Cuba in pictures: a photography retrospective at Taos Artist Collective

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The photographers at Taos Artist Collective

Originally published in Tempo, a Taos News publication

With the upcoming changes in Cuba, photographers Jeremy Landau and Marcus Best decided it was about time to showcase their work of several years, which documents current life in the island.

“We thought it would be interesting to display our images of a place that seemed frozen in time, a place that undoubtedly will be changing quickly,” said Best.

Taos Artist Collective will host a Cuba Photography Retrospective reception on Saturday, June 6th, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. featuring the work of Best and Landau.

“Marcus and I want to showcase a beautiful place through some beautiful photography which we hope people will appreciate,” said Landau. “And to highlight the accessibility of Cuba as the embargo disappear and before US commercialism messes things up.”

The reception will include Cuban food, like chicken and beef empanadas, and, of course, Cuban music.

Landau’s book “¡Cuba, La Isla Bella!” will be available for sale, along with a special edition 2015 Cuba calendar.

First encounters: medicine and curiosity

Landau’s interest in Cuba dates back to 1997, when he traveled to the island to attend the Caribbean AIDS Conference.

“Following that time, I was asked by colleagues to work with a humanitarian project which came to be called AIDS Treatment Access Cuba, supplying donated medicine and doctors relief through Partners in Health,” he said. “It continued for six years until the Bush administration forced us to quit. It was tragic and I fell in love with the place and the people.  Their healthcare system thrives and is one of the best in the world.”

As for Best, he visited Cuba for the first time in 2004.

“I had always been curious to spend time in a country that was so close to the United States but seemed to be worlds apart,” he said. “At the time, I thought it wouldn’t be long before Fidel Castro stepped down and there would be a change of leadership, and I wanted to be in Cuba while Castro was in power.”

Landau was in and out of Cuba for six years.

“I was mostly in Havana, though I traveled extensively throughout the country,” he said.

His pictures of old cars have captured the old funky vibe of the vehicles. No wonder, as he was quite familiar with them—he once drove a blue Chevy, an early 1950’s model, from Havana to Pinar del Rio.

“The best part of the whole was the people,” he said.  “And the architecture.  And the rum.  And the real Cubano coffee!”

Best enjoyed getting to know the people and exploring their country with them.

“That is almost always the case when I travel,” he said.

Best’s images capture souls and expressions, from a proud gallero holding a rooster to a pensive bookseller in Trinidad.

Looking back: challenges and obstacles

Best recalls getting out of the airport when he arrived as the most challenging part of his Cuban experience.

“I spent about an hour in a small storage room with four armed guards while they questioned me about my reasons for visiting Cuba,” he said. “They wanted me to explain exactly how far I could see with each of my camera lenses and why I had black and white film. It was a nervous introduction to say the least.”

“For me, the biggest challenge was overcoming the obstacles the United States government put in our way at the time,” said Landau. “However, we managed to maintain licensed travel for six years.”

Landau wishes he had had more time to be in Cuba and be with his friends there.

“I took hundreds of photographs and this show represents only a small part of that—the best of it,” he said. “I also wish I had photographed more people, they certainly were very open to it. I was just not so into that, back then.”

Still, he managed to get some stunning portraits like one of a small musical band with traditional drums and bongós.

“I also wish I had more time in the far reaches of the island, Guantanamo, Baracoa, and Santiago de Cuba,” he said.

Ballots and baseball

Best was in Cuba during two significant events that left big impressions on him.

“One was the reelection of George W. Bush,” he said. “It seemed like Cubans anticipated the results as if it the ballots were being counted for their own presidential election, and when Bush’s victory was announced, what I heard most from Cubans was: ¡Hay que aguantar cuatro años mas! (We have to put up with it four more years).”

Baseball, la pelota, is Cuba’s national sport—and passion. Best was also there for the end of the baseball world series, when the Boston Red Sox won.

“I’ve never seen such fervent support for a sports team before, and such interest in the game by an entire country,” he said. “I brought a few official Major League baseballs to give as gifts, and the lucky few who received them were beside themselves with gratitude.”

The photographers’ work will be on display through the month of June.

Taos Artist Collective is located at 106 A Paseo del Pueblo Norte

Phone: 575 751 7122

“No ‘tude in Taos!” Why writers keep coming back


Originally published in Tempo, a Taos News publication

Many people have come to Taos on a literary quest, since the times of D.H. Lawrence and Willa Cather. There are writing workshops, salons and conferences going on year-round.

The most famous is perhaps the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference that celebrates its 17th anniversary this year. It will take place from July 12th to 19th at Sagebrush Inn Conference Center.

“In the early years of the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, most of our good news concerned the accomplishments of our instructors—many of whom were publishing new books and winning well deserved awards,” said the Conference founder and director Sharon Oard Warner. “These days, our writing instructors are still winning accolades, but so are our participants. Even more telling: some of our past participants are returning as members of the faculty.”

Matthew Pitt, author of Attention Please Now, is one of them. He received the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship to attend the 2013 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.

“I had heard terrific reports about the conference from prior attendees, faculty, not to mention a former D.H. Lawrence recipient,” he said. “It seemed to be one of those ‘50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong’ moments. And it was: the conference was the highlight of my summer. When you start with a backdrop as stunning as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, how could it not be?”

Pitt’s says that the week was full of good cheer, expansive conversations, and side excursions.

“Somehow, I still managed to shoehorn in a twenty-five page rough draft of a new story, along with a scene from a play,” he said. “The faculty is incredibly gifted and generous—Robert Boswell, Antonya Nelson, Pam Houston, and Trey Ellis were among the roster the year I attended, and I am humbled to be part of the group convening this time around.”

Pitt will lead a weekend workshop called “Off the Starting Block” for fiction writers of all levels.

“I’m hoping it will ignite the imaginations of those who feel a bit intimidated by a blank page,” he said. “Before the course actually convenes in Taos, I’ll provide a number of openings for the class members to pursue on their own. We’ll be examining those, writing a lot more, and talking about the myriad ways a new narrative can be unlocked, and what advantages, challenges, and opportunities each might provide.”

Richard Vargas was an intern at the 2010 Taos Summer Writers Conference. The following year he returned as a graduate of the UNM Creative Writing program and the recipient of the conference’s 2011 Hispanic Writer Award.

“I attended a week-long workshop of my choice and was a featured reader,” he said. “My past experiences with the conference have provided many great memories, creative inspiration, networking opportunities, and the basis for invaluable friendships. I look forward to returning as a member of the faculty in 2015.”

Though his weekend poetry workshop is geared for the beginner, Vargas says that anyone interested in coming together with their peers to write, and provide and receive feedback, will enjoy The Mas Tequila Poetry workshop.

“The motto of my biannual poetry magazine, The Mas Tequila Review, is ‘Poetry for the rest of us,’” he said. “We will have fun and write poems that are pertinent for the times we live in.”


From Nebraska to Placitas

Hilda Raz’s involvement with the conference has had a profound effect on her life.

“I’ve taught several times at the Taos Writers’ Conference, maybe six times over the years,” she said. “Their brilliant director, Sharon Oard Warner, invited me to be a member of the faculty.  Four years ago we moved to Placitas, New Mexico from Nebraska, where I taught at the University of Nebraska and edited the magazine Prairie Schooner, all because I fell in love with New Mexico during those weeks teaching in Taos for the Conference!”

She is now the editor of the University of New Mexico Press poetry series and the poetry editor of Albuquerque-based Bosque magazine.

“My offering for this summer’s weekend class is ‘Writing in Short Forms,’ prose poetry, short short stories, flash fiction, very brief essays, etc.,” Raz said. “Poets and writers of all genres should have a very good time.”

A local writer’s perspective: Taos feeds the soul

Taos-based writer Summer Wood has been teaching at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference since 2008.

“It’s a highlight of my year,” she said. “Two things make this conference really special. On the one hand, there’s the spirit of generosity and dedication shared by the writers who teach and the writers who attend. And on the other? Taos itself. People come from all over the world to really dig in to their writing for a week in this beautiful and historic place. For many, I think the rich culture and amazing landscape of Taos spark a level of creativity that really feeds the soul. I know it does for me.”

Putting pen to the page

Warner quotes a former participant that described the ambiance of the Conference as “Breadloaf without the attitude.”

“There is no ‘tude at Taos,” she said. “My hope for everyone is that the Conference experience will renew and deepen the singular joy that comes from self-expression. Regardless of whether our work finds a readership, it is important to simply take the time to put pen to the page. Recent research confirms my own abiding belief that those of us who write are healthier and happier for it.”

The another worldliness of Taos

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a National Historic Landmark, has also been a hotbed of literary activities and today is home to many workshops that cover everything from watercolor painting to collage making to writing.

Patrice Vecchione was there in April to teach “Imagination & Inspiration in the Southwest: A Writing Retreat” right after the publication of her new book, Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination & Spirit in Everyday Life.

“I’d been to Taos once before, some years ago, and I had wanted to return,” she said. “The Mabel Dodge Luhan House was even better than I’d imagined. From the accommodations to the meals, from the classroom to the setting, no place could have been better. Taos has another worldliness about it, a place not stuck in the mundane world, that lends itself to imaginative thinking so it was the right spot in that way also.”

To find out more about the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference visit

To find out more about Mabel Dodge Luhan House

About The Conference

Images taken from the official site of Taos Summer Writers’ Conference

Anne Hillerman in Taos: book signing and talk at Moby Dickens


On Wednesday May 20th Taos News editor Joan Livingston will interview author Anne Hillerman at Moby Dickens Bookshop at 6 p.m.

“I will interview Anne about her new book Rock with Wings,” Livingston said. “This is her second novel using the characters of Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito made famous by her late father Tony Hillerman. She is carrying on the tradition of her father who set his mystery novels in Navajo Nation.”

Spider Woman’s Daughter, Hillerman’s first novel, received the 2014 Spur Award for the Best First Mystery from Western Writers of America. The book also received two New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards for Best Book of 2014 and was as Best Mystery of 2014.

The novels will be available for sale and Hillerman will sign copies.

Moby Dickens Bookshop is located at 124 Bent St, Taos, NM 87571
(575) 758-3050

Moby Dickens Bookshop - Taos, NM, United States. Entrance to Moby Dickens Bookshop (located in the John Dunn Shops area of Taos)

A graduation photo and a story

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Now that it is graduation time, this is my graduation from middle school in Havana, in 1980.

Here is a story (in Spanish) about those times

El día que volví a ayer

Originalmente publicada en Diario de Cuba

Casi todas mis compañeras de la secundaria se enamoraban platónicamente de actores de cine, deportistas y cantantes famosos. En Cuba se decía “meterse con ellos” aunque, en principio al menos, no se metiera ni se sacara nada material.

Entre las estrellas que provenían del otro lado del Atlántico brillaba Alain Delon —era a fines de los setenta. Luisita Fraga había pegado un afiche enorme del francés en una pared de su cuarto y todos los días le prendía una vela, como si se tratara de un muerto familiar. “Esta chiquilla comemierda va a quemar la casa con sus inventos”, rezongaba su abuela, pero la Luisa, terca ella, no cejaba en sus ceremonias de adoración.

Mi comadre (que entonces no era todavía mi comadre) adoraba a Los Beatles, y como no se había decidido por ninguno en particular, se metía cada mes con uno distinto. Otras meteduras tenían como lejanos objetos del deseo a celebridades del patio: el cantante Alfredito Rodríguez hacía furor con su melena larga, trajes con cuello y corbata y baladas románticas que resultaban una mezcla fuera de lo común, casi contestataria, en aquella época de exaltación al trovador sudado y a un ritmo autóctono llamado mozambique.

A la exhibición de la ya arqueológica comedia Abbot y Costello contra los fantasmas, producida en 1948 y reestrenada en los cines de La Habana en el 79, siguió una repentina oleada de interés en los vampiros similar a la que ahora recorre el mundo con la saga deCrepúsculo, pero a escala isleña. Las muchachitas empezaron a suspirar por la pálida masculinidad del Conde Drácula y me parece que hasta el Hombre Lobo, encarnado en Lon Chaney, consiguió algunas seguidoras también. Otra amiga, Yarmila, idolatraba a Béla Lugosi, probablemente sin saber que este había pasado a mejor vida en el año 56, diez antes del nacimiento de su fancita cubana.

Yarmila fue la primera de nuestro grupo que se hizo mujer, para usar un eufemismo de entonces, y tuvo a bien enseñarnos a todas sus amigas la almohadilla sanitaria (íntimas las llamábamos) teñida de un líquido rojo y de olor áspero. Yarmila se hizo auxiliar de enfermera y terminó tomándoles muestras de sangre a los pacientes del hospital Hermanos Amejeiras.

En cuanto a mí, bicho raro que siempre he sido, nunca me interesé por las luminarias inaccesibles. Mis fantasías eran con seres de carne y hueso a los que veía con regularidad. Sin embargo, no resultaban menos platónicas que las de mis amigas. Una de mis primeras meteduras fue en el hueco dialéctico de un maestro de marxismo de noveno grado a quien apodaban El Quique. A pesar del aburrimiento mortal causado por la asignatura que enseñaba, o puede que debido a este, me pasaba los turnos de clase sumida en una plácida duermevela en la que yo (pero una yo más alta y desenvuelta, que lucía un traje blanco como el de Claudia Cardinale en El Gatopardo) regresaba a la secundaria muchos años más tarde, para fundirme en un beso de final feliz con El Quique.

Mi imagen mejorada iba con los ojos al aire libre. La verdadera llevaba ocho años clavada a la cruz de una miopía feroz y obligada a usar unos espejuelos horribles, con armadura de pasta, que me habían granjeado los apodos de Lechucita y Cuatro Ojos. Para colmo, ni siquiera me permitían ver con claridad. Fuera por la mala calidad de los cristales o por una medición inexacta de mis dioptrías de menos, yo andaba por la vida a puros tropezones. Subir los cuatro pisos que conducían hasta el salón de clases implicaba un resbalón en los días buenos; en los malos, una caída en la que arrastraba el fondillo hasta parar en un descanso. Por fortuna me hice amiga de Lázaro, el ascensorista, un negro viejo y bueno que se compadeció de mí y me evitaba la fatiga de patear escalones casi a ciegas, aunque estaba estrictamente prohibido que los estudiantes tomáramos el ascensor.

La secundaria estaba situada en un edificio bastante traqueteado de la Manzana de Gómez, frente al Parque Central, y ocupaba los pisos tercero y cuarto. Abajo había varias tiendas de ropa, una zapatería y la farmacia donde trabajaba mi madre, que subía en los recesos para llevarme un pan con cualquier cosa, lo que provocaba infinitas burlas de mis condiscípulos. (Entre las gafas y las visitas maternales, me da ahora la impresión de que pasé mi adolescencia con un coro de carcajadas como background.) Pero eso no importaba; la merienda era imprescindible porque yo estaba flaca y tenía que “desarrollarme”, al decir de todos en casa.

El objeto de mi pasión tampoco pasaba por un modelo de belleza masculina. Era bajito, flaco y tirando a feo. Un tipo desgarbado, de pelo corto, a lo militar, y que ya empezaba ralearle. Luisa, a quien le confesé en secreto mi metedura con El Quique, me había dicho con una risotada:

—Ay, hija, pero si el tipo está malísimo. Y con esa ruleta en el güiro que tiene, en unos años se va a quedar más calvo que la rodilla de un viejo.

Para rematar, El Quique usaba unas camisas a cuatros azules o verdes que se consideraban el colmo del cheísmo, esto es, de la falta de gusto más elemental. De entre las veintitantas muchachitas de la clase, yo era quizás la única que lo encontraba sexy, como dirían aquí, o bueno, que era la palabra de moda en Cuba y que nada tenía que ver con la condición moral de la persona.

Pero el amor es ciego —o miope como yo. En tanto El Quique disertaba sobre la correspondencia entre las fuerzas productivas y las relaciones de producción, me imaginaba a los dos, a él y a mí, paseando del brazo por los largos pasillos de la secundaria, siempre olorosos al orine que salía de los baños, cuyas puertas de madera estaban carcomidas por los años y la humedad.

Nunca llegué a hacer realidad mis ensueños. Puede que El Quique me considerase su mejor alumna (procuraba sacar las más altas calificaciones en los exámenes para que se fijara en mí) pero estoy segura de que no se enteró de que lo adoraba en secreto con la misma pasión que Luisa profesaba por Delon y Yarmila por Lugosi. O si se dio cuenta, le importó cuatro pitos el descubrimiento. Vamos, no es que lo culpe: a más de tímida, flacucha y espejueluda, yo era en extremo desculada. Esta falta de uno de los mayores atractivos de la mujer criolla me colocaba en grave desventaja a la hora de atraer las miradas masculinas. De modo que, a diferencia de otras parejas de  alumnas y profesores, frecuentes en una escuela donde los maestros eran a veces solo ocho o diez años mayores que sus estudiantes, El Quique y yo nunca nos besuqueamos en uno de los huecos de las escaleras que daban a los entresuelos y que se conocían como los túneles de amor.

Así transcurrió mi noveno grado en la secundaria José Antonio Echeverría: metida con El Quique y añorando un mañana lejano e impreciso en que dejaría de ser flaca y tímida, cuando regresaría vestida de blanco y ya sin espejuelos en busca de mi antiguo maestro, a quien encontraría detenido en el tiempo, enseñando su clase de marxismo…y esperando por mí.

Esto sucedía a principios del año 80.

La Manzana de Gomez

Quince años después, en el 95, La Habana se debatía en medio del período especial, un tiempo surrealista en que los ómnibus se convirtieron en camellos y las íntimas en trapos viejos. La carne de res se transmutó en pasta de oca y el pan con algo en pan sin nada. La falta de vitaminas nos volvió más pálidos que el personaje de Lugosi y muchos cines cerraron a cal y canto sus pantallas; no había electricidad para Abbot, Costello, Delon o sus sucesores en el favor del público y de las fancitas.

El verbo resolver se conjugaba mucho en esos tiempos. Se resolvía (o no) jabón de baño, un pollo, un par de zapatos o una botella de aceite para cocinar. Se resolvía con dólares, porque el peso cubano había perdido lo que El Quique llamaba su valor de cambio y la moneda extranjera (que además era ilegal, aunque todo el mundo la usaba) comenzó a determinar la correspondencia entre las fuerzas productivas y las relaciones de producción.

Yo había “resuelto” mi problema del período especial y la obtención de dólares de una manera muy pragmática: me había casado con un californiano y aquel mes de diciembre de 1995 ya tenía el pasaje para San Diego. Me había librado de los espejuelos con armadura de pasta, sustituyéndolos por lentes de contacto, y miraba feliz al mundo detrás de unas coquetonas gafas Persol moradas, muy ligeras, que me había regalado mi marido. Era menos tímida que en mi época de adolescente, pero seguía siendo bajita, flacucha y desculada. Al llegar a Estados Unidos me enteraría de que en este país los culos grandes no vuelven locos a los hombres, tema que documenté alegremente en mi cuento El retrato astral. Pero allá en Cuba me encontraba en desventaja, y aquello de que me matrimoniara con un extranjero había puesto rojas de rabia a mis amigas y enemigas.

Como me espetara en mi propia cara la Luisa, graduada de francés en la facultad de Lenguas Extranjeras: “Dios le da barba al que no tiene quijá”. Yarmila fue más gráfica: sustituyó barba por marido y quijá por culo. No les guardo rencor. Luisa soltaba los tacones de sus puyas punzó paseando el Malecón noche a noche, esperando encontrarse con un francés que le recordara a Alain Delon, pero lo que pescó fue una gonorrea que le trasmitió un sesentón nativo de Belice. Yarmila había dejado su puesto en el Hospital Amejeiras para trabajar como cocinera en un restaurancito clandestino donde “resolvía” diez dólares a la semana a cambio de pasarse ocho horas cada día friendo hamburguesas tintas en sangre, hechas con carne de conejo, de gato o lo que se terciara. Se comprende que ninguna de las dos estuviera de humor para andar repartiendo parabienes.

Para entonces la escuela secundaria José Antonio Echeverría había desaparecido. En los bajos de la Manzana de Gómez había dos tiendas y una cafetería por dólares; los altos estaban ocupados por oficinas y me parece recordar que había empezado a funcionar una escuela de idiomas en uno de sus pisos. Yo no pasaba por el lugar desde hacía varios años, pero cuando mi comadre (que ya era mi comadre) me pidió que la acompañara a hacer una gestión allí, sin pensarlo dos veces le respondí que sí.

No sé por qué lo hice. Nunca he sido sentimental y tampoco guardaba recuerdos precisamente agradables de mi época de secundaria. Fue el frío de la tarde de invierno, el aburrimiento tal vez… Al bajar las escaleras del edificio donde las dos vivíamos, escuchamos una canción proveniente de la grabadora de una vecina. Era la voz de Willie Nelson que cantaba “I’d trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday”. Traduje mentalmente “cambiaría todos mis mañanas por un solo ayer”.

Me eché a reír. Nunca se me hubiera ocurrido cambiar mañanas por ayeres, aunque los mañanas en lontananza no se anunciaran con sonrisas de cumpleaños. La gente recordaba con nostalgia los años en que se podía comprar un cake de merengue en Centro, la antigua tienda Sears, sin la libreta de racionamiento, o comerse un pargo asado en El Emperador pagando con pesos cubanos, ambas cosas del todo imposibles en los noventa. (En los duros noventa, cualquier tiempo pasado era mejor.) Pero, de todas formas, yo me iba. Mis mañanas no estaban en La Habana sino en aquella ciudad con un nombre tan español, San Diego, en la distante California.

Dios me había dado barba a falta de quijá.

Llegamos a la Habana Vieja. Mientras mi comadre hacía cola frente una oficina del segundo piso de la Manzana, a mí se me ocurrió subir a donde estuviera la secundaria. Se me antojaba ver de nuevo, y acaso por última vez, las aulas y pasillos en que habían transcurrido tres años de mi juventud.

Me coloqué las gafas en la cabeza, a modo de diadema, lo que en mi opinión me hacía parecer chic y evitaba el tener que guardarlas en la bolsa, donde no se podían lucir. (Unas gafas Persol, durante los noventa en Cuba, constituían algo así como un título de nobleza pacotillera.)

Subí las escaleras ya sin temor a tropezones. Lázaro había muerto; los elevadores estaban clausurados por falta de piezas de repuesto. Sentada en un descanso, una vigilante —CVP las llamaban— ocupada en limarse las uñas, no advirtió mi presencia.

En el cuarto piso no había ni un alma. Anduve aula tras aula, pasillo tras pasillo, sorprendida de encontrar silenciosos y desiertos aquellos sitios que recordaba repletos de muchachos gritones. Ni aún los baños olían; al acercarme a uno noté que estaba clausurado también. Una nata de insectos muertos alfombraba los escalones que conducían a los túneles de amor. Se respiraba el polvo acumulado. Aunque era poco después del mediodía, los corredores estaban envueltos en penumbras. En el aire flotaba un humo gris.

La ambientación perfecta para una película de Lugosi.

Nerviosa, me dispuse a regresar a las oficinas. Fue entonces cuando escuché por primera vez un rumor de voces. Caminé un par de metros y me encontré ante un aula llena de estudiantes en uniforme de secundaria. Frente a ellos peroraba una figura que me pareció vagamente familiar.

Sorprendida, examiné la clase desde el pasillo. En la primera fila había una muchacha que llevaba espejuelos con armadura de pasta y mordisqueaba un lápiz mocho. Tenía los ojos fijos en el maestro. Este era un tipo desgarbado, de pelo corto, a lo militar, y que ya empezaba a ralearle.

Aquel hombre no podía ser El Quique. En primer lugar, porque la secundaria no existía, y en segundo, porque en tres lustros mi antiguo maestro debía de haber cambiado algo, al menos su vestuario. ¡Si hasta llevaba una de aquellas camisas a cuadros azules, de las que habían desaparecido también con el adviento del período especial! Además, lucía de treinta años, cuando en realidad andaría por los cincuenta y pico largos. No, aquel hombre no podía ser El Quique.

Pero lo era.

Retrocedí y me apoyé en la pared. Me restregué los ojos y estuve a punto de sacarme el lente izquierdo de su sitio. Las piernas me temblaban tanto que rocé con las rodillas el borde del vestido. No era el de Claudia Cardinale en El Gatopardo pero daba el plante: era de afuera, como se le llamaba a todo lo que no provenía de Cuba. Y también era blanco, como el de mis ensueños, con apliques de muselina en el escote.

Aquella era la magia en los tiempos del hambre, la oportunidad de satisfacer un antiguo anhelo tantas veces acariciado… Di un paso hacia el aula, pero me detuve a medio camino y me fijé mejor en el objeto de mi metedura de adolescente. ¡Qué desgarbado era, qué flacucho, qué feo! Me llevé las manos a la cabeza y rocé las gafas Persol. Casi sin darme cuenta, me las puse. La oscuridad de sus cristales, sin embargo, no favoreció al Quique, que me pareció más delgado e insignificante que nunca. Luisa tenía razón: la ruleta en el güiro le cogía la mitad del cráneo.

El encanto de aquel pasado amor se hizo pedazos entre dos oraciones sobre las fuerzas productivas y las relaciones de producción.

Salí corriendo rumbo a la escalera. Por el camino advertí que los pasillos habían comenzado a poblarse. En uno de los túneles de amor descubrí a Luisa abrazada a un Alain Delon idéntico al afiche que adornaba su cuarto. Más allá, junto a la puerta del baño clausurado vi a Drácula, es decir, a Lugosi, morderle la garganta a Yarmila, que con los ojos cerrados como Lénore Aubert en la comedia americana, suspiraba contenta y lo dejaba hacer. Vi a mi comadre abrazar a Los Beatles, en ordenada sucesión, empezando por John Lennon y acabando por Ringo Starr. Vi a una chica colgada del brazo de Alfredito Rodríguez, y más allá a otra besuqueando al mismo galán —un caleidoscopio de Alfreditos melenudos y en traje había aparecido de improviso en los corredores antes desiertos de lo que fuera la escuela secundaria José Antonio Echeverría.

Dejé escapar un grito y me abrí paso a codazos y patadas por entre aquella multitud de pesadilla tropical. Pasé como un bólido ante la vigilante, que esta vez me soltó un oiga, compañera, dígame a dónde va con voz de comegente pero no me detuve. Seguí corriendo hasta llegar, sin aliento y despeluzada, al segundo piso.

Las oficinas estaban cerradas. Mi comadre no andaba por allí. No había nadie. Bajé el último tramo de la escalera de mármol sintiendo el latido de la sangre en las sienes como el retumbar de un tambor a ritmo de mozambique.

En el Parque Central ya se habían encendido las farolas. Alguien me dijo que eran las siete de la noche. Según mi cuenta, yo no había permanecido en el cuarto piso más de quince minutos, pero de acuerdo a los relojes del resto del mundo habían pasado cinco horas.

Mi comadre, a quien llamé por teléfono desde uno público, que por milagro funcionaba junto al cine Payret, estaba preocupada por mi desaparición, y molestísima conmigo. Había regresado a su apartamento después de esperarme tres horas.

—¿Y ti qué coño te pasó? ¿Se puede saber dónde estabas?

No sé qué excusa le inventé, o si no dije nada. Recuerdo que colgué el auricular,  volví al Parque Central y me dejé caer en un banco hasta que uno de los camellos que habían sustituido a la ruta 65, jadeante y echando humo por el tubo de escape, se detuvo ante mí.

Ya “resuelto” el transporte, cerré los ojos detrás de mis gafas Persol. Me diluí en la masa compacta y sudorosa que me rodeaba y no volví a mirar al exterior hasta que intuí que había llegado a la parada del hospital de Emergencias. (Había hecho tantas veces el trayecto que podía calcularlo sin mirar por las ventanillas.) Subí en silencio el tramo de escaleras que llevaba a mi apartamento, con piernas que me temblaban por el inusitado sube y baja a que las había sometido aquella tarde. Mi vecina, que cuando la cogía con un casete no dejaba de escucharlo durante horas, seguía todavía a vueltas con Willie Nelson.

I’d trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday.

“Yo no lo haría”, pensé. “Cualquier tiempo futuro tiene que ser mejor.”

Me quité las gafas y las guardé en mi bolsa antes de abrir la puerta.

No había vuelto a recordar al Quique ni al incidente de la secundaria hasta el día de hoy, cuando encontré unas gafas Persol, moradas y ligeras, en una tienda de segunda mano aquí en Taos.

Two small inns channel the true spirit of Taos

Bantam Roost

Originally published in Taos Summer Guide, a Taos News publication

Casa Gallina: rustic charm meets comfort

When guests arrive at Casa Gallina for a stay in one of its five cozy casitas, they can expect to be welcomed by a bottle of wine and a tray of ham, cheese, olives and other hors-d’oeuvres prepared by proprietor Richard Spera, who has created a charming nest for the visitors.

Casa Gallina is an “artisan inn” which offers with Fair Trade certified products like coffee, soaps and chocolates. The kitchen is stocked with USDA certified organic ingredients and local products, and the grounds are often watered by a nearby acequia.

The property is only a five minute drive to Taos Plaza.

All the casitas boast splendid views of Taos Mountain. They are decorated with art, antiques, and furnishings by local artists—a few pieces are also available for sale. They all have a fully equipped kitchen and a Kiva fireplace or wood burning stove.

Barred Rock Adobe

“Each casita has a wireless laptop computer, high-speed WiFi, satellite TV, DVD player, and a music and speaker system,” said Spera. “This is indeed a pastoral setting but you’ll still be connected to the world.”

Guests are encouraged to pick from the herb and vegetable gardens—carrot, celery, spinach and many other fresh veggies will be available this summer. There are strawberry and raspberry patches and two apple orchards.

Las gallinas de la casa —the hens of the house

The “girls” (the hens that lend its name to the property) inhabit an ample chicken coop in the yard. They provide eggs every morning —in exchange, they are happy to feast on scraps offered by the guests.

“Leftovers from the restaurants are their favorites,” Spera said.

The flock started with just six chickens and keeps getting larger each spring. There are now over thirty happy and healthy hens presided over by Big Daddy, an Araucana / Rhode Island red rooster.

The studio—a communal space

Spera recently opened a studio at Casa Gallina, a stunningly beautiful space with a wood floor. It can hold between ten and twenty people.
“We had been having more gatherings and retreats here so I realized that I needed a communal space to do group work in,” Spera said. “Every week we use it for tango classes and yoga sessions. It also makes Casa Gallina a great destination to host small workshops or retreats.”

He will be hosting yoga, meditation and women retreats, as well as tango workshops. In the meantime, complimentary yoga classes are offered to all the Casa Gallina guests, courtesy of the house and Shree Yoga Studio.

Palacio de Marquesa—a homage to remarkable women of Taos

Palacio de Marquesa, formerly Casa de las Chimeneas, is just an easy walk from Taos Plaza.

Each one of its eight rooms has a unique identity. They were named after famous women artists who once made Taos their home—Martha Reed, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gene Kloss, Mabel Dodge Lujan, Agnes Martin, Dorothy Brett, and Millicent Rogers, with two rooms dedicated to her—the Socialite Suites I and II.

The iconic ladies became the inspiration for interior designer Adriana Long, who, while keeping the inn’s southwestern charm and original New Mexico art, also added contemporary touches like walk-in marble showers, heated floors, and flat screen TVs to every room.

“We offer our guests the best of two worlds,” said Palacio de Marquesa resident general manager Chad Ozment. “We also have a beautifully landscaped high-desert garden, with trees, fountains and plenty of places to sit and relax.”

Palacio de Marquesa is a romantic getaway. It was chosen among the twenty-five best honeymoon resorts under $200 a night by Destination Wedding Magazine.

Guests get to enjoy a gourmet, made-to-order breakfast in the community room or delivered to their room—in a basket.

Spa services like Reiki, Swedish and therapeutic massages are available too.

In case you are traveling with four-legged companions, Palacio de Marquesa is a pet friendly place.

Local treasures

Palacio de Marquesa is in partnership with several local businesses. Through the “Local Treasures” program guests get a discount coupon card good for fifteen percent off many restaurants, like The Gorge restaurant and Martyrs Steakhouse, as well as shops, galleries and other attractions.

They also offer a New Mexico resident discount and a number of packages.

“Out Museum of Taos Package includes tickets to five museums and allows visitors to explore the town’s rich cultural past,” Ozment said. “For those who love the great outdoors, Lunch with a Llama Wilderness Experience is a must have. The llama carries all the gear and a gourmet lunch is prepared right on the trek. Whatever you decide to do, here at Palacio de Marquesa we will help you create lasting memories of your stay in Taos.”

Casa Gallina is located at 609/613 Callejon, Taos, New Mexico

Phone: 575-758-2306

Palacio de Marquesa is located at 405 Cordoba Road.

Phones: 575-758-4777 and 855-846-8267

Margaret Palmer: “flowers are the best gifts of all”

Originally published in Taos News

Image taken from Margaret Palmer’s website

Many people know florist Margaret Palmer as “the Taos flower diva.” The name, she feels, is quite appropriate.

“It may have something to do with the fact that my Italian mother was actually an opera singer,” she said. “And I used to sing, too. I consider myself a diva, not in the ‘big ego’ sense, but because I like to organize corporate events and elaborate weddings and I enjoy making everything perfect and unique.”

She does “flowers for all occasions”—from weddings, anniversaries, quinceañeras, Bar Mitzvahs and baptisms to memorials and funerals.

“Flowers usually go together with significant events in people’s lives,” she said. “Some strong memories are associated with the sense of smell. You may not remember the first present you got, but you are likely to remember the very first flowers you received, and the impression they made on you.”

Found by Taos

“Taos found us, really,” was Palmer’s answer to my usual question about her moving here. “My husband worked in a Native American community in California.  Taos Pueblo recruited him to come to New Mexico. We immediately fell in love with this town because we had always wanted to raise our children in a beautiful, safe and small community. It was perfect.”

They moved to Taos sixteen years ago and have never looked back.

“My son and my daughter both graduated from Taos High School and are now attending or graduated from UNM in Albuquerque,” Palmer said.

A long floral journey

Margaret Palmer Floral Design was opened in July 2014. It was the first time that a business carried her name, but Palmer has been making flower arrangements for the past twenty-six years.

“I love flowers,” she said. “I began my career working with Lerry Cisneros, who was my mentor, in southern California in 1988. Because of my many years of experience I can create a bouquet or put together a corsage on a whim, but I also like to take my time and make sure that the flowers reflect my clients’ tastes and preferences.”

After settling in Taos, Palmer worked for several local florists. She was in charge of the flower department at Red Cat Melissiana, where she created arrangements for weddings, baptisms and other special occasions.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” she said. “When Melissa decided to close the store, I knew it was time for me to set up my own business. I wanted flowers to continue being part of my life and I like working with people so my business was born.”

Choosing the right flowers

Before she starts creating flower arrangements for a wedding, Palmer spends time interviewing the bride and groom (and sometimes other family members) about their vision.

“That’s where people skills come in,” she said. “I listen to what they say and to what they don’t say: facial expressions and body language are very important here. I find out how they meet… I learn more about them than their flower preferences. We discuss options, too. When it isn’t possible to get certain flowers fresh, because of the season, I suggest others of similar color and look.”

Patience and hard work

Palmer loves working with flowers and interacting with her clients.

“I wouldn’t like to do anything else,” she says. “But let’s make it clear: a floral business is hard work.”

It all starts by ordering the flowers, cleaning them, and then creating the arrangements, which may take up to ten hours or more a day for big events.

“People can’t imagine how much time it takes to make intimate personal flowers,” she said. “You need lots of patience and creativity!”

Palmer works with wedding coordinators and other service providers and always gets in touch with them before the event.

She also delivers the flowers to the location of the ceremony and usually stays there to make sure that everything goes well.

“I don’t just drop the flowers and leave,” she said. “I love looking at the bride’s face when she sees the bouquet. Her happy smile makes all my hard work worthwhile.”

She has also created arrangements for funerals.

“Funeral work can be very personal and emotional,” she said. “This is the last chance to get it right for someone you love.”

Volunteer work: flowers for the Ice Tigers

Palmer’s son and daughter played sports, including hockey with the Taos High School Ice Tigers, for over fifteen years. She enjoyed being a team mom and a team manager.

“I am a big-event person so I organized the banquets after the competitions and chose everything, from the menu to the awards and the flower arrangements,” she said. “It was a lot of effort but I thought that, after so many months of practice, these kids deserved a special recognition, something better than pizza and sodas.”

Wedding tips from the Taos Flower Diva

Start early so you have plenty of time to decide what you want.

Let your personality shine through in all the details. It’s your big day, not anybody else’s!

In the process, remember to be kind and loving to each other.

Flowers for no reason (before and after the wedding) are the best gifts of all.

Happy clients

“Margaret is the most creative florist in town,” said Dan Wardlow. “When Joe and I got married she did all the flowers for our wedding, from the centerpieces to the corsages and boutonnieres, and everything was a true work of art. She was delightful to work with, the day of the event and before.”

To find out more about Margaret Palmer visit or call 575-741-0408.

Image taken from Margaret Palmer’s website

A night of jazz and poetry closes tribute to Peter Rabbit

Petter Rabbit and Anne MacNaughton

Originally published in Tempo, Taos News

“Beats & Bebop—A Poetry-Jazz Tribute to Peter Rabbit” concluded with a grand finale at Taos Mesa Brewing on Friday April 10th.

The evening started when several former members of the jazz and poetry ensemble “Luminous Animal” took the stage by storm.

Steve Rose, a member of the Poetry Circus founded by Peter Rabbit and Anne MacNaughton in 1982, emceed the poetic part of the event. He also recited some of his own poetry.

Amalio Madueño, who used to host the “Mexican Bob” poetry workshops at the Taos Poetry Circus, recited a bilingual poem entitled “Dia de la Santa Muerte” dedicated to Bill Gersh.

Eric Gladstone, the Taos Jazz Bebop Society founder, read a poem by Lenny Bruce, “Psychopathia Sexualis,” that made the audience laugh out loud.

Anne MacNaughton read two pieces by Peter Rabbit, “Self Portrait” and “Material World,” and some of her own poems.

At different moments of the event MacNaughton and Gladstone wore a hat that belonged to Peter Rabbit.

“And it was a very nice hat,” said audience member Mike Beck. “That was a really cool idea.”

The event was a presentation of the Taos Jazz Bebop Society.

The music

Traveling jazz master and saxophonist extraordinaire Greg Abate, who comes to Taos at least once a year, was there to the delight of his many fans. His quartet, with Abate on saxophone, Andy Zadrozny on bass, John Rangel on piano, and Pete Amahl on drums, played several songs from Abate’s new album, “Motif.” Among them were “Snowfall” and “Morning of the Leaves” as well as some new pieces like “The Waltzing Panda” and timeless classics like “Confirmation.”

“I love coming to Taos and always have such a great time playing here,” said Abate. “I want to thank Tempo for letting people know that I was going to be here. That really means a lot.”

He will be back on June 19th at the Taos Inn for another jazz night.

Back to the good old times

When the event was over, the audience lingered to talk to the musicians, poets, friends and total strangers.

There was a sense of community in the room that reminded audience member Thea Sandoval of times past.

“I’ve lived here since the early sixties, when everybody knew each other,” she said. “Later we had that great music and the poetry slams during the beatnik days. Those were good times.”

But are those good ol’ days over? Maybe not, according to Steve Rose, who also remembers them quite well.

“I am fortunate to be old enough to remember the beatnik era and all the jazz and poetry fusion that was going on then,” he said. “Yes, that was fun. Now, where are we? I think we are at the brink of something here in Taos…I don’t know exactly what it is, but it is something good.”

“This is about bringing good music and good poetry to all the people, young and old,” said local filmmaker Jean Stevens, who produced “A Tale of Two Poets,” a film about the Taos Poetry Circus which contains interviews with Peter Rabbit and MacNaughton. “That’s what we did back then and what made Taos a mecca for poets and musicians. Tonight was like a snippet of what it used to be every summer. I hope that it goes on and we can enjoy more events like this one from now on.”

“It was like a reincarnation of ‘Luminous Animal,’” said Madueño. “I became part of it in 1995 when Bill Gersh invited me, that’s why I devoted my poem to him. I am happy to be here tonight, sharing these happy memories.”

“The whole evening felt like watching a house being built and then finding yourself inside before you knew it,” said audience member and jazz enthusiast Shawna Williams. “Such an energetic show!”

Poetry and jazz

Rose praises the confluence of jazz and poetry as one of the greatest coming together of art forms in the history of mankind.

“It goes back to The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, with Steve Allen and Jack Kerouac performing together,” he said, “when writers used the rhythms and freedom of jazz in their poetry.”

“April is National Poetry Month and National Jazz Month so the event, besides being a tribute to Peter, was also timely in that respect,” said MacNaughton. “I was impressed with the amount of people who showed up and came from so many different cities. I am grateful for all the support we have had.”

“It was a great show,” said Judy Katzman, who belongs to the Taos Jazz Bebop Society. “Jazz and poetry are as riveting and relevant today as they were fifty years ago.”