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Santera Lorrie Garcia stands strong

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Lorrie and Andrew Garcia normally show their work at the Traditional Spanish Market, which has been canceled this year. (Courtesy of Lorrie Garcia)

These are days of deep disappointment for folk artists Lorrie and Andrew Garcia.

The Peñasco-based couple was due to exhibit their work at the Traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe this summer for the 20th year in a row. Lorrie Garcia is a santera who carves wooden statues of saints and her husband is a furniture maker.

The event, scheduled for July 25-26 at the Santa Fe Plaza, was canceled because of concerns about the coronavirus. The April 6 cancellation came on the heels of the postponement of Indian Market and was followed by the decision to pull the plug on the International Folk Art Market, a nasty trifecta for Santa Fe’s summer arts scene.

In addition to the cancellation of Spanish Market, Lorrie Garcia has been dealt another setback. Her work was to have been featured in an exhibit of female artisans at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos earlier this month.

A carving of our Lady of Guadalupe by Lorrie Garcia.

Still, the artisan is philosophical.

“Do you have faith?” she asked. “Sometimes, God puts obstacles in our way to test us or sends helpful strangers.”

Right now, she and her husband, whose family operates a mom-and-pop store in Peñasco, are taking it day by day.

“We’re still in shock. We’re trying to process what’s going on,” she said in a telephone interview.

However, the couple is still working on their art.

“My husband and I are dedicated artists. We’re working in spite of everything, even if we don’t have a market to sell our stuff,” she said.

Unlike many northern New Mexico artisans, the Garcias came to their respective arts relatively late in life.

Furniture crafted by Andrew Garcia.

“We both are retired high school teachers. We fell into this work by accident, chance, serendipity after we took a class that was offered by Northern New Mexico College,” Lorrie Garcia said.

The teacher of that class was a former student of Lorrie Garcia who is now a furniture maker. Daniel Tafoya helped hone Andrew Garcia’s furniture-making skills, while Lorrie Garcia fell in love with the New Mexico tradition of carving religious artwork.

The class took place in 1999 and, by 2001, the couple was displaying their wares at the Traditional Spanish Market, which attracts between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors to Santa Fe each summer.

“People kept asking us why we weren’t in Spanish Market and finally we applied and we got in,” she recalled. “We always get two booths next to each other because furniture takes up so much room.”

Over the years, the event has attracted more members of the Garcia family. Lorrie Garcia sponsored her daughter, AnnaRose Lucero, in the market, while her husband has mentored their grandson, Dominic Garcia, in the youth market. Now, as a 17-year-old, he is ready to move up to the adults’ section.

Folk art by Lorrie Garcia.

While the Garcias hope Traditional Spanish Market may devise a virtual market and are contemplating ways to boost their own online profile, word of mouth in the Peñasco region is still very important for their sales, Lorrie Garcia said.

The couple has a gallery next to their home and a collaborative relationship with Sugar Nymphs Bistro during normal times when restaurants aren’t closed with the exception of takeout orders. “Sugar Nymphs will send people over to our gallery and we’ll send people over to the restaurant,” she said.

The Garcias also participate in the High Road Studio Tour in the last two weekends of September, when artists’ galleries and homes on the scenic route to Taos are open to the public.

Confined to her home by the governor’s emergency order limiting gatherings of more than five people and prohibiting all nonessential business, Lorrie Garcia misses the interaction with the public. And she admits that, after carving all day, she’s not in the mood to cook at night.

“I miss going out to eat. We have some favorite restaurants in Taos and I can’t wait until Rancho de Chimayó is open again,” she said, referring to the well-known restaurant in Chimayó that has been serving traditional New Mexico cuisine for nearly half a century.