Sandoval Signpost

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Guatemalan Death Dancer

Guatemalan Death Dancer

Day of the Dead

—Margaret M. Nava, Signpost

Corrales artist Richard Trujillo doesn’t like to think about death.

“The whole idea of mortality disturbs me and I try not to think about it, but it’s always there. But when I’m painting, it doesn’t seem to bother me so much. Painting keeps me at peace. It makes me feel whole.”

Sometimes, the only way to combat fear is to confront it. Maybe that’s why Richard chose Días de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) as the focus of his art. The traditions associated with the Days of the Dead (October 31 through November 2) date back more than three thousand years. When Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered indigenous people practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. Possibly originating with the Olmecs, a month-long celebration presided over by Mictecacihuatl, the goddess known as “Lady of the Dead,” took place during the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar (roughly August).

The Aztecs believed that death was a portal to other existences—a natural, yet spiritual passage. Using fire, incense, flowers, skulls, food, and drink, they honored the dead, whom they believed came back to life and joined their family and friends during the ritual. Unlike the Spaniards who viewed death as the end of life, native people viewed it as the continuation of life. Death played a prominent role in their lives. Instead of fearing it, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.

The Spaniards, however, deemed the rite sacrilegious and regarded the indigenous people as barbaric and pagan. In hopes of eradicating the alleged profane practice, they incorporated it with their Christian celebrations of All Saints‘ Day and All Souls‘ Day and moved it to November. But the ancient ritual refused to die and, over the years, the lines between ancient folklore and Christian customs blurred.

Today, Días de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and the southwest United States and coincides with the Catholic All Souls‘ and All Saints‘ Days. November 1st is considered the “Día de los Angelitos,” the day dedicated to infants and children that have died, and November 2nd, the traditional “Día de los Muertos,” honors deceased adults.

Families build elaborate altars in their homes and place ofrendas (offerings) such as pan de los muertos (bread of the dead), candles, sugar skulls (calaveras), small trinkets, and pictures of the deceased on the altars. Costumed marchers carrying cempazúchitl (yellow marigolds) and animated skeletons parade through the streets. All-night vigils take place in cemeteries and plazas overflow with the sounds of music and the smells of traditional foods. In Albuquerque, the National Hispanic Cultural Center holds a month-long ofrenda exhibit. In the South Valley, the annual Marigold Parade winds along Isleta Boulevard to the Westside Community Center. And here in Sandoval County, Richard Trujillo and other talented artisans present one-of-a-kind creations at the Arte de Muertos Expo—New Mexico’s largest Day of the Dead art show.

In the late 1800s, a commercial printmaker named José Guadalupe Posada began producing humorous lithographs of costumed skeletons smoking cigars, playing musical instruments, wearing sombreros and running amok through the streets of Mexico City. Meant to satirize the life of the upper classes during the reign of Porfirio Díaz, Posada’s original prints, often accompanied by witty social commentary, reached the farthest corners of the Mexican Republic. To this day, his work pervades the image and spirit of many folk artists, including Richard Trujillo.

Labeling his work non-traditional, contemporary “Tribal Creations,” Trujillo takes his inspiration from artists such as Posada, Chagall, and Pollock, but also from a variety of Mexican, Mesoamerican, and South American tribes like the Kayapo of Brazil. “I’ve always been fascinated with indigenous people and what they can do with limited resources. They’re so self-reliant and don’t take advantage of nature. They respect and understand death. I’d like to be that way. That’s why I decided to paint.”

Trujillo’s art ranges from life-size paintings of Guatemalan Death Dancers and rose-shrouded coffins to delicate necklaces and earrings. Has his art helped him overcome his fear of death? Maybe not quite yet. “The way I look at it, death is a part of life. The more you accept it, the more you’ll have a better life. That’s why I do what I do… it helps me accept the inevitable.”

The Arte de Muertos Folk Art Expo takes place three times a year and features exceptional “Días de los Muertos” and Southwest-themed mixed media from Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. In addition to spectacular displays, there are artist presentations, live music, face painting, and a plenty of ghost stories.

The November 7th and 8th events will be held at the Santa Ana Star Casino on Highway 550 in Bernalillo from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission and parking are free. For more information, call (505) 771-3307 or visit


Guided fall foliage tours of the Bosque

Autumn in New Mexico is a colorful harbinger for the change of seasons. The fall foliage turning from green to yellows, reds, and oranges in the Rio Grande Bosque has been known to rival that of the Northeast. The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, located on the bosque, is celebrating central New Mexico’s change of seasons by launching a guided fall foliage hayride and tour of the plants and trees indigenous to New Mexico.

“The Hyatt Regency Tamaya is proud to present a fall foliage tour where locals and guests alike can witness the leaves changing colors right in our own backyard and learn about our native habitat. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year in New Mexico and we are excited to share it with our visitors,” said Jerry Westenhaver, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya.

As part of the resort’s green initiative, Jennifer Wimberly, bosque specialist at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya, will host the guided fall foliage tour, including a hayride through the bosque near the Rio Grande on the Pueblo of Santa Ana. Guests will have the opportunity to see the changing colors of the cottonwood leaves from vibrant green to yellow and other colors while learning about the many different types of trees, plants, grasses, and shrubs in the ecosystem along the banks of the river. They will also be introduced to a variety of species, including the New Mexico Olive, wolfberry, seepwillow, Alkali sacaton, and many others. Guests will also receive complimentary hot apple cider and the resort’s signature pumpkin cookies.

The fall foliage tours take place on Sundays during the fall between October 18 and November 8. The guided tour and hayride will last about forty minutes and occur between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. It costs $10 for adults. Children fourteen years old and younger are admitted for free.

For reservations or more information, please call (505) 867-1234 or Hyatt reservations at (800) 55-HYATT (800-554-9288). You may also visit

Placitas Community Library is full-steam ahead

—Anne Frost

Have you seen the building? Things are moving fast and the plaster is going on. Yippee!! As with most building projects, things tend to slow down at this stage. With the help of the Sandoval County Commission and Public Works Department in addressing a few final building issues, we hope to begin furnishing the interior in January. With luck, your new Library will be open for business in mid-February 2010. Time is getting short in our current location, so please visit us soon and remember to give Bonnie an extra hug, as she will not be coming with us to the new building. She will go home with a wonderful volunteer. Watch this column for further developments.

In preparation for our first exhibit, PICTURE PLACITAS, we are collecting images. This is your opportunity to share your view of our remarkable community. Submit an 8“ x 10“ photo, painting, poem, essay, or other image. Your celebrations of Placitas will create the first art exhibit in the new Placitas Community Library facility and raise needed library funds. Remember, the deadline is December 31, 2009. It will be here before you know it, so get your images to the Library as soon as you can. This celebration of Placitas is for each of us, not just the artists, so let your imagination fly, pick up your pen or paint or camera, and share some images of what delights you here in your community.

Want to read what the nation is reading? The current Big Read title is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The Big Read is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Upcoming Library Happenings:

November 12: Thursday at 10:30 a.m.—Pre-school story time (only once this month)
November 10: Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.—Bilingual story hour (see article in this issue)
December 8: Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.—Bilingual story hour
PCL Book Group I: Closed to new members at this time
November 2: Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
December 7: Special Prisoner by Jim Lehrer
PCL Book Group II: This group welcomes drop-ins and new members
November 17: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.—Walden by Henry David Thoreau
December 15: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.—Mr. Ives‘ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
December 12: Saturday, our Annual Holiday Open House—our last in this location!

Holiday packages for our troops

This year, troops from the New Mexico National Guard will be spending the holidays in Afghanistan. Over the last five years, when New Mexico Guard troops were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, folks from Placitas and the local area have been sending packages to our women and men spending the holidays in a difficult situation, far from home and living in miserable conditions. Once again, we are asking Placitans and local area residents to let the troops know we are thinking about them by sending a gift package.

U.S. Postal Service mailers are available at four locations in Placitas: The Merc and First Community Bank in Homestead Village, and at the Mini Mart and Post Office in the Village. The packages are addressed to the Unit’s company commander, who will distribute the items to their troops. The mailers have a fixed mailing rate of $13.95.

Attached to the mailers are instructions, a suggested list of gift items, and a U.S. Customs form. Items in the packages can include:

Non-perishable food items such as beef jerky (especially New Mexico brands); queso fixings: Velveeta blocks, hot/mild Rotel cans, bean dip, tortilla chips; canned green chile; red chile powder; Slim Jims; summer sausage; Power bars; Pop-tarts; hard candy; gum; nuts; sunflower seeds; dried fruit; Pringles; powdered drink mixes; prepared pudding; coffee; hot chocolate mix; mac-and-cheese cups; Cup-O-Noodles (things that can be microwaved)

Personal hygiene items such as soap, hand sanitizer, razors, shave gel, lip balm, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, baby wipes, towels (dark colored), feminine hygiene products, socks

General items such as phone cards (AT&T), CDs, DVDs, handheld games, batteries, books, playing cards, stationery, pens, pencils

Toys for Afghan children

The suggested list of gift items includes items requested by the troops themselves. Items with a New Mexico flavor are most appropriate. It would be great to include a personal note or card.

If you’d like to send a package, and it’s inconvenient to pick up a mailer at any of these locations, please email George Franzen at

To reach the troops by Christmas, packages should be mailed by December 1st.

Congress on “our” corner with United States Representative Martin Heinrich

Join Representative Martin Heinrich for Congress On Your Corner at The Range Café in Bernalillo on Saturday, October 31 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Come and discuss issues affecting you and our community, such as the economy and job creation, health care, immigration, the environment, veteran benefits, social security, or education. If you have any questions, or to RSVP, please call (505) 346-6781.

17th annual Rio Rancho Toy Run

The 17th annual Rio Rancho Toy Run will take place on Sunday, November 22 and will kick off at 11:30 a.m. at Rio Rancho High School, located at 301 Loma Colorado Drive.

Riders participating in this motorcycle rally must donate one new toy and two non-perishable food items, or make a $20 per person donation.

From the high school, the rally will travel along Northern Boulevard, Unser Boulevard, US 550, NM 528/Pat D’Arco Highway, and east on Sara Road, ending at the Italian-American Association at 1565 Stephanie Street. At the Italian-American Association, there will be music, a bike rodeo, refreshments, and a raffle.

For more information, call (505) 604-4326 or visit

Inspired by their extensive travels, Marc and Phyllis Calderwood set out to create an upscale weekend market.

Idalia Road Marketplace

—Margaret M. Nava, Signpost

One of the great pleasures of traveling is taking time to shop the outdoor markets. In Paris, tourists feast on French pastries and crepes at the Rue Cler; in Florence, they pick up prosciutto and balsamic vinegar (the secret weapons of Italian cooks) at the San Lorenzo Market; in Madrid they spend countless hours browsing through stall after stall of leather handbags and jackets at El Rastro; and in Norway they haggle with fishmongers at the Bergen Seafood Market. Shoppers shop, hawkers hawk, street performers perform, fish gleam on beds of shaved ice and unfortunate fowl hang by their necks next to stands piled high with colorful fruits, vegetables, antiques, and artwork.

Unlike the gargantuan hypermarkets that came into being during the twentieth century, local street markets evolved around village histories, family traditions, and ancient celebrations. Dating as far back as the tenth and eleventh centuries, they provided townspeople with fresh meats, cheese, and produce; hand-woven fabrics and garments; farm tools; live animals; and leather bound books. The goods purchased or bartered for at these markets were essential to a village’s economy and without them, some cultures might not have survived.

During their extensive travels, Phyllis and Marc Calderwood of Albuquerque always took time to check out local markets, mercados, bazaars, and street fairs. Phyllis said, “The atmosphere and adventure of those places was always exciting for us. In Hawaii, we went down to the docks for the fish. In Hong Kong, we sought out Yuen Po Bird Street Market where songbird owners carried finches around in intricately carved cages and bought fresh grasshoppers to feed to them. And in Singapore, we got up before dawn to see the market there. Each market had its own character, its own spirit. Here locally, we go to all the farmers’ markets and art markets around the state. I guess we just always seek out that kind of environment and energy.”

Undoubtedly inspired by their experiences, the Calderwoods set out to create an upscale weekend market patterned after those they had visited on their travels. Picturing the people, the music, the kids running around, the activity and the buzz, they bought an acre of land in northern Rio Rancho and started making plans.

As an adult mentor working with high school students at the Intel Computer Clubhouse (an international after-school learning program), Marc is well-versed in computer technology and conducted an Internet survey asking people what they looked for when going to a market. At the top of the list were delicious food, fresh produce, quality arts and crafts, lots of free parking, and no farther than ten miles from home. Thinking the list was a good place to start, Phyllis, who runs an electronic travel business and reps organic products, added, “Why not make it green?” The rest, as they say, was history.

Touted as a Festive Shopping Experience, the Idalia Road Marketplace opened on October 10th with pumpkins and chiles, crocheted shawls and ponchos, team-logo pillows, baked goods, breakfast burritos and chicken salad croissants, woodcarvers and fine artists. Marc put a call out on the Internet looking for buskers, or street performers, to work for tips. The response was overwhelming. Musicians, acrobats, clowns, belly dancers, even a sword swallower, applied. During the Grand Opening on October 17th and 18th, the New Horizons Band of Rio Rancho (a senior adult band) played concert music and marching band favorites while Mayor Tom Swisstack dedicated a rare white desert willow in honor of Delma Petrullo, Deputy Mayor and city councilor, who passed away earlier this year. The following weekends, Haven House and Big Brothers Big Sisters handed out information packets at the Community Booth. The schedule for November includes reggae, Bach, and bluegrass music, the Bernalillo High School International Club selling candles, all sorts of performers, more pumpkins, chiles, arts and crafts, lots of great tasting food, and maybe a few surprises. What’s interesting is that all of this takes place in a green environment.

Located near Rio Rancho’s new City Center, the Marketplace is totally off-grid—no water, sewer, electric, or gas service. Phyllis says she and Marc like it that way. “We use a fuel-efficient generator to power our small needs, our night lighting is solar powered, fifty percent of the Marketplace was constructed with reused materials, we use rain barrels for catchment, our trash barrels are reused barrels painted by the children of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways, the ADA section of our parking lot is recycled asphalt, our brochures and flyers are printed on recycled paper, and all of our plants are either native or drought tolerant.”

The Idalia Road Marketplace will close for the season on November 29th but will return in April 2010. Marc and Phyllis say their vision is to make it a weekend highlight bringing friends and family together in fun and adventure. “We’re a unique venue with strong community ties. We’re excited about the curve that Rio Rancho is on and we are proud to take part in its promising future.”

For further information about the Idalia Road Marketplace, including how to become a vendor, call 553-5591 or visit






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