I recently had the privilege of meeting Taos artist, Anita Rodriguez in her adobe home she built with her own two hands. It was an absolute enriching and vibrant communion. We shared stories, wild laughter, and warm coffee in her colorful sanctuary. My soul was tickled and brought me back to a different time of community, tradition and what it meant to tell stories by the fire.
Anita was born and raised on the cusp of a long oral tradition in a town (Taos) where her roots reach from the indigenous to de Vargas (1740), to her Texas Anglo painter mother (1920). Her rich storytelling deepens my feeling about this marvelous land she loves so much and knows so intimately. Anita is a local icon as an adobe builder, renowned painter, world traveler, author, cook, and as I’m learning a gifted storyteller.
In her twenties she resurrected enjarrando, a traditional architectural technology passed on by oral tradition among Native and Hispanic women. She was the first to write about it, actually to reveal its existence to historians and adobe experts, and then practice it as a licensed contractor for twenty years. Today the technologies of the enjarradora are standard in the earth-building industry.
Then, at the age of 47, in 1989, she “retired” and became a full-time painter, earning a reputation as a magical realist whose skeleton characters dance, sing, make love, eat, pray and drive their low riders through a New Mexican landscape. She has developed a body of work that tells the stories, legends and myths of her homeland in brilliant color, with humor, and an iconography drawn from the rich seedbed of Mestisaje, from her New Mexican and Mexican roots, whose defining characteristic (she says) might be diversity itself.
I asked Anita to describe her work and passion in the studio. I loved listening to her as I visualized the setting in her home studio, “Sometimes my paintings are incantations to evoke the new paradigm. They are full of details, of light and shadow, there is always a story, but they always depict a world at peace, full of color laughter, dance and food, everything balanced and structured to achieve a harmonious whole.
“We need to hold that image right now, and be embraced in the shelter of firelight, food, wine, good stories and art. Latinas believe in food. One of our favorite dichos (sayings) is “Panza llena, Corazon contento.” (Full belly, contented heart.)”
I felt like I was speaking with Clarissa Pinkola Estes who wrote Woman Who Run With The Wolves right in her own home! Remembering a quote in her book about sharing stories, “I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears, til you yourself burst into bloom.” As the night carried on Anita burst into bloom as she shared the stories of her dynamic life. Our discussion started to take root in the potential of collaborations creating together immersive travel experiences that offer an extra-ordinary and sensational encounter to sink your toes in culture, cuisine, the mud and enriching stories. Dates and details have yet to emerge from the swarm of possibilities, but we can promise to give that over-used word “unique” a new brilliance. Stay tuned on how Anita and I will formulate travel episodes that illuminate authenticity and cultural crafts.
This Friday starts our Storytelling by the Fire Series at the cozy Palacio de Marquesa in Taos. Asia Golden, General Manager and I are hosting an evening in the living room of the Hacienda with a wine reception, live music, storytelling and delicious home cooked regional dinner. I’ve asked Anita to join us as a featured storyteller and illuminate her tales that inspires her work, connect her to Taos and paint the background of her Hispanic upbringing. Asia and I couldn’t be more honored to have Anita fill the room tonight with her passionate Taos stories. See you tonight starting at 4:30 pm!