Worthy of honor

Taos County Historical Society to salute Nick Branchal, Norbert Martínez Jr.


The Taos County Historical Society is having an honoree luncheon on Sunday (May 7), noon, at the Old Martina's Hall, 4140 State Road 68 in Ranchos de Taos.

The society's honorees this year are Nick Branchal and Norbert Martínez Jr., who are receiving recognition for continuing the tradition of mariachi musicians in our schools. The featured speaker is Nicolasa Chavez, curator, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. Her presentation will be on "Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico." A silent auction featuring locally donated items will begin at 11 a.m. To view auction items, go to

Branchal is a retired Taos music teacher, according to a TCHS press release. "He is known for starting the first high school mariachi program to receive academic credit in New Mexico at Taos High School in 1981. Mariachi programs in New Mexico and other states have, subsequently, used his curriculum and program model to start similar programs in their respective schools. He has directed high school mariachi in Taos and Questa as well as university groups including New Mexico Highlands University and Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. He directed Adams State University's mariachi program for 15 years until his retirement in 2016. He has also been director and member of Mariachi Encantadoras del Rio Grande and Mariachi Rio Grande."

Branchal also conducts mariachi consultancy seminars and clinics throughout the state and the Southwest. He was one of the Albuquerque International Mariachi Conference's instructors for years.

As a senior in high school, Martínez was one of the few students who enjoyed Spanish music, the release continues. "He was one of the original members of the Taos High School Mariachi Program in 1981 under the direction of Nick Branchal. ... Martínez earned a bachelor's degree in elementary music with a minor in music from Adams State College and Highlands University. He was the director of the mariachi program in Questa for five years and in 2004 he was offered the position of general music education teacher at Taos Elementary School. In 2008, Martínez became director for the Taos Middle School and Taos High School mariachi programs. He is assisted by Nick Branchal and Audrey Davis."

Under his leadership, Mariachi El Tigre has performed for the 2017 State Legislature Enchanted Circle Day and the 2016 New Mexico Hispano Music Awards show.

Chavez, according to the release, is the curator of the recent exhibition "Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico" at the Museum of International Folk Arts, Santa Fe and is the author of the accompanying publication, "The Spirit of Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico."

"Flamenco is often considered an outward expression of one's innermost emotions, whether happy or sad; it carries an air of freedom or abandon," Chávez writes about the exhibit. A treasured legacy handed down from generation to generation, the sensual and intense flamenco is traced from 15th-century Spain to modern-day New Mexico. Among the famous dancers and teachers of flamenco from New Mexico were Vicente Romero and Maria Benitez. Romero was Benitez's dance partner once upon a time when she was starting out and they both danced together at El Nido.

Chavez, a 14th-generation New Mexican, is the curator of Latino/Hispano/Spanish colonial collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. She continues to make special guest appearances in flamenco shows at various venues, including Old Martina's Hall in Ranchos de Taos.

The Taos County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the historical resources of Taos County and Northern New Mexico. It was formed in 1952 for the purpose of "preserving the history of the Taos area." Membership is open to any interested person, student or business, regardless of residence, upon the payment of dues.

Luncheon reservations must be completed by April 28. For more information, call TCHS President Ernestina Cordova at (575) 770-0681.


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