”

As for her client, she recovered so well that she was able to play golf again in a matter of months.

Abair was determined to learn more about the method and its creator, so she called the Egoscue clinic in San Diego. Though they were not training new instructors at that time, she was allowed to go and observe their work.

“I was very impressed when I saw all the positive changes in Egoscue’s patients,” she said, “so I began to incorporate his methods into my practice.”

She later became a posture therapist certified by Egoscue University.

“I have taken many classes and gone to summer camps with them,” she said. “One of the biggest benefits of the Egoscue method is that it teaches people to help themselves instead of having to go to someone else all the time.”

So, what exactly is the Egoscue method?

“It’s a non-medical therapeutic approach intended to bring posture back into balance and restore the body’s proper function,” Abair said. “Basically, the exercises help realign the joints of people who are having pain due to constant improper posture. When the realignment happens pain goes away, sometimes all of it, sometimes most of it. The exercises aren’t difficult but the whole process takes time, energy and, above all, commitment.”

She advises her clients to do a set of exercises once a day at first, until the pain is gone, then scale down to five days a week if necessary.

“I also recommend doing at least two or three simple exercises every day —and all the Egoscue exercises are fairly simple— just to remind their bodies to stay in the right shape,” she said.

Spinning the atlas

Everybody has a different “coming to Taos” story and Abair is no exception. In 1985 she had been living in California for seven years, but was tired of big cities and wanted to move to a place with a slower, gentler pace.

“I opened up the atlas, spun it around, closed my eyes and put my finger down,” she said. “It pointed to Taos. I came here and in a week I had found three jobs and a place to stay. I took it as a sign that I was welcomed here. That’s why I am so happy to offer these classes and help people feel better. That’s what Taos means for me.”

The classes

Abair teaches an Egoscue class every Friday, from noon to one, at Unity Church on Blueberry Hill.

“I began offering it in 2000 at Chamisa High School,” she said. “My son was a student there and the principal asked me to teach the Egoscue method to the staff and other students.”

She stopped teaching for a few years, due to personal circumstances, then resumed the class. It has been going on for six years now.

Abair also offers private sessions.

“I take pictures of people and show them where they are off center,” she said. “I give them a number of Egoscue exercises according to the amount of time they can devote every day to work out. I don’t give them more ‘homework’ than they can handle! And I make sure they understand the importance of commitment in order to get well.”

She gives her clients instructions in person and by email, and is available if they have questions.

“They can also attend my class at Unity Church,” she said. “It’s only ten dollars a session or twenty for four.”

Causes and symptoms

Many of Abair’s clients simply want to feel better. Others are trying to improve their appearance or athleticism.

“They come here because of the symptoms, which range from living in pain to having a hunched back,” she said. “But once they eliminate the reason behind these problems, which is constant bad posture, the symptoms just go away.”

The students

Victoria Sojourn-Prince is one of Abair’s most enthusiastic students.

“Doing the Egoscue exercises with M. L. gave me my life back,” she said. “I’ve been taking classes with her for several years and my body has changed for the better. I had arthritis and carpal tunnel, I could barely walk…Now I feel stronger and I am able to teach a tai chi class at the Taos Jewish Center.”

Astrid Brouwer has been attending Abair’s classes for two years.

“I was in a lot of pain after a car accident,” she said. “I started coming to the class and the pain went away. Now I’m here almost every week. It’s great.”

Cecelia Torres, a dancer, has been doing Egoscue exercises for ten years.

“I can tell you something: when I stop, I go back to my old posture habits,” she said. “You have to keep at it every day, but the results are worth it.”

To contact M. L. Abair call 575 758 1158 or email her at

Egoscue method

Photo: Katharine Egli