Monday, September 15, 2014

Visiting with Denise Chavez at the Casa Camino Real

Casa Camino Real
Tornillo Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Part of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

Casa Camino Real, located in an adobe building dating back to the 1800s, is a bookstore. It is also the latest home to the Border Book Festival, which is a vibrant part of the Las Cruces multicultural community. From their web page: [The annual Border Book Festival has] brought over 8,000 writers, filmmakers, storytellers and multi-genre artists to audiences of all ages and backgrounds to share their, talent, stories and art. At the core of all our work is the belief that Art does indeed Heal Lives.

We visited the Casa a few weeks ago. It's not like just going to a bookstore, although the book, art, and music selection is both exciting and esoteric. Going to the Casa is an unforgettable experience. 


Our visit was a party for our senses. The rooms were filled with color, art, and textiles. There were good smells coming from the kitchen and some bouncy, nostalgic music was playing. 


Of course, the most colorful part of any visit to the Casa is meeting with Denise Chavez. She is an author, playwright, actor, teacher, a community and cultural advocate, and more. That description just begins to tell about Denise; to have a conversation with her is hypnotic, exciting, thought-provoking, and always memorable. You can read a brief interview with her here, another here, and a biography with lists of her works here


I had just finished reading her book Taco Testimony; Meditations on Food, Family, and Culture. Although I felt rather shy about doing so, it was a great honor to sit down with Denise in the living room of the Casa and discuss her book, her memories about growing up in Las Cruces, and her thoughts about the intertwined cultures to be found here in the Borderlands. Read a little more about Taco Testimony here.  For a real treat, watch and listen to this video as Denise talks about her book at the previous location of the Border Book Festival headquarters in the old Frietze grocery store in the nearby town of Mesilla.


When we left with our arms full of books, some in English and some in Spanish, some that we had bought and some that were gifts, we believed we were ready to read whole novels in Spanish.  Why? Because that hypnotic Denise had told us that we could do so, and we believed her. 

*****

The Casa Camino Real is located at 314 South Tornillo St., Las Cruces, NM 88001. The phone number is 575-523-3988. Call for the bookstore hours (mostly open on weekends).