Friday, December 31, 2010

History and Heritage

We started our press trip in Albuquerque. We were hosted by Heritage Hotels and Resorts -- an amazing group of properties in New Mexico and Arizona. Founder Jim Long is passionate about preserving the history and heritage of the areas and he does it by taking over hotels and turning them into unique hostelries which feature the arts and crafts important to the area.

The Hotel Albuquerque showcases the Spanish influence in the area. You'll find traditional touches like vigas, latillas, Mexican tinwork, hand-forged chandeliers and artworks that reflect the heritage and landscape of northern New Mexico. Other features pay homage to the Pueblo, Territorial and Western styles so important in Albuquerque. My room was huge -- and comfortable with a fabulous view of the mountains -- the view at the top of this post.

The hotel is a popular wedding destination with facilities to meet every need. The chapel on the grounds is a replica of a small chapel which Jim found in southern New Mexico. In summer -- when I took this picture -- the gate (and nearby pergola) was covered with fragrant wisteria.

I can't go to New Mexico without having huevos rancheros for breakfast and the Cafe Plazuela in the hotel didn't disappoint. I had to try everything so in answer to the definitive New Mexican question, red or green, I requested "Christmas." Both sauces were house-made and excellent.

Hotel Albuquerque is one of seven under the Heritage banner -- I've stayed in three of them and visited another -- my goal is to stay in each of these hotels. Every one is different and very special. In a future post, I'll write about the St. Francis Hotel in Santa Fe. It's a tough job -- but somebody has to do it!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Renaissance Man -- Robert Mirabal

When my brother heard I was going to New Mexico, he said, "If you're anywhere near Taos, there's the most marvelous musician there. His name is Robert Mirabal and you ought to see if he's performing and go see him."

He couldn't believe it when I told him my itinerary -- we (travel writers on a press trip) were going to get to spend an afternoon with Robert Mirabal. And he's more than just a marvelous musician -- he's an author, an actor, a great cook and an important influence not only in his community but in a much wider context.

We met Robert at the Taos Pueblo -- a great World Heritage site -- the multi-storied adobe structures that have been home to the Taos people for over 1000 years. He walked with us as a lovely young woman named Winona took us on a tour.

Robert has a farm on the Pueblo land and had prepared an amazing lunch for us.

I can't begin to name all the dishes he and his wife Dawn had fixed for us but the menu included blue cornbread, fresh-baked bread, elk stew with wild celery and parched corn, elk with herbs, corn soup, deer meatballs, corn on the cob, pumpkin soup, trout, Indian tea and two different desserts.

While we ate, Robert told us of his efforts to bring farming back to the community. He talked about the traditional importance of corn to his people -- both as sustinance and for use in ceremonies. Farming has become a lost art and Robert and some of his friends are working hard to reintroduce this integral skill.
Robert Mirabal is walking the tightrope between the past and the future -- protecting the traditions of his people while also living as a citizen of the society at large. It's a difficult task but he approaches it with intelligence and dignity. He not only offered us hospitality, he honored us by sharing some of his culture and traditions with us. It was a memorable afternoon.