Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Placitas History Project

—Bob Gajkowski

“History” Progresses

The end of one year and the beginning of still another gives us a perfect opportunity to look back at what we’ve accomplished and an even better opportunity to set goals for the future.

The Placitas History Project (PHP) finally began to come together early last year after several years of just talking about establishing an archive to house the many aspects of our community’s varied and fascinating history. History—knowledge of time and place, the record of what came before—is an essential building block for future generations. Each day, we loose valuable resources from which to gather information for these building blocks. Members of our community who may have firsthand knowledge of what has taken place pass on. Development changes the landscape, so that its original purpose is undecipherable. Records, photographs, writings are discarded or destroyed.

The PHP has begun to collect some of the materials that are our community’s building blocks. Beginning with preliminary inquiries into three small areas of Placitas history— “How Artists Have Portrayed Placitas in Their Work,” “The History of Placitas in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” and “A Historical Aerial Survey of Placitas”—the project conducted interviews, photographed, and recorded. Each step seems to lead to still other areas of interest. An inquiry concerning the original Placitas Elementary School bell is taking us to the bells of the San Antonio Mission and the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the Thunderbird Saloon and the artists who performed there are pointing us to the “Medicine Ball Caravan” (Placitas’ Woodstock) and to a community of poets; photographs of housing in the hippie enclaves opened interest into the multitude of different structures (hogans, yurts, adobes, the “Rainbow House”); and visits of prominent personalities are opening avenues to the early real estate development of Placitas.

So, the old and new years come together. Last year provided the impetus, while the new year points to what will be accomplished.

Each of us is part of this place we call home. The history project welcomes everyone to join us as we learn more about the history of our community. Get involved, and learn the real reasons this place is special.

During February, the Placitas History Project will sponsor a month-long exhibit of text and photos of “The ‘60s and ‘70s in Placitas” in the Collin Room of the Placitas Community Library. On Saturday, February 19, Roberta Price will discuss and sign her newest book, Across the Great Divide: A Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture. Ms. Price lived for seven years in the Libre commune in southern Colorado.

Everyone is welcome to come to the next meeting of the Placitas History Project at the Placitas Community Library on Thursday, January 20, at 6:30 p.m.

The Whole Placitas Catalog: A call for entries

—Tony Hull

Resonating with the idea and ideals of the Whole Earth Catalog, which was first published about 40 years ago, Resilient Placitas is starting to collect knowledge of tools, concepts, and methods for resilient living in our wonderful, but arid, Placitas climate. The Placitas History Project is gathering historic methods by which our early settlers were self-sufficient. Recognizing that some lessons from the past are relevant to our present and future, we hope to collect bits of wisdom on everything, from our soil and the seeds that thrive here to knowledge of building methods and medicinal herbs. 

Collecting historical knowledge is only part of what the Whole Placitas Catalog may contain. Modern methods in use now and specifics on sources, suppliers, ways to cultivate and enrich our soil, grow, harvest, process, store, and distribute food are also relevant. The catalog is also intended to highlight knowledge on how to harvest water, conserve and maximize energy use, and how to build efficiently. How to best live with wild animals, wind, drought, and escalating energy costs are all questions that may be explored.

This call for information is the first part of making that information available by our community, for our community, and of our community. The catalog is essentially a noncommercial approach to our collective discovery of what is locally available and a guide to local wisdom, local sources, and resources. It has the potential to manifest in many ways—for example, skill and work exchange, cohousing, cooperative buying, ride pooling, where to go for the best tools and supplies, tool sharing, and creating celebrations of our rich heritage and resources. 

Together, we can define the scope and character of the catalog to make it useful and relevant to the widest potential users. We welcome anyone who is interested or has information to share, to contact Tony Hull at or (505) 771-8566.

Our hope is that this opportunity to catalog and exchange community wisdom will help us get to know each other and Placitas’ culture better. We plan to meet early next year; however, we request that you please start contacting Tony with your ideas now. There’s no better time than now to give ourselves the present of our unique gifts and knowledge.

VIVA Events reception hall opens in Bernalillo

—Steve Amiot

Saturday the 18th was an unusually warm night for mid-December in Bernalillo. As we pulled into the packed parking lot at VIVA Events, the excitement was almost palpable. The building seemed to pulsate to the music’s beat, almost drowning out the laughter of children as we walked in through the wide-open door.

We immediately knew our creation was a success, and the months of planning and hard work were finally validated. The 180 or so guests gathered inside were having a great time contentedly finishing dessert or dancing to the DJ’s high-tech sound and light system on the corner stage. Our first event was everything we had hoped for!

It all started last August. After losing a tenant in our building at the far southeast end of Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo, we decided to take the space in a different direction. We had already been asked to rent it out for parties, so why not convert it into a reception hall? 

Everyone we told our idea to said the same thing: “Bernalillo needs an event center,” some place to gather, to meet, to celebrate. Weddings need a reception, girls coming of age may need quinceañeras, and there are graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, bridal and baby showers, company parties. So many reasons to bring people together, and we had the space.

Even in good times, starting a new business in Bernalillo is a difficult proposition, but these days there are few who dare. With the recession still holding us back, people may not want to spend like they used to, but when life calls for a celebration, an exception may be made. Knowing that nice, economical places to have an event are in demand, yet hard to find in these parts, the plan to remodel the former auto service shop into our evolving vision began to take shape.

Our concept was to convert the entryway and restrooms into a northern New Mexico-style house that would lead out into a spacious, tiled courtyard. Clearly, our work was cut out for us. And somehow, after three months of hard work, we actually did open VIVA Events, a 3,000-square-foot, multiuse space, sunny in the afternoon, yet able to convert into a nightclub atmosphere at night.

That December evening brought a few changes. The party celebrating a college student’s graduation was a culmination of one family’s efforts to achieve the American dream for their oldest son. Our vision to provide a special place in Bernalillo to celebrate life’s events was affirmed. And Bernalillo got a new place to party! VIVA!

If you foresee an event coming up in your life, we hope you will give Margie or Steve Amiot a call at (505) 867-4587, or e-mail us at We’d be glad to show off our hall and explain our rates. Big events for up to 180, a small shower in the afternoon, an arts and crafts fair, business seminars, public meetings—name the event, and we’ll help make it happen. See you at VIVA Events at 1420 South Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo!

Casa Rosa Food Bank volunteers (and board members) Jack Curro (left) and Gordon Ziemer unload a delivery truck at Casa Rosa.

Myth Busting!  A Q&A with Casa Rosa

—Betsy Model for the Sandoval Signpost

The conversation began as many do when it comes to the Casa Rosa Food Bank.

A Placitas resident stopped by Casa Rosa on a recent Saturday morning to drop off a small donation and, after standing outside in the yard area for a few minutes during the food distribution hours, approached with both a compliment and some questions.

She was surprised, she said, to see that many of Casa Rosa’s clients, while waiting for their turn to shop inside the food bank, were standing outside with either hot cups of coffee or hot food in bowls and on plates. It was a cold December morning—maybe in the mid-40s—and you could see the steam rising from some of the plates even as people were warming their hands around cups of hot beverages.

The hot food smelled great, she said, and complimented the Casa Rosa “employees” on having spent the time in Casa Rosa’s kitchens fixing the food early enough to be ready for the clients that began lining up around 7 a.m.

The response she received obviously came as a shock; not only does Casa Rosa not have a permitted commercial kitchen appropriate for cooking, the food bank has no running water, nor a stove on which to cook! All the prepared food she was seeing, it was explained, came from the kitchens of Casa Rosa’s volunteers. The food bank—run entirely on donations and by volunteers—has no paid employees, either.

While the resident’s curiosity and questions were genuine, they’re not unusual to Charlotte Lough, the food bank’s director, nor to the regular volunteers who do everything at the food bank from unloading delivery trucks and repackaging bulk foods to stocking shelves, filling out necessary paperwork, and ordering—or soliciting—food and personal hygiene items to service the food bank’s growing client base. 

Almost everyone who drops by Casa Rosa with a food, cash, or coat donation has questions about the two-year-old food bank, and we thought it might be helpful to provide answers to six or seven of the questions asked most often.

1. Who funds Casa Rosa?

Well, the community does, actually. Casa Rosa, with the help of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, is a self-sustaining nonprofit that receives its operating expenses from donations and grant monies that the food bank applies for... and occasionally gets! More than 90 percent of the food bank’s funding comes from Sandoval County residents and businesses making donations and through fundraising activities that the food bank holds periodically throughout the year.

2. Where does the money actually get spent?

A common myth is that we get the food we distribute for free... that it’s “given” to the food bank from, say, Roadrunner Food Bank or similar food distribution warehouses. Actually, Casa Rosa has to buy the food that we distribute to those who need it in the community, albeit at greatly reduced prices.

3. What does “One Equals Nine” mean?

Because we can buy food at greatly discounted prices and take advantage of the central warehousing and distribution service offered by Roadrunner, we can purchase our food items at an average of about eleven cents on the dollar... or a ratio of one-to-nine. Our prices for commodity and other items purchased through Roadrunner allow us to take every dollar donated and stretch it to approximately nine dollars of food and necessary hygiene items. 

4. How many employees does Casa Rosa have?

Zero, actually! Whether it’s administrative help or physical labor, all of the manpower needed to run Casa Rosa is provided by volunteers from within the community. Some donate only a few hours a month, others a few hours each week, and some considerably more than that. Whether it’s related to the Friday deliveries and sorting of food items, the weekly client distribution that takes place on Saturday mornings, or all of the receiving, sorting, and distribution of food that occurs during the once-a-month Mobile Food Pantries, all of the work is performed by volunteers.

5. What does the average volunteer look like?

Every age, size, and shape! We have children and teens who volunteer alongside their parents, and we have volunteers in their 70s and 80s. Many of our clients choose to volunteer and pitch in on everything from taking inventory and ordering food to helping unload trucks or haul cardboard to the recycling center. There are so many things that need to occur in the distribution of food at the food bank that there’s something that can be done by just about anyone, regardless of their physical abilities or age.

6. What kind of donations do you look for? Is there a minimum donation?

Well, cash is always great because it allows the food bank to purchase exactly what the clients need during each particular week. The food bank also welcomes gifts of food and clothing—particularly coats during the winter months—and we ask only that the food packages be unopened and that they haven’t exceeded the expiration date on the package. Remember, too, that since Casa Rosa is a nonprofit, donations are, in almost all instances, tax-deductible.

And no, there’s no minimum on any donation. Remember, a single dollar that’s donated—and we’ve been known to receive change out of children’s piggy banks!—translates into nine dollars of food, so the food bank welcomes any donation amount. 

7. What if I want to donate or volunteer?

Just contact us at, or stop by the food bank on a Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We’ll even treat you to a cup of hot coffee!




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