A new era

Atrisco Heritage Foundation presents Traditional Spanish Market

By Patricia West-Barker

Master weaver Lisa Trujillo has been showing her work at Traditional Spanish Market for 40 years. Her husband, Irvin Trujillo, a seventh-generation Rio Grande/Chimayó-style weaver, has been participating in the show and sale even longer. Their daughter Emily, following in the family footsteps, has begun joining her parents in their very colorful but not-so-large booth.

Over the years, Lisa says, the family has developed some rules about what their display should look like, with two to four pieces — “whatever has won ribbons” — prominently displayed and simpler weavings arranged on racks. They won’t be stressed about their booth setup — nor is Lisa concerned about the shift in market management this year.

After producing Traditional Spanish Market for 70 years, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society (SCAS) is handing the reins and responsibility for the event to another organization.

“Operating a market in the present age,” writes David Cartwright, chairman of the board of SCAS in a release about the change in the post-pandemic era, “requires a very different set of business and financial skills.” He continues, “In searching for a new organizational steward to take over the management of Traditional Spanish Market, the deciding criteria for us involved the organization’s commitment to the unique art forms and culture of Northern New Mexico and a willingness to commence its full involvement in the market immediately. The Atrisco Heritage Foundation met this completely.”

Lisa Trujillo says she’s optimistic about the newcomers taking over the market that has been so important to her family. “I’m happy that’s happening and that it’s an organization that has history and understands better the financials,” she says.

Peter A. Sanchez, CEO of the Atrisco Companies, agrees that his organization is perfectly positioned to pick up management of Traditional Spanish Market, which was established in 1926 to promote traditional arts rooted in New Mexico and southern Colorado during Spanish colonization of the region in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Atrisco Heritage Foundation grew from the Atrisco Land Grant, which traces its roots to the same time period as the art celebrated in the market. As the Spanish expanded into what became New Mexico, it granted lands to settlers, including the Atrisco Valley south of Albuquerque. “We managed to keep the land mostly intact into the 21st century, and when we finally sold it . . . our heirs financially benefited,” Sanchez says. After the sale, the organization reimaged its original purpose. It builds social enterprise companies and uses “not-for-profit vehicles as a way to allow resources from the land grant sale to become ways to benefit the community going forward.”

Now, he adds, “we have this wonderful luxury of acquiring a company that’s losing money but that doesn’t scare us off. We know we can make [Traditional Spanish Market] viable, and, more importantly, we know that it’s important to preserve.”


With 220 employees, Atrisco had a deep roster from which to find a qualified Spanish Market coordinator. That was important to the market’s success this year, Sanchez says, “because by the time this deal was going to be completed, there was going to be only three and a half months of runway left — and that’s not a lot of time.” Taoseña Felice Espinoza fit the bill for market coordinator. “Her mother is Native American, and her grandmother, her mother’s mother, happens to be an Indian Market artist, so she understands the market concept too,” Sanchez says.

Espinoza says she loves working with market artists because “they are so knowledgeable and passionate about preserving the culture and traditions through their art forms. . . . I personally hold the Spanish Market in a very special place in my heart because I am from Northern New Mexico, I am half Hispanic and half Native American, and I know how serious and proud we are of our culture.”

She says market artists have also responded positively to the change. “The artists have been very positive and kind to us here at Atrisco — and they have been so welcoming to me! I think we are all very excited about the future of the Traditional Spanish Market.”

Both Sanchez and Espinoza emphasize that Atrisco will not make major changes to the market’s operations this year. “We will go slow with the transition,” Sanchez says. “We will not go fast. That would be wrong, and it would be disrespectful. So we will go slowly and we will be methodical. In the first year our greatest goal for this July is to make sure we have a market and that it happens in a nice way.”

Visitors can look forward to all the usual market activities, Espinoza says. Artists selling their creations, food vendors, New Mexican and Spanish-based bands and dance groups playing on the Plaza bandstand, book sales, and artist demonstrations are on the agenda, along with Sunday morning mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi followed by a procession to the Plaza bandstand for a blessing.

Sanchez says Atrisco is committed to keeping the market in Santa Fe, where it has deep ties. By 1936, the market — under the leadership of western writer Mary Hunter Austin, co-founder of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society — was embedded in the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe. After a hiatus between World War II and 1965, the popular market was revived and expanded. The number of juried heritage arts categories increased, and booths were added to the now familiar event held annually on the Santa Fe Plaza.

“I know our cultural intentions with this market are an important issue to the city of Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico, so we asked for a covenant to be placed in the contract between us and SCAS that required us to keep it in Santa Fe,” Sanchez says.

SCAS will work with Atrisco and continue to support market artists through programs and activities at its Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. “At SCAS,” Cartwright says, “we hope to collaborate with Atrisco in whatever is appropriate given our mission. Initially, the key element of that collaboration is the transition of the tangible and intangible materials that underlie the successful markets of the past. We stand ready to supplement the market now, and in the future, with educational programming and exhibits at the museum, involving and inviting market artists and the entire community of Northern New Mexico. The many artists of the market are at the very core of our mission and our collection. “

“It’s important that we respect our past and our future,” Sanchez says. “We need to respect our ancestors and all that they have created and done, and we need to push that knowledge forward to our children, so these wonderful things that are part of our heritage go forward in time and allow the past and the future to be connected. It’s not about money — it’s about heritage.”

Atrisco Heritage Foundation grew from the Atrisco Land Grant, which traces its roots to the same time period as the art celebrated in the market. As the Spanish expanded into what became New Mexico, it granted lands to settlers, including the Atrisco Valley south of Albuquerque.

Freelance writer Patricia West-Barker is a former features and magazine editor for “The New Mexican.”






Santa Fe New Mexican