Tuesday, 17 July 2012 06:32

Arturo Jaramillo of Chimayo

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Arturo Jaramillo Arturo Jaramillo

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Arturo Jaramillo


His Life and Contributions to His Community


Born November 9, 1931 in Santa Fe, NM


When asked to write a biography about someone I admire, I did not have to think long to select my uncle, Arturo Jaramillo.  Arturo has accomplished much in his lifetime.  Achievements which have affected the history of Northern New Mexico and impacted many people’s lives in personal and positive ways.   Too, he has always been an adored son, grandson, brother, uncle, father and grandfather, becoming the patriarch of the Jaramillo family and being there in times of support. 


Included here are both a small composite of photographs and a list of accomplishments, which will be woven to tell the story of Arturo’s life and triumphs.




Arturo’s Early Years in Chimayo


The precious world he witnessed: La vida en norte New Mexico




Arturo Jaramillo’s life is the personification of deep cultural roots, devotion to family and duty to community.  He was born on November 9th, 1931, in Santa Fe, NM, to my mother’s oldest sister, Laura Jaramillo Sisneros.  A single mother who needed to continue her work in Santa Fé, Laura turned over custody of her precious baby to her parents, my grandparents, Hermenejildo and Trinidad Jaramillo of Chimayo.  Later Laura would raise four other children who would be lifelong close siblings to Arturo.  However, his grandparents adopted and raised Arturo as their own son.  My mother, Emma, was twelve years old at the time.  She loved and protected him her whole life as her baby brother.  Their lifetime relationship was a deep bond and loyalty; always there for one another during life’s joyous moments as well as their greatest hardships.  I would grow up to think of him as my Tio Arturo and he would have a great influence on my life.


A thoughtful person who wins the hearts of those who know him, Arturo listens to what you have to say with great focus and interest.  In a soft spoken and gracious manner, he talks about how blessed he is to have the life he has led.  His early experiences would shape Arturo’s goals as a charitable advocate for his beloved norte New Mexico.  Born with an outgoing personality as well as a genuine compassion for people, he would hold close to his heart the old traditions and richness of his heritage, unique in this country. 




Today citizens of the small rural villages of Northern New Mexico are making great efforts to preserve, or at least not forget, a way of life that is being altered as the modern world encroaches into these treasured communities.   This is a place of cultural richness and deep traditions as witnessed in its language, agriculture, food, architecture, art, song, faith, and lifestyle.  From birth to death, this has been a lifestyle of hard work and devotion in harmony with its environment.  Arturo’s early years would influence his objectives of assisting the people of norte New Mexico, which he did by representing his beloved cultura on a local, state and national level.  By doing so he was able to create needed jobs for thousands of northern New Mexicans, many benefiting from all his efforts to this day. 


Speaking mostly Spanish, Arturo would grow up in the 1930s with all the old traditions of la gente/the people of Chimayo.  He assisted his grandfather with the daily chores on the farm, which included working with the mayordomo (guardian of the irrigation ditches) to secure water to irrigate their land.  Arturo helped harvest the orchards and planted, picked and strung the chilé for which Chimayo is so well known—chilé made into ristras which were hung to dry on the outside walls of the house.  He would assist his grandmother can the foods as well as his grandfather watch after the farm animals—caballos, vacas, borregas, gallinas. 


As a boy Arturo studied by kerosene lamparas and bathed in water fetched in the nearby acequia. In a large room of the house dedicated for weaving, he would assist his grandmother spin yarn and his grandfather weave on a large loom he had built himself—a traditional Chimayo style herga, which is a skill handed down from his early ancestors who settled in the area in the 1600s.  Arturo would also participate in farm chores with the older sons, Willie a weaver, Ruben and Joe craftsmen, and Levi a carpenter.  Besides being a farmer and a weaver, his grandfather was a builder and roofer whose work you can still see today in Chimayo and nearby villages.   His grandfather worked on the repair of the Santuario including restoring the roof on the church.  This was the chapel where his family worshiped and partook in the passages of family life:  Baptism, First Holy Communion, weddings, and funerals.  This was the early life, which would shape Arturo’s destiny.


Chimayo has long been a site of great international interest.  In the early 1940s it was featured in an award-winning documentary, Sons of the Conquistadors.  Arturo grandparents were chosen to play the lead roles.   Arturo, who was just a young boy of thirteen when it was filmed, was made further aware of the specialness of the life he knew growing up in Chimayo.   The film showed daily life as it was during the time he was a child.   Later as an adult, he would have the opportunity to meet the Hollywood creators of the documentary as well as some of the actors.  He would bring the film to the attention of people in various fields, private and public, as an example of the need to protect and preserve the area and the cherished way of life.  Shortly after the film was completed, his grandmother passed away in the family home.  His grandfather, still strong and able, remained farming, ranching and weaving.


Arturo Moves to Santa Fé to Complete His Education 


Soon after, Arturo moved to Santa Fé to attend St. Michael’s High School where he quickly became a popular classmate, strong academic student, and accomplished athlete.   He lived with my mother, then single, and later with my parents when they first married upon my father’s return from Germany during WWII.   From his high school days through the decades that followed, my mother proudly saved newspaper articles chronicling the achievements of Arturo’s inspiring life.  The following is one from his high school days, giving an example of his strength and character.



(1947)….”Coaches Name Art Jaramillo:  Art Jaramillo, St. Michael’s Horsemen basketball star, has been chosen by coaches and officials to play on the North cage squad …at Alb as the climax to the annual coaching school held at the University of New Mexico.  The tall Horseman was one of the outstanding players for the Horsemen during the past season……Jaramillo was not a flashy player during the season, but proved to be one of the finest defensive players of the squad.” 


Arturo graduated from St. Michael’s High School in 1950 then joined the U.S. Navy, which took him far away from the life he had known.  He became an aeromechanic working on planes used in battle.  His final station was in Hartford, Connecticut.  It was there that he met and married Florence Poulin whose family roots were from French Canada.  A daughter, Laura, was born during that time.


In 1959 his grandfather, who had been living independently on the family farm, passed away during a routine surgery.   This sudden event would bring Arturo back home where he was missed greatly by family members.   Unable to care for the large acreage of farmland following his grandfather’s death, the family persuaded Arturo to stay by offering the property to him if he could develop it, mindful of the memory of the beloved Hermenejildo and Trinidad Jaramillo. 


By then in his late thirties, Arturo had seen much to make him appreciate from where he had come, what was important to hold on to, and what he could do to make a positive difference in Northern New Mexico, the foundation of his early years.  What was to follow would become the impetus to many other accomplishments, which would engage his time in business, agriculture, conservation and public service.   


Rancho de Chimayo 1965-present


Arturo contemplated alternatives for both honoring the family house as well as bringing needed economic assistance to the Chimayo area.  After a few years of great labor and sacrifice the home of his beloved grandparents was converted from a farmhouse to a restaurant.  In 1965 Arturo and Florence opened the doors to Rancho de Chimayo.


How could a restaurant, which in the early 60s seemed like an unlikely success, far from any major city, become one of the iconic businesses of New Mexico, recognized by the National Restaurant Association?  Those who know the family know it is because of the love and devotion of Arturo to his roots.  And it was because of the character of Arturo.  In 1985 he was honored as Restaurateur of the Year by the National Restaurant Association based in Chicago.  Providing the quality of food his grandparents made and preserving their spirit, the restaurant has become internationally known, attracting locals, celebrities and high officials alike.


The basketball ring made from the rim of a tin can and nailed to the front yard catalpa tree has now been grown around since the years he would play ball during his childhood.  The corner of the room where his grandmother cooked tortillas, calebacita, chilé and frijoles, on a wood-burning stove is today the location of the host desk for the restaurant.  The large room where he would watch his grandmother spin yarn and his grandfather weave has been the kitchen to the successful business.  And the room where Arturo would study by kerosene lantern now one of the dining rooms; the ground where he would help his grandfather with chores by day and chase fireflies by night is the parking lot for the internationally known Rancho de Chimayo.


Through this vision, dedication and hard work, Arturo was able to accomplish the following with Rancho de Chimayo being the force that got him there:




¨National Restaurateur of the Year 1985

¨Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C, 1968-71

¨NM State Senator for Santa Fé and Los Alamos counties 1969-70

He was instrumental in passing a resolution to officially name "The High Road to Taos"

¨Chairperson of the Spanish Colonial Historical Foundation (Rancho las Golondrinas)

¨Chairperson for the Northern Rio Grand Resource Conservation and Development Council


¨Chairperson of the Historic Committee of the Museum of NM Foundation Board


¨Jaramillo.JPG Don Diego De Vargas, Santa Fé Fiesta, 1966



¨     Cofounder of the American National Bank of Santa Fé and Board Member

¨     Cofounder of the Channel 2 TV Station and Board Member


Board Member

¨Acquisition Committee, National Endowment for the Humanities 1970-71

¨Los Alamos Community Council 1985

¨First Northern Savings and Loan 1972-1980

¨Santa Fé Opera

¨Santa Fé County Soil and Water

¨St. Vincent’s Hospital

¨Ghost Ranch

¨Millicent Rogers Museum



¨       NM Restaurant Association

¨       National Restaurant Association

¨       State Economic Advisory Counsel 1973-75

¨       New Mexico Amigos


Served in both the Connecticut (1951-1961) and NM Air National Guard (1962-1964)




Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, and Jimmy Stewart have visited Rancho de Chimayo, as well as high officials like the King of Spain.  However, most appreciative of Arturo’s dream are his family, who have an opportunity to more personally connect with Heremenejildo and Trinidad’s memory, as well as the local people—the people of Chimayo, Truchas, Cordova, Rio Chiquito, Santa Cruz.  Those small villages were positively affected by Arturo’s vision, since over the decades tens of thousands have been able to work at the restaurant as well as the many other enterprises created by Arturo.  These gave many the opportunities to support their families and their dreams as well as afford higher education. 


In 2010 and 2011Arturo returned to host at the Rancho de Chimayo during the summer months.  The reaction of the people was like that of seeing a beloved son come home—more delight than seeing a Hollywood celebrity!  Continuously greeted with joy and interrupted by those who wanted to have their photos taken with him, Arturo was caring and gracious as he was as a boy--El hijo de Chimayo had come back home!


Gracias, Tio, on behalf of all the Jaramillos,


Maria Jaramillo Montez-Skolnik






In the ‘red room’ where his mother and my mother were born, Arturo receives a framed photo of his grandparents thanking him for keeping true to his devotion to la familia y la gente de norte New Mexico.


In the photo the chilé strings hang as they do today and the catalpa tree is strong as the memories.






Arturo returns to host at Rancho de Chimayo during the summers of 2010 and 2011


Pictured here with Benjamin and Zachary Jaramillo Montez Skolnik and with Maria Montez-Skolnik in 2011


To view the documentary, Sons of the Conquistadores:  http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc13664/


Read 6796 times Last modified on Monday, 23 July 2012 18:39
Maria Montez-Skolnik


Both sides of my family trace their roots in the Santa Fé area to the 1600s.  In the earlier years they were primarily farmers, builders, craftsmen, artists (wood carvers and weavers), and educators.  I graduated from SFHS & NMSU and received my BA & MA in Speech & Language Pathology. I divide my time between Santa Fé and the San Francisco Bay Area.  



  • Comment Link Kathy Capron Tully Thursday, 02 August 2012 14:14 posted by Kathy Capron Tully

    a heart warming, beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. Very blessed. Thank you for sharing this, it is beautiful.

  • Comment Link Michael Miller Tuesday, 31 July 2012 21:08 posted by Michael Miller

    Maria, We enjoyed the biography on Arturo very much. Thank you.

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