“Santa Fe used to be a small, Podunk town,” said Ana Pacheco. She remembers the thrill of riding elevators downtown when she was growing up in the 1960s. “There were two,” Pacheco said. “One at The Guarantee, a department store on the Plaza, and one at the old St. Vincent’s Hospital on Palace Avenue. … We were small-town hick kids. Looking back, I had the typical Norman Rockwell American childhood, but with a Spanish flavor.”
Pacheco drew on her childhood in Santa Fe for a new book, Legendary Locals of Santa Fe. An imprint of Arcadia Publishing, the Legendary Locals series has been published in dozens of cities and towns nationwide. Legendary Locals of Santa Fe is organized into sections: history, literature, art, entertainment, sports, business, military service and public service. Short, 200- to 400-word profiles accompany photographs of a diverse array of Santa Feans: the deceased and the living, the old and the young and those from different cultural and experiential backgrounds.
Last February, a Legendary Locals editor asked Pacheco to compile the Santa Fe edition of the series. “Several of the profiles are condensed versions of my column for The New Mexican,” said Pacheco, whose “A Wonderful Life” appears in the paper on Sundays. “And people like [artist] Tommy Macaione, I just know because I grew up here. In all honesty, I banged out the book in six weeks, pulling at least 10 12-hour days. … I’m not one of those people who take one, two or three years to write a book. It just doesn’t suit my personality.”
Certain subjects were no-brainers for inclusion, like Genoveva Chavez, the “first lady of the Santa Fe Fiesta.” Chavez is pictured in the book wearing a mariachi outfit. She holds a riding crop and has a pistol in a leather holster at her hip. “I used to see [Chavez] perform when I was a little girl,” Pacheco said. “She was a down-to-earth, regular Santa Fe person, and she embodied everything that the Santa Fe Fiesta represents. … As time goes on, kids just know the Chavez Center as ‘GCCC’ with no inkling as to what that really means.”
The other profiles in the book are at once expected and eclectic. While it includes well-known figures like Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, Pueblo Revolt leader Po’Pay and artist Georgia O’Keeffe, it also includes people like Robbie Romero, a boy who disappeared in 2000 at age 7 and was never found. The history section also profiles brothers Noah and Herman Rodriguez, victims of hate crimes who were murdered in the 1990s. Pacheco includes icons like Zozobra and Southwestern legend La Llorona, the wailing woman.
While Pacheco already knew, or knew about, many of the subjects featured in the book, some of her discoveries were surprising. During her research, she stumbled upon Jannine Cabossel, a glass artist and master gardener who is pictured in the book next to an enormous 448-pound pumpkin. “I thought it was so cool, that [Cabossel] grows giant vegetables,” Pacheco said. “I’ve been here for such a long time, but I had no idea about some of these people who are doing interesting things.”
Pacheco’s work interviewing older community members for A Wonderful Life shaped her process for writing the book. “One of the things that I always try to pinpoint is what makes this person unique and special, whether they’re 90 or 40,” she said. While there are a couple 30-somethings in the book, most of its subjects are older or deceased. “To be legendary, you’ve gotta have lived,” Pacheco said. “One of the things that I kind of toiled with was whether or not to include, say, an 18-year-old, but no, I think you need [to have lived] at least three decades to have a footing on this planet and the community.”
Legendary Locals is chock-full of interesting photographs, some of which show historic Santa Fe. There’s one shot of La Fonda on the Plaza during Fiesta in the 1950s. The roof is covered with people whose legs dangle over the hotel’s front awnings. A 1906 photograph is a partial panorama of St. Vincent’s Marion Hall, with its long-gone cupola. One of the oldest photographs in the book shows the editorial office of The New Mexican as it appeared in 1899. Three men and three women pose around messy desks in a room with floral wallpaper and a wood stove.
Upon completion of Legendary Locals of Santa Fe, Pacheco concluded, “This is not the Santa Fe I grew up in — there are so many interesting people working in different professions.” Pacheco said that representing Santa Fe’s diversity was critical.
“I am hoping people read this book and see Santa Fe as a city of many cultures. … I wanted to make an all-encompassing profile of the community, of old Santa Fe and new Santa Fe.”
Contact Adele Oliviera at 986-3091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.