By Jay Jones
November 25, 2012
Sure, ours is a capitalist society, but a hotel in Santa Fe, N.M., has found a way to embrace the culture of a nearby Latino community — one that, like others, faces challenges to keep its traditions alive — while still making a profit. It's a model both visitors and investors may want to consider.
Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe (125 Washington Ave., Santa Fe;  988-4900, http://www.hotelchimayo.com) relishes its connection to the village of the same name 30 miles away. The vibrant 56-room inn is full of villagers' handiwork, such as woven bed coverings and rustic crosses that adorn the walls. Each month, part of the proceeds are donated to Chimayo's Los Maestros (The Teachers) program, through which elders pass along ancient traditions, crafts included, to local children.
Taking its rightful place in the top tier of Santa Fe eateries is Hotel Chimayo's Tia's Cocina, or Aunt's Kitchen. Overseen by executive chef Estevan Garcia, a former monk, the restaurant embraces simple foods Garcia knew as one of 11 kids in a poor Santa Fe family. Whenever possible, his creations, such as baked chicken flautas ($15) and lengua, or beef tongue ($19), feature the famed Chimayo chile, a staple of the New Mexican diet.
There are plenty of small shops in Chimayo selling arts and crafts — and those chiles too — but some visitors come for a different reason: to make a pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo (15 Santuario Drive, Chimayo, N.M.;  351-9961, http://www.elsantuariodechimayo.us), the humble Catholic church where believers say medical miracles are performed. (They point to the cast-off crutches and canes adorning the walls just outside the sanctuary as proof.) The small adobe church celebrates daily Masses, but it seems especially sacred on a dark winter's day after a fresh snowfall. There's an adjoining gift shop.
The lesson learned
Although Chimayo's residents are gracious to outsiders, they may be somewhat distant. This is an impoverished native community struggling to balance its culturally rich heritage with the harsh realities of the modern world. (You'll find folks down the road in Santa Fe much more worldly.)
Weekend rates at Hotel Chimayo in November start at $130 a night. Dinner for two at Tia's Cocina, including appetizers, entrées and dessert, but excluding alcohol, can be enjoyed for about $70.
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