Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
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Santo accompanied by Knights of Columbus Honor Guard in procession through Placitas Village

Placitas History Project: San Antonio Mission

—Bob Gajkowski

On Sunday, June 12, the annual celebration of the Feast Day honoring Saint Anthony de Padua, the patron of our community, will be held at San Antonio Mission in the Village of Placitas. This tradition recalls the early residents’ tradition of asking their patron saint’s intercession with God to give thanks and gain a bountiful harvest. The Mission’s mayordomos Valentina and Arsenio Duran, as well as the mayordomos of Our Lady of Sorrows Church and the Sanctuario de San Lorenzo, both in Bernalillo, and  from San Jose Mission, Algodones, will carry their santos of San Antonio, the Virgin Mary, San Lorenzo and San Jose in procession through the Village. Accompanied by the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard, the procession of  the santos, with Father Stephen Imbarrato, altar servers, musicians, and the congregation and visitors will proceed from the Mission, stopping at three homes along the route to reflect on the life of San Antonio. Music will be provided  by guitarists Tom Arono and Doug Chapman and the voices of those in the procession. Following the procession a “rancheros-style” breakfast will be served at the Mission’s Social Center. The celebration begins at 9:30am with Mass followed immediately (approximately 10:30am) by the procession. Everyone is invited to participate in the procession and enjoy the festivities at the Social Hall.

San Antonio Catholic Mission traces its roots to the establishment of the Village of San Jose de las Huertas located about one mile north of the present Village of Placitas. At las Huertas in 1767 Juan Gutierres family and twenty others were awarded a grant of land by the Spanish king. This was to be known as the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant. Official possession of their grant was taken in January 1768 though the families had lived on the land some time before that date.

In 1823 the Mexican Government gained control of the land as a result of its Mexican War of Independence with Spain. When it was no longer able to provide protection for the Village and stem the devastating raids by marauding bands of Apache, Navajo, Comanche and Ute from the Plains, the Government ordered the families to abandon the settlement. While many moved their families to San Felipe and Algodones, the men continued to tend their animals and fields at San Jose.

By the mid-1830s, though Indian raids had lessened, the water supplied by the mountain springs in the vicinity of San Jose had become inadequate. In 1835 several families from las Huertas moved to the present site of Placitas Village which was then known as “las Placitas”(“little plazas”) for the several small Indian ruins located there. The families named their new settlement San Antonio de Padua de las Placitas.

“For the first one hundred years of its existence the las Huertas community, first at old San Jose de las Huertas and later at las Placitas, had no church or chapel, no cemetery and no regular religious services. It was only in 1795 that las Huertas was assigned to the San Felipe Mission. From that time on Franciscan priests from the Mission led the yearly celebration of the fiesta of San Antonio, the rest of the time the villagers had to travel to San Felipe for services such as baptisms, marriages and funerals” (from “Century of Faith, One Hundred Years in the Life of the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church,” by Suzanne Sims Forrest, 1995).

In 1856 the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Bernalillo was built. From 1867-1868 five Italian Jesuits (3 priests and 2 brothers) under Father Gasparri served Bernalillo and the surrounding area including Placitas. The first Catholic services in the Village were held a home on Paseo de San Antonio, just a short distance down the road from the present Mission.

In 1919 San Antonio Mission finally had a permanent site. That year a Mission building was planned and built by the villagers at its present site on land donated by the Archibeque family. The Mission’s adobe walls and cement stucco exterior, its bell tower and classic entry are excellent examples of the Southwest Mission design. Over time the  Mission fell into disrepair. Services were discontinued for several years. When Arsenio and Valentina Duran, along with Lou Stephens and others, recognized that there was a desire among many to bring Catholic services back to the community, they went to the Bishop in Santa Fe to ask that the Mission be reopened and rededicated. With the Bishop’s blessing the Mission building’s interior was completely remodeled. The dirt floor was covered over, the interior was enlightened with new windows and a metal roof was installed. An interior wall across what had been the sacristy was removed and the area is now the raised sanctuary where the altar stands. The removal of this wall and of a confessional area which was part of the wall provided for more seating. Eventually the bell tower and its bell (originally brought from El Paso) were enclosed. Inspirational sculpted art by Mario Dominquez was placed on the wall behind the altar as well as the  windows of the adjacent Mission Social Hall (formerly the Placitas Elementary School and library). In  2002 the south wing was added to the Mission to provide increased seating for a growing congregation.

In 2004 plans in keeping with the Mission’s historic architecture were drawn to build still another addition to the structure. On June 12, 2004, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of the Santa Fe Archdiocese dedicated the new north wing. He also blessed a santo of San Antonio that had been carved from a viga saved from the 1950’s renovation of the Social Hall. The newly carved santo, donated anonymously by a local master carver, is given an honored place at the Mission’s sanctuary  and is carried in the annual Feast Day procession. In 2007 stained glass windows, donated by parishioners,  designed by parishioner Frances Stephens  and executed by Sunflower Glassworks, Rio Rancho, were added to the Mission.

Today San Antonio Catholic Mission provides spiritual sustenance to the families of Placitas. Additionally, it continues the long-held  traditions and customs that are so much the character of this historic village.

Other Business:

A correction to the recent article “Catching Up”: the credit line for the poster “Homegrown” did not include “…flyer by Lenore Schwartz Goodell, 1971...”  Thanks, Lenore.

The next meeting of the Placitas History Project will be on Thursday, June 23, 6:30 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library. Everyone is invited. Hope to see you there!   

Growers Market

Get ready for fresh food: Grower’s market opening soon

The Bernalillo Farmer’s/Grower’s Market will be open for business beginning July 8 and continuing every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. until October 28.

To note some of the improvements this year: The vendors will be positioned behind the middle fence to take advantage of the available shade trees (that is, as long as the supply of shade lasts), and then they will sell under their own canopies or from the tailgates of their vehicles. These spaces will be a little farther from the street entrance, but this will free up both sides of the front space closest to the street for parking.

Cash sales are always welcome, but the arrangements that were started last year to allow the use of EBT transactions will still be in effect, and the WIC and Senior Nutrition Vouchers will also be accepted.

The market ground is located at the same site it has occupied for the past several years—just south of Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Camino del Pueblo (Hwy. 313) in Bernalillo. The location is about a block south of the intersection of Hwy. 313 and U.S. 550. It’s OK to bring the kids; there’s plenty of safe space.

Products available at the market may include a variety of fruits and vegetables, all of which must be produced by vendors themselves—resale of commercially produced items is not permitted. There are also likely to be jams and jellies, honey, eggs, and goat cheese, as well as a few items that are meant to be consumed on the spot.

Often handcrafted items and decorative wreaths and chile ristras appear, although those are more likely to be seen later in the season, when they are “in season.” In past years, there have also been plant items, specifically natives, cut flowers, cards, cider barbecue sauces, fruit wood for grilling, and yard decorations.

If you make a regular habit of shopping at the market, you will find something different most weeks. Of course, part of the reason for this is that everything is not ready to sell at the same time. The market also offers an opportunity for customers to “interview” the sellers and become acquainted with foods they may not be familiar with. Some kinds of fruits and vegetables, especially older varieties, do not ship well, and so they are never available in supermarkets. Most of the items being sold will have been gathered the same day.

Fresher food keeps and tastes better!

It’s also a chance to get tips for growing and preparing various foods and finally, a chance to meet neighbors you may not know from communities all around Sandoval County.

The market management team has announced that anyone who wants to sell at the market should contact Ann at (505) 867-2485 or Bonnie at (505) 867-9054. Applications for former vendors will be mailed out in late May or early June.

The Bernalillo Farmer’s/Grower’s Market operates under the auspices of the statewide New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association (NMFMA) and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. A complete listing of markets throughout the state may be obtained by calling the NMFMA in Santa Fe toll-free at (888) 983-4400 or by visiting the Web site at Markets are held on different days and at different locations throughout the state. Each market has it’s own distinct character, quality, and products.

New Mexico farmer’s markets have grown from 20 markets in 1993 to 61 in 2010. For all reporting markets, average weekly customers have increased from 5,302 in 2002 to 24, 751 in 2010. The majority of markets in the state are managed by unpaid volunteers.

Presbyterian names new hospital after major donor

The new Rio Rancho hospital, currently under construction at Unser and Black Arroyo, will be named the Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in recognition of a $10 million donation from Jack and Donna Rust. Jack Rust was a former long term member of the Presbyterian Healthcare Services board of directors.

The Rust’s donation was applied toward the $25 million fundraising effort Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation is conducting to build and equip the hospital.

The $165 million hospital is scheduled to open in October this year. Presbyterian has invested $140 million from debt, capital reserves and projected operating surpluses. The Foundation is looking to raise a total of $25 million from donations, and has thus far received $15.4 million which includes the Rust’s gift.

Resilient Placitas

Subsistence farming experiment

Resilient Placitas: One year later

—Tony Hull
Introducing Resilient Placitas at the flea market in 2010

About a year ago the Las Placitas Association held a meeting on the Transition Town Movement. Fundamental to the Movement is the notion of resilience, defined in The Transition Handbook as “being more prepared for a leaner future, more self-reliant, and prioritizing the local over the imported.”

Out of this experience a small group continued meeting and formed Resilient Placitas, a loose, locally-adapted organization, more a community within a community, that explores and shares knowledge and experience about how we can be resilient in Placitas. We embrace diversity and come from many backgrounds. Some of us are highly experienced in the ways of resiliency. Others are just learning. We are deeply committed to participatory learning and educating ourselves.

Resilient Placitas is deliberately designed so we can pursue interests and passions individually or in groups. In the same way we formed and continue, specific groups live or die by the interest level of the participants.

Demonstrating a solar oven, sharing books and conversation at the flea market last spring, RP volunteers met many wonderful people and started a contact list of people interested in exploring resilient themes.

Appropriate to our arid climate, RP’s first program was about water harvesting by local expert Dennis Fortier.

The past year included presentations and discussions on: solar energy photovoltaic systems at the Placitas Community Library; growing food locally at a small farmers forum and panel discussion at Anasazi Fields winery to which some brought locally prepared food and vegetables to share and for sale;

pruning and caring for fruit trees, by New Mexico expert Gordon Tooley of Tooley’s Trees, held outdoors at a village property whose owners offered free saplings from their local sand cherry stands; resilient-themed films followed by discussion at local homes;

the wonders of growing and knowing figs by Lloyd Kreitzer, The Fig Man, who came with fig soap, fig tea, fig wood additives for grilling, plants of Chinese dates, pomegranates and, of course, several varieties of figs from his collection of 700; attendees participated in prepping and potting cuttings, taken that morning from local bushes, so that everyone left with a potential fig plant; and Square Foot Gardening, a method to produce intensive yields in a small space with minimal water, led by Bill Carr and Jerry Peace at the Placitas Community Library where a follow-on event installed a demonstration garden.

RP members have reached out to each other with an opportunity to lean about healing by hypnosis and shared tools, resources and visits to home projects. Some are interested in discussion groups and in communication with other like-minded people throughout the southwest.

Workshops on emergency preparedness and food preservation and a Whole Placitas Catalog that highlights local resources are in the works. The next event, scheduled Saturday, August 4 will be on emergency preparedness including provisioning, emergency supplies, radio equipment and the New Mexico’s Firewise program. Stay tuned to next month’s Signpost for more details.

Square Foot Gardening hands on learning

A larger endeavor is growing food on a sustainable scale. With the kind loan of 1.7 acres of farmland with sprinklers and water rights in Algodones, several members are trying our hands at small scale farming. Fortunately there are those with farming experience among us who provide guidance.

We welcome engagement by any and all in our community who want to share and learn the ways of resilience together. Any topic that pertains to resilience interests us. We expect to grow in many directions. How far we go depends on the level of engagement from those who participate.

Subsistence farming experiment

If you are interested in receiving notices of Resilient Placitas events and activities or want to participate log on to  for more information.

The Range sponsors movie night in Placitas

With the help of a generous gift from Matt DiGregory and the Range Café, the Placitas Community Library now has a license to show many of your favorite movies. Beginning June 17 at 7 p.m., the library plans to offer Movie Night every third Friday of the month. Friday Night at the Movies will present thoughtful movies for adult audiences. A family movie time and perhaps one for teens may follow, depending on interest. Due to the nature of the licensing agreement for libraries, the titles of the movies cannot be announced in the newspaper. Title information for June 17 is available by calling the library at (505) 867-3355, by visiting our Web site (, or by reading the library newsletter. Long time library volunteer, Pam Buethe, has created a wonderful monthly newsletter which is available at the library or sent by e-mail on request.

There is a suggested donation of $3 for Friday Night at the Movies, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Due to our limited seating capacity, we request that you make reservations by calling the library. Seats will be held until 6:50 p.m., at which time those without reservations will be seated. See you at the movies!

Placitas Flea Market continues

The first flea market of the season was a smashing success. Many thanks go out to all who worked to get this venture up and running, especially Bruce Price, Pat McCarty, and Judy Labovitz. The “Flea” is a great way to support the Placitas library and your local economy, while enjoying your friends and neighbors. June flea markets are June 11 and 25, from 7 a.m. in the field next to the Merc. Got a car to sell? Call Bruce at (505) 867-6322 for a weekly space in the Car Corral.

Upcoming Adult Programs

June 4: Chess Club, 1 p.m.
June 7: Estate Planning with Phil Messuri, 7 p.m.
June 10: Artist Reception with Lisa Chernoff, 5 p.m.
June 15: PCL Board Meeting, 7 p.m.
June 17: Friday Night at the Movies (reservations requested), 7 p.m.
June 18: The Next Osama with Judith Acosta, 2 p.m.
June 23: Placitas History Project, 6:30 p.m.
June 30: Office Hours with Martin Heinrich Staff (your chance to share your concerns), 1 p.m.

HG Rafael and Esmeralda

HG Rafael and Esmeralda —By Alan Mitchell

Affairs of the heart:

Heart Gallery of New Mexico Foundation honors New Mexico’s foster youth with Heart Gallery 10th anniversary celebrations

“Time flies when you’re having fun.”

It’s an idiom we’re all familiar with and use with abandon, but for foster children eligible for adoption yet still residing in temporary foster care placements, waiting for a “forever family” can seem to take forever.

Ten years ago, Santa Fe resident and State of New Mexico employee Diane Granito looked at the Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) Polaroid snapshots taken of foster children waiting for adoption and thought, “We can do better than this for these kids.”

Her idea? Ask the abundance of world-class photographers who call New Mexico home to take portraits of the children that would allow their true spirit and beauty to shine.

The portraits were so wonderfully provocative and emotionally compelling that they debuted in a New Mexico photography exhibit entitled The Heart Gallery. So many adoptions occurred as a result that not only did it become an institution in New Mexico, it spawned a national nonprofit bearing its name. Today, in just 10 short years, more than 120  individual Heart Gallery organizations throughout the United States and Canada have been established, and over the last decade, more than 5,000 children in foster care—many of them from New Mexico—have found forever families as a direct result of the Heart Gallery.

The Heart Gallery of New Mexico Foundation, in partnership with the State of New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Heart Gallery—and its birth in New Mexico—during two days of celebrations that include the unveiling of the 2011 Heart Gallery of New Mexico portraits and a concert performance benefiting the 501(c)(3) foundation and the foster children it serves.

On Friday, June 3, the opening reception for the Heart Gallery of New Mexico’s 2011 portraits will take place at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. Free to attend, the reception will take place from 5-7 p.m. and includes opportunities to participate in both a live and silent auction.

On Saturday, June 4, vocalist Sasha Lazard and the Pendulum Dance Troupe will entertain at a benefit performance at the Lensic Performance Arts Center in Santa Fe. The evening will also feature the chorus of the New Mexico School for the Arts.

Hosting the events both evenings is actor Quinton Aaron, perhaps best known for his compelling performance as an adopted teen in The Blind Side.

Tickets vary in price and are available at the Lensic box office or through

More information about the events and about the Heart Gallery of New Mexico Foundation can be found online at

Learn about estate planning at the Placitas Community Library

On Tuesday, June 7 at 7 p.m., Placitas Community Library will host a talk on Estate Planning by local financial planner Phil Messuri. Phil will speak to the general issues of estate planning and tax considerations under current federal law and cover such topics as gifting qualified organizations directly from your IRA, including nonprofits in your will, trust, or as a beneficiary of a retirement account, and the donation of your art or other collectibles.

Phil is a certified financial planner and owns an independent financial planning and investment management firm in Albuquerque. He entered the financial planning and investment arena in 1996. His independent broker/dealer is Financial Network. Clients include business owners, professionals, couples, and individuals seeking thorough financial service support (integration of investment management, tax, business, retirement, and estate planning and insurance coverage).

Phil has supported numerous charitable organizations in a number of regards. In particular, he works closely with the board of directors and developed the Investment Policy Statements (IPS) for the following organizations: Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers, Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM), Sandia Peak Ski Patrol, and the New Mexico Dental Association (NMDA). He developed a tailored IPS for and is an active member of the Placitas Community Library advisory board.

For three years, Messuri was the president of the New Mexico Chapter of the Financial Planning Association, a professional organization of certified financial planners and professionals. Phil was a career U.S. Air Force officer from 1970 through 1990. His assignments included a combat tour in Vietnam, two assignments as a B-52 pilot and instructor pilot, an Air Force ROTC instructor tour at the University of Michigan, and finally, a six-year assignment to Kirtland Air Force Base from 1984 until his retirement in 1990.

Phil and his wife, Diann, a former speech language pathologist with Albuquerque Public Schools, have four children and eight grandchildren. They have lived in New Mexico since 1984 and in Placitas since 1990.

c. Susan Junge

The Crafty Mountain Fair invitation to artists by Susan Junge—April 1972

Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society: Promoting the arts in Placitas since 1973

—The Placitas Holiday Sale Committee

Before the Placitas Studio Tour and the Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale, there were the Crafty Mountain Fair and the Fantasy Mountain Fair. What these events all have in common is that they’ve been produced under the auspices of the obscure Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society, known to some longtime Placitas residents as simply “the Soiree Society.” 

In 1973, the Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society was formed by a few people in Placitas as a nonprofit corporation. Local residents Susan Junge, John Morgan, Richard BlueJay, Wayne Jones, and Sara D’Alessandro were some of the first officers of the Soiree Society. Their vision was to educate and promote the arts in Placitas by creating a venue for local artists to display their artwork.

Their first art event, prior to the legal creation of the Soiree Society, was held at a house in the Village. There were eight to 10 artists, and no one really sold much, as there was little or no advertising, other than signs along the road.

The next show was called the “Crafty Mountain Fair” and was held in 1972 at the infamous Thunderbird Bar. The local village bar was a happening place, with live music, alcohol, and good food. Various local artists brought their creations to the show and sold to their friends and others who were fortunate enough to have heard of it.

The next art event was more ambitious, prompting the creation of the Soiree Society. It was called the “Fantasy Fair,” and it took place in the parking lot of the bar in the summer of 1973. Special aerodynamic canopies were designed and hand-fabricated on the floor of the bar for the artists to display their work underneath. The fair consisted of about 30 booths and included a sound stage for local music and food.

After the two shows at the Thunderbird, the Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society sponsored a film series that took place in the Placitas Elementary School gym. Movies were shown once a month for a small admission, with homemade cookies and drinks sold to those who came to enjoy the evening of entertainment.

“It was an opportunity for people to get together and feel community,” Susan Junge said recently of the film series. She had a background in film and managed the event for the Soiree Society. She remained a director of the society for 25 years, broadly describing its mission as an “opportunity to promote educational and cultural events.” The society also administered a small art workshop for local teens.

Another artistic event the Soiree Society supported was a series of theatrical performances produced by local residents and held in the old Zocolo building in Bernalillo. Different themes were chosen for the shows, scripts were written for one-of-a-kind productions, poetry was read, and local musicians played. The local cast would rehearse for months before the opening performance, when the community came together and packed the building to see and hear the performance.

“It was fun to have high quality, live productions in our own community,” said Dana Roth, Soiree Society director. “I was so impressed by the singing, acting, directing, song writing, and poetry of our neighbors and friends.”

Several years went by without any events being planned until 1982, when the Placitas Mountaincraft & Soiree Society, under the leadership of Peaches Malmaud, sponsored the first Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale. There were people living in Placitas and surrounding areas who were making arts and crafts, but had no place to sell them. The inspiration was to once again create a venue for artists to show and sell their work. Peaches served as president of the Soiree Society for 18 years before passing the reins to Nancy Couch, Jon Couch, and Mary Hofmann to continue the holiday sale.

“We needed to recruit others because it took all of us and more to do what Peaches had done alone,” said Jon Couch. Bunny Bowen and Dana Roth were added to the board of directors.

In 1998, the Placitas Studio Tour was born. Inspired by Riha Rothberg and a few others, artists got together and made nearly 200 signs to direct the public to the 26 studios. The first studio tour was well received by Placitas and surrounding areas and has continued for 14 years. In 2002, the Placitas Studio Tour was adopted by the Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society to take advantage of its nonprofit status, although the studio tour retained its own board to manage the event.

“It is very affirming to learn how the Placitas community has been so nurturing to artists and to trace the connections between the various arts groups through the last forty years,” said Bunny Bowen of the studio tour board and a current Soiree Society director. “We often aren’t that good at organizing ourselves, so a big thank you goes to those who founded the Soiree Society.”

“The Placitas Mountaincraft and Soiree Society helped to lay the foundation back in 1982 for Placitas as an art community by bringing together artists and various service groups to sell artwork and raise money for projects,” said Nancy Couch of the Placitas Holiday Arts & Crafts Sale and current president of the Soiree Society. “We are happy this tradition has continued for the past 30 years.”




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