Chef Horton: Hot food, cold beer, good wine

Horton cuts

It’s Sunday, around 6 p.m. and all hands are busy at Common Fire. People are filling the restaurant, partly because it’s the Fourth of July weekend, but also because Chef Horton’s creations are quickly gaining recognition among Taos foodies.

Originally published in Taos news

Photos: Katharine Egli

Common Fire Chef de Cuisine Andrew Horton grew up outside Boulder, Colorado. His first encounter with the food business took place in a Mexican restaurant, where he began washing dishes when he was fourteen years old. He later became a line cook, and, wanting to advance professionally, he attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan from 2008 to 2009.

After graduation, Horton went on to work at a variety of restaurants in New York City. Among the chefs that he considers the most influential of his career are Dennis Spina at the Roebling Tea Room, Homer Murray at River Styx, and Kevin Adey at the Northeast Kingdom and Faro.

“I love New York but I got tired of living in a small apartment that cost two thousand dollars a month,” Horton said. “I longed to return to nature and be close to the mountains. Two years ago, I came to Taos to visit a friend. Well, I ended up falling in love with a girl, getting a puppy and enjoying the place so much that I decided to stay.”

He worked at the Taos Mesa Brewing, Lambert’s and Sabroso’s. It was at Sabroso’s where he met Common Fire owner Andy Lynch, who invited him to become part of the venture.

“I’m very happy I did because I have never worked with a better culinary team in my entire career,” he said. “I am really excited about what we are bringing to the local community and what the local community is bringing to us.”

So what is Common Fire bringing to Taos’ collective table?

Chef Horton thinks for a while before answering, “Hot food, cold beer, good wine.”

The Chef’s favorites

The restaurant menu changes often, depending on what “Above Sea Level” fish is available in Santa Fe and the fresh local produce.

“Our cheese selection comes from Cheesemongers of Santa Fe and it also varies every week or so,” Horton said.

As for regular dishes, he always tries to have the pork and noodle soup, created just for people who crave a light but satisfying meal.

He also likes to cook large pieces of meat, particularly heritage pork from Kyzer Farms.

If he is invited to a party and asked to bring an appetizer, Chef Horton is quite likely to come up with steak tartare.

“That’s finely chopped raw beef, served on bread with some kind of mayonnaise,” he said. “Easy to make and delicious.”

Every chef has a favorite tool. Horton loves his knives, of course, but when I asked him to name something else, he mentioned a cheese cloth.

“It has many more uses, besides straining cheese,” he explained. “You can make butter with it. You can also use it to wrap up sachets of fresh herbs and spices and put them into soups and stocks. It’s one of the most versatile items in my repertoire.”

Chefs work long hours and don’t have much free time. Horton is no exception, but when he has a chance to watch TV, he tunes in to Chef’s Table.

“It’s a very intimate look into a chef’s life and work,” he said. “Argentinean chef Francis Mallmann is one of the best!”

No smoke and mirrors

Common Fire has an open kitchen with a hearth—and that’s pretty much it.

“We don’t have a sauté station or a deep fryer,” Horton said. “Everything that is cooked here comes out of our hearth. People can see exactly what the chef is doing. No smoke and mirrors—what you see is what you get.”

The hearth itself is reminiscent of an horno, a traditional way of cooking in this area. Chef Horton loves it, and also the fact that his hands are always “close to the flames.”  That goes along well with his cooking philosophy, which is based on simplicity, quality ingredients and seasonality.

“I believe that simple dishes are the best,” he said. “I like rustic cooking and food that looks as if it had fallen from a tree and into a plate.”

Like most chefs, Horton enjoys making people happy with food.

“Everybody has to eat, right?” he said. “But if we can add a bit of excitement to that daily process, that makes a great difference in the way we approach eating. When I see a sparkle in people’s eyes after they finished a dish that I have prepared thoughtfully, that’s as good as it gets for me.”

What patrons are saying

“The food here is excellent and the hospitality is equally impressive,” said Chris Mixson. “A wood burning oven is always great in the hands of a proper chef.”

“And Horton is a wonderful one,” said Gerry Katz. “Everything was delicious, from the broccolini croissant to the wine.”

Common Fire Scallion Ginger Sauce

Ingredients:

2 and ½ cups of thinly sliced scallions

1 ½ cup of finely minced fresh ginger

¼ cup of grapeseed oil or any neutral oil

1 ½ teaspoon of light soy sauce

¾ tablespoon of cherry vinegar

Salt to taste

Preparation:

Whisk everything together.

Chef Horton uses this very versatile rustic vinaigrette in the bo’ssam but it is also a great salad dressing and finishing sauce.

Common Fire's hearth

 

 

Posted in culinary arts, Taos News | Tagged , , ,

A second chance at romance

Where there was fire, ashes remain, an old Spanish saying goes. Sandra “Zandi” Richardson and Runno Sarv proved that rekindling the flame isn’t that difficult, after all.

Originally published by Taos News (Taos Wedding Guide)

Photos courtesy of Zandi Richardson

Richardson and Sarv met at a Christmas party in 1980 in Sydney, Australia.

“When I looked across the room and saw this handsome guy, I asked a friend to introduce him to me,” Richardson said. “But my friend didn’t think we would fit together. He was ‘the capitalist who owned the hotel we were in’ and I was a spirited free-lance filmmaker. I had a red afro and wore hippie clothes while he looked like a businessman, so we did look like an unlikely couple.”

However, they got married a year later at the same place where they had met.

“I then inherited two girls, his daughters, who were 14 and 16,” Richardson said. “Though it was challenging at first, with time and love they became my family too.”

After nearly 10 years, the marriage didn’t work out. Despite some common interests and the fun they had traveling together to places like Bhutan, Thailand, Africa and India, the couple split up in 1991.

Long distance reconnection

Twenty-two years later, they reconnected through a mutual friend. Sarv was still living in Sydney, while Richardson was happily settled in Taos. The first time we got on the phone, after so many years, they talked for three hours.

They carried on an over-the-phone relationship for several months and eventually skyped, too. But personal contact was the next step.

He invited her to visit him again in Australia. She accepted. A couple of months later, they went traveling together again, to Jordan and Ethiopia.

“We both realized that traveling was one thing we had always enjoyed together,” he said.

In 2012 Sarv came over for Christmas and fell in love with Taos. He also found out that he was very much in love with Richardson— again.

The right place to propose

A few months later Sarv invited Richardson to go to India with the intention of proposing to her at The Taj Mahal

“What’s more romantic than asking the woman of your dreams to marry you at The Taj Mahal?” he asked.

However, the day before, in Jaipur, they went into a jewelry shop and he realized that this was a very appropriate place to pop the question.

“When I looked at him, he was on his knee asking, ‘Will you marry me–again?” Richardson recalls with an impish smile. “After I said ‘yes,’ all our fellow travelers began to applaud. It was quite a scene.”

He bought her a traditional Indian engagement ring right there. When they returned to Australia, he had another ring custom-made for her.

“So now I have two engagement rings from him…perfect for the second time around!” she said.

Marriage and maturity

They both agree that it is fun and energizing to be with someone “who is on the same wavelength and who really knows you.”

In the end, they decided that they belonged together. That was why they remarried in Taos on September 22nd, 2013.

“A marriage needs to be based on acceptance,” Sarv said. “Sandi and I are very different persons. She is very spiritual. I am not. We used to debate that a lot. Now she has a personal altar and her prayer flags …and I am happy for her. I don’t try to change her and she doesn’t try to change me.”

“That’s maturity,” Richardson says. “And maturity comes with age. We have learned to accept and appreciate, even love, our differences.”

Of course, they need to have some things in common too.

“For example, it was important for me that he liked Taos,” said Richardson. “And essential that he got along with my five cats.”

“I am a dog person,” he said. “But I enjoy cats too. I am adaptable.”

The best part of round two

“When people are dating, they don’t get to know the real person,” said Sarv. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are pretending to be nicer or smarter, but they are showing only their best face. Living together is the only way to really get to know someone. Well, Sandi and I had already done that so there were no nasty surprises.”

Another plus: living with someone you already know is comfortable, Richardson added.

“It’s like wearing a good pair of slippers…they are so cozy and nice,” she said. “The second time around, there is never that kind of awkwardness that you often experience with the ‘new person’ in your life.”

Love in two continents

Richardson and Sarv look forward to traveling together more. But they don’t plan to spend every minute together. Not yet, at least.

“I wouldn’t like to live full-time in the United States just yet,” he said. “I have my family and my business in Australia. I just can’t drop everything and move here.”

“And I wouldn’t like to live full-time in Sydney,” Richardson said. “I am happy to go back for a while and spend time with his daughters and his ninety-nine year-old mother, who are still very much my family. But I also love my life and friends and home here in Taos.”

That means spending lots of money on plane tickets.

“Our love is worth it,” Sarv said.

Do they have any advice to couples who have found out, like them, that the grass isn’t greener on the other side?

“Practice unconditional love, instead of trying to change the other person,” Richardson said. “Don’t hold onto old grievances. Let them go and accept the other person for whom he or she is. Enjoy the differences and enjoy life.”

 

Posted in Taos News | Tagged , , ,

Cooking with your hands, your mind and your heart at Ranchos Plaza Grill

Adam Medina

Taos-born and raised Adam Medina grew up in a family that loved to cook.

“My father was a chef and had a catering business for many years,” he said. “I often helped him so my culinary training started early.”

Story and pictures originally published in Taos News. Photos: Katharine Egli

Medina was originally interested in medicine and did several internships with Dr. Cetrulo and Dr. Vigil at Holy Cross Hospital while he was in high school.

He started UNM in 1991 and thought of attending pre-med school later on.

“But after three semesters, I found out I wasn’t all that interested in medicine,” he said. “I realized cooking was my calling, so I moved to California to attend Los Angeles Culinary Institute.”

He graduated in 1994 and came back to Taos.

“I wanted to research New Mexican culinary traditions before accepting any long-term jobs elsewhere,” he said.

Medina went to work with his father as a sous chef at the Holiday Inn. As part of his research project on Southwest cooking, he interviewed many community elders like Corina Santistevan.

“I learned so much from them,” he said. “That was a great experience and I still remember and apply their teachings.”

The restaurant

Ever since Medina was a child, his parents talked about opening their own restaurant.

“It was always there as a possibility,” he said. “One day we noticed that the equipment of a restaurant was for sale and decided to give it a try. We bought it and opened the restaurant, which was the Ranchos Plaza Grill, in July 2000.”

Soon, the gallery next to it closed and the Medina family also got that space.

“We tripled the size of the restaurant!” Medina said. “It was a risky move, because, without a beer and wine license, we didn’t have a lot of business at first. There were nights when we served only one or two tables.”

The first two years, he admits, were the most difficult.

“We even put the restaurant up for sale once, because we didn’t know if we would be able to keep it,” he said. “It was tough.”

A family-friendly space

People kept telling them that they needed to apply for a beer and wine license if they wanted to make it in the business. Because of their proximity to the Saint Francis Church, there was a legal process they had to follow in order to get the license.

“We could have gotten it; the priest would have agreed to give us a waiver,” Medina said. “But in the end we preferred to keep it family-friendly. We wanted to be known for the quality of our food, which, in my opinion, is very high. Time proved us right. Fifteen years later, we are doing better than ever and we still don’t have a beer and wine license.”

A Southwestern-style menu

Medina describes the restaurant’s menu as southwestern style focusing on native New Mexican ingredients and cooking methods.

“Our chile, red and green, is the staple that encompasses our cuisine,” he said. “We also have salads, sandwiches, and our famous sopapillas.”

Another popular item is the carne adovada. Traditionally, it is made with marinated cube pork with chile caribe that is cooked in the oven for three or four hours. But Medina slices the pork into medallions, marinates them and grills them.

“It is healthier this way, and tastes much better,” he said.

Keeping up the tradition

Medina’s son, Adam Medina Jr., was just accepted into the Culinary Institute of America.

“He knows firsthand what the life of a chef is like, and he is ready for it,” Medina said. “I always tell him, as well as my students and other people I work with, that as a chef you need your hands, your mind and your heart.”

Medina remembers that when he taught cooking classes he gave everybody the exact same recipe, and the result was different in each case.

“It depends on the energy and the love you put into it,” he said. “That reflects on the food—and the business. When patrons come back because they want exactly what you served them last time, prepared just the same way, then you know you are doing something right.”

He has some words of advice for people who like cooking at home.

“Cook what you like and the way you like to eat it,” he said. “And then enjoy it!”

A busy chef

Besides working at his restaurant, Medina collaborates with the High School Culinary Arts Program and teaches Culinary Business at UNM-Taos.

“I explain to my students what it takes to open a business and dealing with the insurance and all the policies that you have to follow,” he said. “Many times, after the class is over, they realize that they don’t want to open a business after all. This is hard work.”

He credits his wife of twenty-five years, Raelynn Medina, for the success he has experienced in business and in life.

“She is the restaurant manager and also supervises the front of the house, and makes sure the bills are paid on time,” he said. “And then she cooks at home.”

Medina also wants to thank the local patrons who have supported him throughout these fifteen years.

“Without them we wouldn’t be where we are now,” he said.

 

VENISON CHILE

 

2 lbs. venison meat, cut into 1 inch cubes

4 tbsp. flour

4 tbsp. lard

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ cup ground red chile (hot)

2 cups venison or veal stock

¾ tsp. salt

 

Dust venison meat in 2 tablespoon flour and brown all sides in 2 tbsp. lard.  Add onion and garlic and sauté lightly.  Add 2 tablespoon lard, 2 tablespoon flour and chile powder, combine and brown lightly.  Add stock, simmer for 45 minutes, adjust seasonings.

 

 

 

 

SOPAIPILLAS

 

2 cups flour

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

¾ cups water

1 tbsp. oil

 

 

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add oil and combine well, add water to make a soft dough.  Kneed briefly, rest dough for about 20-30 minutes.

 

Separate dough into 1 – ½ inch balls, roll on floured surface.  Cut into 4 pieces each.

 

Fry in hot oil (350°- 400°) until lightly browned on each side.  Place on paper towel to drain.

 

GREEN CHILE STEW

 

1 lb. diced pork

4 small potatoes, peeled and diced

2 ears roasted corn (preferably white) removed from cob

2 cups green chile – roasted, peeled, and diced

1 cup stewed tomatoes chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

3 cups pork stock

Salt and pepper

 

Brown pork in oil, then add potatoes and cook lightly, add onion and garlic, stir constantly to prevent sticking.  Drain excess fat, add 1-2 tablespoons flour to absorb remaining oil.  Add green chile, corn, tomatoes, and water.  Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes.  Season accordingly.

Adam Medina

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Bienvenidos a Taos

Image result for taos images

A classic ski resort, a historic art colony, a paradise for outdoorsy adventurers like river rafters and balloonists… Recently chosen by USA Today as one of the 10 Happiest Towns in the West… “A state of mind,” as D.H. Lawrence called it. Taos is all that, and more.

Originally published in Enchanted Homes, a publication of Taos News

Artsy, funky, magical and eclectic at the same time, it combines old-fashioned Southwestern hospitality with modern comforts and a touch of wilderness. You can stay in earthships to experience an off-the grid lifestyle or at a luxury hotel like El Monte Sagrado, that offers spa services (with holistic body and beauty treatments) and fine dining.

Its unique offerings of art, culture, food and traditions have earned Taos a reputation as one of the country’s most charming small towns.

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Downtown, the heart and soul of Taos

La Plaza de Taos is a vibrant gathering place where people go to see and be seen. La Fonda Hotel, right on the Plaza, houses the D. H. Lawrence Forbidden Art collection. The erotic paintings, which were considered obscene and banned in London when exhibited there, have been in Taos since the early 1920’s. The Taos Inn, just three blocks away from the Plaza, is on Travel America’s Top 10 Romantic Inns List and was named the “First Choice and Best Value in Taos” by Travel and Leisure.

The downtown area is also home to a number of shows and exhibits that take place throughout the year. The Taos Fall Arts Festival is held at Taos Convention Center. Founded in 1974, it is the oldest art festival in Taos and represents over 250 Taos County artists. Another popular fall event is the Wool Festival, where traditional and contemporary fiber artists meet in Kit Carson Park for demonstrations of shearing, spinning, dyeing and other wool related skills. Competitions, critters showcase and delicious food make it an unforgettable experience.

Las Fiestas de Taos is one of the biggest parties of the year, held to honor the patron saints of the town, Santiago and Santa Ana. Every July, it attracts hundreds of visitors who flock to the Plaza to enjoy traditional music and a historic parade presided by la Reina de Taos, the Fiesta queen.

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Arroyo Seco, high-altitude charm

The village of Arroyo Seco is a small, lively community located between Taos and Taos Ski Valley. At 7,634 feet of elevation, it has places to shop, eat, relax and worship—all walking distance from each other.

Arroyo Seco Mercantile carries “new stuff, old stuff and stuff you need,” which can be translated as silk Japanese kimonos, Peruvian rocks, Mexican piñatas, Guatemalan beaded bracelets, and a variety of Native American designer jewelry. On the folk side, Santos y Mas (Santos and More) sells paintings, retablos, crosses and nichos with a distinctive Taoseño flavor, as many of the pieces are made by local artists.

Across the street, Taos Cow, voted one of the top ten ice cream shops in America by Bon Appétit Magazine, serves a delicious, rBGH-free, all-natural ice cream, coffee drinks and homemade salads and soups. Next to it, Abe’s Cantina and Cocina, established in 1944, sells the best chicharrón burritos in Taos.

Not too far is the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Dating back to 1834, the old building is a masterpiece of traditional Taos architecture, with its adobe walls, heavy vigas and corbels. The new one, built to accommodate a growing congregation, has just dedicated the first Mary Garden in the Archdiocese, an area devoted to prayer and meditation. The garden is built around a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes recently repaired by local artist Ed Sandoval.

El Prado, a multicultural community

Among the many attractions available in this area (three miles north of the Plaza) the Overland Ranch Complex offers a little bit of everything. Envision Gallery is a showcase for the work of international, national, local and emerging artists. In the garden, the kinetic wind sculptures by Lyman Whitaker dance to the rhythms of nature, creating a visual sonata. Inside, it carries Sharyn Blaustein’s mixed media assemblages and monotypes by David Sullins plus the work of many more exceptional artists.

Tucked away next to the Overland Sheepskin Company, Japanese restaurant Sushi a la Hattori combines spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and surrounding pastures with fine, fresh sushi and delicious lunch bento-box specials.

Next to it, Ancient Rituals Apothecary, a medicine house/tea house, sells Eastern and Western herbs, medicinal and traditional teas, salves and oils. April Dunbar, the owner, is a graduate from the California College of Ayurveda and offers private consultations. A place to sit back, relax and catch some good vibes!

Another El Prado jewel is the Millicent Rogers Museum, one of America’s most important resources for the study of southwestern art and design.

Last but not least, if you are hungry for Spanish tapas, stop by Gutiz, a restaurant that offers Latin-French fusion cuisine, homemade bread and a cozy atmosphere.

 

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Biscochitos: a traditional New Mexico treat

 

biscochitos

The name comes from the Spanish word bizcocho used in its diminutive form, biscochito. But there is nothing “diminutive” about these spicy, anise-flavored cookies. They are utterly satisfying, and, like so many delicious treats, loaded with carbs. Their main ingredients are flour, sugar, baking powder, and lard.

Story originally published in Taos News

The history of biscochitos stretches back to Spain, where they are called mantecados, which makes sense, as manteca means lard. They arrived with the conquistadores during the 16th century and were quickly adopted in America under different names, depending on the region. In Cuba, a similar kind of cookie is known as tortica de Moron.

The French connection

Another story about the biscochitos’ origin places it in Mexico. Biscochitos are said to have been baked for the first time after Battle of Puebla in 1862, when the Mexicans overthrew Emperor Maximilian—their victory is celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo.

The biscochito, then, became a “commemorative cookie” for the Mexican troops.

Shapes and colors

Traditionally, biscochitos are shaped like a fleur-de-lis, but they can also be cut to look like bells, hearts, stars, ovals, and even chiles. Inspired bakers may even use food coloring to paint them red or green.

They are sugared by hand and then dusted with cinnamon. Soft and sweet, biscochitos melt in the mouth and are perfect to dunk in coffee or hot chocolate.

No Christmas without biscochitos

In the Southwest, biscochitos reign supreme among holidays’ sweets. They are often offered to the posadistas—the people who participate in Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration that re-enacts Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.

“There is no Christmas without biscochitos,” says Yolanda Ochoa, who bakes up at least three batches from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. “We share them with family, friends and strangers… Sometimes several of us make biscochitos the same week. Then, of course, we have to compare flavors and exchange recipes and tips. You always learn something new.”

Biscochitos are also served at weddings, quinceañeras, birthdays and graduations. They are all-purpose and all-season treats.

The Taos Herb biscochito contest

Every year in December Taos Herb Company sponsors a biscochito contest. The winner gets a $100 gift card to the store and two runner-ups receive gift bags.

Rob Hawley, Taos Herb Company owner, wants to keep the biscochitos tradition alive. He has been running the contest for five years now. There are usually ten judges who take into consideration the cookies’ texture, flavor and appearance to determine the winner. Some come from the Taos County Senior Program, and others, like Robert Graham, are professional bakers. They share a love for all things sweet.

Patricia Barela-Rael, a Talpa-based artist and the granddaughter of renowned santero Patrociño Barela, was the winner of last year’s contest.

“Making biscochitos always reminds me of my grandparents,” she said. “My grandma had her own recipe, but I added a few twists that my foster abuelas at the Senior Center taught me.”

Posted in culinary arts, Taos News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Aztec Dancers: Centuries-old tradition alive in Taos

Every July, right at the start of the Fiestas, a group of Aztec dancers perform in front of the St. Francis de Assisi Church in Ranchos de Taos.

Story originally published in Raíces, Taos News

A symphony of color, music and movement, la danza is a memorable event. In preparation for it, dancers and other members of the community take part in a vigil the night before, when they spend hours singing hymns (alabanzas), praying and spiritual cleansing (limpias) around an altar that has been covered in flowers, candles and mementos for the occasion.

“During the vigil, we offer prayers and blessings not only for our friends and relatives but also on a global level,” said Aztec dancer Deborah Gonzalez-Anglada.

The next morning, after participating in Mass and receiving the priest’s blessing, the dancers go outside the church and begin a ceremony that is as much performance as it is prayer.

“The Aztec dance is a prayer in action,” explains Tanya Vigil, the capitana or leader of the group. “It integrates the elements of cuicatl and xochitl (song and flower in Nahuatl). These two elements represent the connection that the Aztecs had with nature and the importance of music and rhythm in their culture.”

The dance is quite elaborate and each movement has a particular meaning.

“When the dancer imitates a serpent, that’s a reference to fertility as well as Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent worshipped by the Aztecs,” Vigil said. “The zigzag steps are reminiscent of water. Everything is highly symbolic.”

The group, called Izcalli In Nanantzin, also dances in other public and private events throughout the year.

Dancers in full regalia

When they perform, the dancers wear elaborate outfits made of colorful cloth, or, in some cases, animal skins. The women’s tunics are embroidered and ornamented with shells, seeds, and sequins. Some dresses also have small, delicately crafted pieces of mirrors sewn into the fabric. They represent the life force of the sun.

“As it happens with the dance movements, many of the ornaments have a particular meaning,” Vigil said. “The outfits are not costumes like those that people wear in Halloween, but ceremonial clothing. They can be expensive and dancers often make sacrifices to get the best attire they can afford.”

The headdresses are made of feathers of peacocks, pheasants, macaws, and other birds. They move in time to beating drums and create a hypnotic effect on dancers and spectators.

“The ankle rattles are also very important,” said Vigil. “They are covered with seeds and their cloc-cloc sound helps us keep the rhythm.”

The group’s Mexican roots

The first group of Aztec Dancers in the state of New Mexico was formed in Taos in 1981. Vigil was one of its founders and she called it “Grupo Taoseño.”

“At that time, I really didn’t know much about Aztec traditions,” she admits. “The idea of the group came to me like an inspiration, a sincere desire that I, and other dancers, had to practice these rituals that are part of our heritage. But we lacked real knowledge of the ceremonies and their meaning.”

That changed in 1986, when the group attended a traditional dance event at the Pima reservation in Phoenix, Arizona. It was there where Vigil met Capitan Moises Gonzalez Barrios, who became the group’s teacher and spiritual guide.

Gonzalez Barrios was from Mexico City. His family had practiced Aztec ceremonies for generations and he was well versed in them. For that reason, he was often invited to teach and dance in the United States.

Yet he felt “very disappointed” by the fact that many dance groups here didn’t follow the correct protocol for ceremonies.

“I explained to him that we did the best we could,” Vigil said. “We weren’t fakes, but we needed schooling. He was very understanding and took Grupo Taoseño under his wing. It was the best thing that ever happened to us.”

A few months later, he invited the Taos dancers to the city of Queretaro, so they could learn the dances and traditions in a place where they had been preserved for hundreds of years.

“With that trip, we began a journey of faith that continues today,” Vigil said.

The association of the group with the Mesa Central de Queretaro (the local headquarters of the Aztec dancers in that region) was a crucial step for the further development of the Taoseño dancers.

Upon receiving instruction from the Mesa Central de Queretaro, which included many of the songs and steps they use today, their leaders gave “Grupo Taoseño” an estandarte, a banner that they have kept all these years as a symbol of their links to the Mexican culture.

The banner depicts Señor Santiago de los Cuatro Vientos, the Spanish equivalent of St. James. (Interestingly enough, Santiago is also the patron saint of Taos.) Next to him are portrayed “the four winds.” They correspond to the Virgin of Guadalupe, El Señor de Chalma, the Virgin of Remedies, and the Christ of Sacromonte.

“Our group was the first one, of all the American Aztec dancers, to receive an estandarte from a Mexican mesa,” Vigil said.

But that was only the beginning.

Gonzalez Barrios also the changed their name from “Grupo Taoseño” to “Izcalli In Nanantzin,” which means Resurgence of Our Mother Earth. He made Vigil a Capitana, the official leader of the group.

“The traditional Aztec dance groups function like military units,” she said. “We are considered spiritual warriors. Hierarchy is respected and discipline is also very important, from the rehearsals to the actual moment of the dance.”

Two years later, she invited Gonzalez to visit the group in Taos. His arrival in New Mexico marked the beginning of a new stage for “Izcalli In Nanantzin” which continued growing and attracting new members every year.

“In the end, the dance as a spiritual performance is all about honoring our roots and ancestors,” Vigil said. “By sharing these traditions, we make sure they are passed along to our children and continue to be a part of our collective heritage and faith.”

 

Posted in arts and entertainment, Taos News | Tagged , ,

Sisters in business: Northern New Mexico Women’s Networking Group

 

The Northern New Mexico Women’s Networking Group was started by Angelina Romero, who, after relocating to Taos seven years ago, saw the need for an organization like this one.

Originally published in Taos News

“It has been my dream to create a group of heart-centered women entrepreneurs who understand the importance of supporting each other in our respective businesses,” she said. “I tried back in 2009 via MeetUp.com and didn’t have success. This time around has been different. After I teamed up with Kristen Rivera of Flourishing Fitness, we set up a Facebook group, Northern New Mexico Women’s Network Group, and invited local women to join.”

Currently the Facebook group has over forty members who get together twice a month at a local business.

Every time they give a “Featured Member” the opportunity to do a presentation about her business, what she has to offer and what she needs from the group members to further her business growth.

“We have had as many as twelve women entrepreneurs at our ‘get togethers’ and look forward to growing in an organic fashion,” Romero said. “We welcome new members. We have no membership fee or conditions, except that you come with a positive attitude and are interested in sharing ideas and encouraging your sisters in business.”

Food and fitness

On Sunday February 28th the group had a meeting at Casa De Valdez. Kristen Rivera, founder of Flourishing Fitness, was the featured speaker.

“I want to help people,” she told the other members. “My goal is to work with those who are ready to make changes in their lives through good nutrition and proper exercise. Right now I connect people with a number of fitness programs and help them get started, and I am also available for consultation. I appreciate referrals too! I plan to become a certified life trainer so I can train my clients in gyms as well.”

What the entrepreneurs said

While there was a festive, friendly atmosphere at the meeting, it was also professional and organized.

Here are some things that these enterprising women are saying about their businesses and themselves.

Andrea Suazo from State Farm Insurance:

“I have been with the same company for about eight years. I find my job very exciting and I am glad to have made a career out of it.”

Monica Tafoya owns Smoke and Mirrors Salon. She is also a co-owner of 575 Sports and Company with her boyfriend:

“In the salon, my specialty is hair—extensions, colors, perms…you name it. I also do waxing. And I love make-up. I can teach women what colors and products to use and how to apply them.”

Carla Kelley makes beautiful handmade rosaries:

“I enjoy making them; this is a beautiful and spiritual task. You can order the rosaries directly from my Facebook page or I can personalize them.”

Melissa Bryan is a medium and a writer:

“I offer psychic readings. By the way, there is a lot of energy here, very good energy.”

Jeanne Collins of Young Living Essential Oils:

“I help my clients address emotional issues and understand how they relate to the physical aspects of their lives.”

Janie Corinne and Valeri Litke are both Nerium International representatives.

“We sell great products, like face creams and Nerium EHT age-defying supplement tablets,” Litke said.

“This is relationship market so we don’t compete with each other,” Corinne said. “The culture of the company is beautiful, all about happiness and collaboration. Our motto is ‘make people better.’ And we do!”

The group’s leader: “I love helping people become their own bosses”

Angelina Romero was born in Sinaloa, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States with her mother when she was very young. She and her husband, Alex Romero, moved from Phoenix to Taos in 2009.

She worked as a Real Estate agent in the East Valley of Phoenix and also spent the last twenty-three years as an entrepreneur, trying her hand at a variety of ventures, from health and nutrition to clothing, paper crafting and scrapbooking.

“I even taught some of the local women here how to make beautiful greeting cards,” she said. “My favorite part about the direct sales industry and my work as a consultant are the friendships I have developed over the years. I enjoy helping women, and men, explore the possibilities of becoming independent and their own bosses.”

Fun jewelry

Besides encouraging others to become entrepreneurs and leading the group, Romero also has had her own business, Angelina’s Accessories, for the past seven years. The company offers affordable fashion accessories via in-home parties, online parties, Facebook parties, basket parties, and one-on-one shopping.

Everything she sells is just five dollars, and she even carries one-dollar fashion accessories for the “Little Bling Queen” in the family.

“While this isn’t fine jewelry, it is fun jewelry and we have something for everyone,” Romero said. “If you want to make a change or would like to supplement your family’s income, give me a call and let’s see if I can help you start your own business.”

Romero shows her team how to start making a profit within their first thirty to sixty days in business.

“I want them to see that they too can be as successful as they want,” she said. “I understand that success means something different to each person so my focus is first to identify their definition of success and then help them get there. Some want more time with their children and family, some want to live in a better home, some just want to be able to put food on the table and have their bills paid. I understand all of this and that is why I am able to help. I have been there!”

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