Willow Powers


The creation in 2006 of a National Heritage Area out of Taos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties, began through the activities and energies of a group of people, encouraged and supported by Sens. Domenici and Bingaman. The organization’s board includes two of the founders, Mary Trujillo Mascareñas and Samuel Delgado.


The following excerpted interviews with several board members and an early supporter, illustrate their passionate interest in and dreams for sustaining the rich cultures of the area as a whole. That passion has infused the NRGNHA from its earliest beginnings and continues through the contributions and advice of the founding members as well as all of the board members and others who have been involved in the creation of the Heritage Area. Encouragement for the initial efforts also came from Ernesto Ortega, retired National Park Service employee, who has been acknowledged as the “Padrino” of the effort.




Mary Trujillo Mascareñas is one of two founding members who have remained on the board. She was board president from 2004 to 2010 and continues to serve as vice president. Mary was born and raised in Llano, NM. She uses her whole name because she doesn’t want to leave out her parental heritage. Her father, Virgilio Trujillo, was born in Llano, and her mother, Tonito, in Llano Largo. Her parents had a store and a ranch in Llano. Mary was taught by the Dominican sisters and then by the sisters at Loretto Academy in Santa Fe. “I had good models,” she said, “in holding onto family traditions and values and faith that were installed in us by our ancestors.”


Mary married her high school sweetheart, Ambrose Mascareñas. Both of them were always involved in the community and the parish: Mary ran for the school board, and was on the Commission for Acequias, appointed by Gov. Richardson. Because of her involvement in acequias, Mary attended the meetings held to discuss the possibilities of applying for National Heritage Area status for the Northern Río Grande area. At the first meeting at Picuris Pueblo, she was asked to be on the steering committee. When the NRGNHA was created by the 2006 Act of Congress, she was named as president of the board.


Our main concern was for us to tell the story of this area and not have people from another state come and be the people to tell us about ourselves. We have to be born in it, live it, and to continue to grow in it. That really was our purpose. The cultures that have existed here have all contributed to what we have today. It’s important that we all respect each other, live with dignity, help each other and treat each other like brothers and sisters.”


I learned a lot from my Dad; my Dad was very studious. He was a very helpful person in passing on history, not only about the family but also about the place. You wish you had so much more time to learn about the area and your family history.”


When we were in school, we were given demerit slips for speaking Spanish. So we had to watch that we didn’t get caught speaking Spanish. But the true history of NM—we who know a little bit more about situations, about history—I think we have to volunteer to go and give presentations. If not, it is dead. You carry it with you and you bury it with you, and nobody else knows.”


Camilla Bustamante, board member since 2006 and faculty member of Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) in Española, is a multi-generation native New Mexican. She is mestiza of both Spanish and Native Keresan ancestry. Part of her family arrived in the Southwest in the 1700s and intermarried here. Her parents’ families came from the village of La Cienega, where Camilla now lives, the village where her grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother were born. Her uncle, historian Adrian Bustamante, investigated the Bustamantes, and she feels it a privilege to know, through his work, her family history. “I really don’t take it for granted; I feel very honored to have that background.”


Camilla is an environmental scientist, trained in environmental health, and directs the Sostenga Center at NNMC. She has been involved with the NRGNHA since 2002, before it was created. She is now on the executive committee.


It’s essential to learn multi-generationally how to actually live in a location and what that means to sustainability. …As the European influence has come in, we all had to look over to those who’ve been here to say, how do we live here and do this work? …The more I look at the practices of my ancestors and what people are defining as healthier ways of doing things, the more it becomes evident that by integrating technology, but moving away from some of those practices that have been detrimental, we can re-learn what it means to survive in a location that tends to be threatened, given water availability and climate.”


I truly believe the Heritage Area is important for supporting identity, for helping people who may have lost a sense of purpose and self to regain that identity. It’s about recognizing our interdependence, not just with each other, but with the place where we are, and what it means to be a people.”


Katherine Mortimer, an environmental planner with a background in land use, grew up in a New England town where her family had lived for at least five generations. She moved to northern NM 10 years ago. Katherine was appointed by Mayor Coss to represent the city of Santa Fe on the board. From working on the board she was recognized for her administrative skills acquired from working for government and running meetings; as she put it, “working through situations so that people feel heard even when they don’t agree with the solutions chosen.” Katherine was asked to become board president two years ago. She feels that she is a transition president for the period in which the Management Plan is being drafted and finalized. In time, she hopes to return to representing the city of Santa Fe on the board; currently she does not. What inspires her and fuels her commitment to the Heritage Area and the board is the people, the communities and the culture.


I just feel that the living culture embodied in the people here is the most valuable of the assets of this place. While I am a newcomer here, I am always impressed when I see young people returning here because of a deep sense of rootedness. Even though I grew up in a place where I had that similar kind of history, I don’t have a rootedness connection there because there is a difference in the culture of the community.”


Richard Lucero, though not a board member, was Mayor of Española when the idea of a National Heritage Area was being worked out for the Northern Río Grande, and was instrumental in its creation. He has been invited to join the board repeatedly, but prefers to provide support from the sidelines. Born and raised in Española, his roots go back to his ancestor, Pedro Lucero de Godoy. Being Jewish, Godoy could not obtain a grant of land from the Spanish Viceroy, but his daughter married Sebastian Martin, who, not being Jewish, was given a land grant. He shares a great grandmother with San Ildefonso Pueblo people. Richard studied at UNM and went to work in an executive position for 14 years with the Boy Scouts of America. In that time, 53 percent of the boys in his region (Santa Fe, Taos, Sandoval and Río Arriba counties) went scouting. Richard resigned from the Boy Scouts when his parents were ill. He ran their store in Taos and looked after them. In 1975 he bought the Country Store in Espanola. Richard was mayor from 1986 to 1992 and again from 1998 to 2006.


During this time,” he said, “I was working with Sen. Domenici and Sen. Bingaman on the issue of cultures. I told them, ‘You are going to lose some of the most valuable things you have—the Native American culture and the Spanish culture—if you don’t protect them.’”


The greatest pleasure I’ve had in my life was sitting at the feet of my grandparents and hearing them talk to me, telling me what it was like many years ago; their stories, my stories. Historians,” he said, “tell us what they think, but it’s important to have all the details, all the stories. People should be able to draw their own conclusions. …I am what I came from. What did my ancestors teach me? To respect others, and to not look at anything except their spirit.”


Other current board members are:


  • Eddy Sánchez (Cebolla), chair of the Nominations Committee
  • Vernon Lujan (Taos Pueblo representative), treasurer
  • Willow Powers (Santa Fe), chair of the Fundraising Committee
  • Naomi J. Barnes (Santa Fe)
  • Alberto Baros (Española)
  • Sam Cata (representing NM Department of Cultural Affairs)
  • Matthew Foster (representing Town of Taos)
  • Ben Chavarría (Santa Clara Pueblo representative)
  • Patricio Garcia (representing Río Arriba County)
  • Rick Hendricks (NM State Historian)
  • Milton Herrera (Tesuque Pueblo representative)
  • Timothy Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo representative)
  • Christy Medina (Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo representative)


The board is continuing to fill open positions representing other tribal and local governmental organizations contained within the Heritage Area and to add community representation from Taos County.




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