Separate from Traditional Spanish Market but held on the same day and in the same place is Contemporary Hispanic Market. In August, Natives will reclaim the entire plaza for the 88th Indian Market.
I've gone to Santa Fe for Spanish, Hispanic, and Indian Markets, Fiesta, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, and when my family and friends have visited. I know there's a San Francisco Street. I hear that the Five & Dime has the best frito pies in Santa Fe. I know Santa Fe even less than I know Albuquerque which means I don't know Santa Fe.
Yesterday, driving toward the plaza, I saw a large Virgen de Guadalupe statue. Of my 10ish visits over two years, I had never noticed her. I wanted to stop and take her foto in front of her church, but I knew we should get to the plaza. Geen had work to do. We drove around looking for parking--free or as close to the plaza as possible. Finally, we paid an industrious boy five bucks to park at a medical office.
We walked to the plaza. I had plenty of cash for snacks or to buy a piece of art just in case I found something I liked and it fit my budget. I would have bet all my money on a Navajo taco or maybe a sopaipilla. And lost.
Ten minutes into the Contemporary Hispanic section, her light brown eyes caught mine. Her black hair and tank top with the white trim matching her frame pulled me in further. The rose tattoo? Fuhgetabouddit! I left Gina and went into the booth. I saw her whole familia hanging on the wall with her. I saw her sister had a tag identifying her, La Guapa.
Nodding to la hermana, I asked their creator Carolyn Flores, "If her name is La Guapa," pointing to my mujer, "what's her name?"
"Mama Chola," me dijo.
Ohhh! I started mentally counting the cash in my wallet. I stepped aside so Geen who was now inside could see her too.
"How much...?" I semi-dared.
Carolyn told me: More than I had in cash. More than I wanted to spend on art or much else. But, damn, that Mama Chola! She looked good!
"Do you have any cards or prints of her?" I asked Carolyn, thinking I could do what I usually did with art pieces I liked.
"No, I haven't made any yet."
Maybe I could be reasonable and save my money and get her or one like her later.
"Do you have others like her?"
"I just got here. I can't buy a painting...now," I turned and pleaded with Geen.
"You can walk around and think about it. Come back later if you want," she suggested.
"Yeah, yeah. Good idea," feeling calmer.
"I'll be back," I told Carolyn as I picked up one of her business cards
I looked at my Mama Chola one more time and left feeling strong and in control. I kept asking myself, What was I thinking? I kept telling myself, You can't afford a painting. I should be buying books. I should be home writing not here shopping. Then I started imagining going back to the booth and her being gone. Could I handle that? How could I?! She's mine.
Geen saw my pain.
"If you can't imagine not having her-"
"Let's go back," I said as I turned around. I wanted to run, but I knew that was too much. Mama Chola wouldn't want me to run after her. Besides, it was too hot.
There she was. And without a SOLD tag on her. I asked Carolyn about la chola.
"I thought a chola should be at Spanish Market."
Truth is, if I were to see Mama Chola in real life, I'd turn the other way. I know she'd see my wannabe self and not "wannabe" nothing to do with me. I'd be lucky to get her friendship out of pity.
Maybe she'd be related to me. If she were, she'd be my sister's teen self and if she were, she'd hit me or want to which feels the same.
Mama Chola could be one of my students--former, current, or future. I wouldn't turn away. And if she turned away, I'd help her look back.
So, I'm glad that I have her the way I do. Holding up the wall. My wall.
Find Mama Chola's familia at http://floresoriginals.blogspot.com/