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New Historic Marker Honors Taos Pueblo Potter

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By Susan Montoya Bryan

TAOS PUEBLO, N.M. — There were no clouds in the sky. The view toward Taos’ snow-capped mountains was unobstructed, the sun was warm and a bald eagle soared overhead.

The perfect day is how dozens of members of Taos Pueblo described Saturday, when the community gathered to dedicate a historic marker in honor of famed pueblo potter Virginia T. Romero.

It’s one of the newest roadside markers erected as part of an initiative to honor women’s contributions to New Mexico history.

Before 2007, only one of the 500 roadside markers in New Mexico mentioned a woman, state officials said. Now, more than 100 women are recognized by 64 markers that dot the state’s roadsides.

“This marker initiative was really to bring out the unsung women in New Mexico,” said Beverly Duran, co-founder of the project. “We know that if one little marker can encourage a young woman today to follow her dreams, then it’s all worth it. We want young women to be inspired.”

Duran and others at Saturday’s ceremony described Romero, a mother of 10, as a woman who was a focal point for her community. An accomplished potter and gifted linguist, Romero also designed and built adobe fireplaces and shared her knowledge of clay with others.

On Saturday, her family shared stories about the time they spent with her preparing clay and the occasions when she would put her work aside to make fresh tortillas and beans. Pueblo War Chief Benito Sandoval recalled it was Romero who crafted his wife’s traditional bridal shoes.

Romero began making pottery in 1919 and continued through her 100th birthday. She is credited with helping to keep the micaceous pottery tradition alive at Taos Pueblo.

Her pieces found their way into private collections and museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum, the Southwest Museum of the American, the School of American Research, the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe.

Romero died in 1998 at the age of 102.

New Mexico Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales said Romero was an amazing woman and there was nothing she couldn’t do.

It’s women like Romero who “contribute to the landscape of what makes this New Mexico, of what makes us unique,” Gonzales said.

The women recognized over the last five years with the roadside historical markers include other artists, businesswomen, attorneys, activists, architects, ranchers, educators and politicians. The markers can be found in every corner of the state.

While funding approved by the New Mexico Legislature in 2006 was only meant for the creation of the first 64 markers, Duran is hopeful the program can continue.

A 16th generation New Mexican, Duran said her father used to drive the family around when she was young and would stop at all the markers to teach his children bits of history.

“All of this holds a very special place in my heart,” she said.

For the pueblo, Gov. Laureano Romero said the marker will serve as a symbol of pride.

“A grandmother, mother and auntie — she was a focal point,” he said of Virginia Romero. “She was a great woman.”

The dedication of Romero’s marker was also part of the “Remarkable Women of Taos” celebration. Art exhibitions, lectures and film screenings are scheduled throughout the rest of the year.

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