Las Pistoleras celebrates Women's History Month in Taos

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The organizers of Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte, 1219 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, plan to participate in National Women's History Month from 6 to 8 p.m. on three Saturdays, (March 3, 10 and 24) at the institute's premises by honoring women who contribute to the history of Taos and surrounding communities.

For the third year in a row, Las Pistoleras selected women from various categories for the distinction. This year's honorees include Megan Bowers Avina, Sonya Bernal, Janell Lujan, Valerie Lopez Trujillo and Enriqueta Vásquez. "Honorees were selected by the work they have completed and the way they live their daily lives to make our community a better place. We honor their contributions to consciousness, to activism, culture, and equality and parity in the world. During this time, we will focus on the accomplishments of education, activism through art and contributions to civil rights," said Theresa Córdova, director of Las Pistoleras.

Valerie Lopez Trujillo receives her award for education Saturday, (March 3). "As executive director of the Northwest Regional Education Cooperative #2, I work with eight northern New Mexico school districts: Taos, Questa, Peñasco, Mesa Vista, Dulce, Chama, Cuba and Jemez Mountain," Lopez Trujillo said.

Trujillo worked her way up through the ranks, graduating Taos High School and completing a bachelor's degree in elementary education and special education at New Mexico Highlands University. Lopez Trujillo earned a master's degree in educational leadership from University of New Mexico. In between working on higher education goals, Trujillo taught for the Santa Fe Public Schools and served as vice-principal at Capshaw Junior High in Santa Fe, Casa de Corazón and Enos Garcia School in Taos. In addition, Lopez Trujillo also assisted students through extracurricular activities. The honoree served as principal at Questa High School and received the principal of the year award for New Mexico in 2014 before serving as superintendent of Questa Independent Schools.

Two artists and activists, Megan Bowers Avina and Janell Lujan, receive their honors on Saturday, (March 10) at Las Pistoleras.

Bowers Avina, a former photo editor at The Taos News, also freelanced for various publications such as New Mexico Magazine. After 15 years as a photojournalist, Bowers Avina decided to combine her love of artistic photography with teaching.

The graduate of the Parson School of Design attended Northern New Mexico College to obtain teaching credentials. Her career change took her from a photographer of Sotheby's Catalog to photographing the Agnes Martin anniversary event at the Harwood Museum to the controversial MolyCorp mine in Questa.

She taught Taos High students through UNM-Taos and the Discovery School Program at Enos Garcia and Taos Middle Schools. "I integrate art in all aspects of learning. I've sponsored journalism club and blogging club as well as serving as arts coordinator and classroom teacher at TISA (Taos Integrated School for the Arts)," said Bowers Avina.

Janell Lujan, also a March 10 honoree, lives at Taos Pueblo. She seamlessly combines her two passions - art and farming - into her activism work as a water protector. As a child, she played with corn husk dolls, which she learned to create at a food summit conference in Wisconsin. "We harvest corn for food, but it's a special use when one can create art from this as well," said Lujan. She paints and co-founded a youth summer camp with her friend Sheryl Romero.

The final evening of the series occurs on Saturday, (March 24). At this time, Sonya Bernal and Enriqueta Vásquez receive well-deserved recognition for their contributions to civil rights.

Sonya Bernal lived in a yurt at Standing Rock for five months. While she participated to aid the cause, she also learned much, not always positive, from the experience. "There were a lot of people who were there for the right reasons. The best part of everything was the many strong, intelligent warriors in this world. I also learned the negative in people - colonialism, blatant racism and capitalism. There is a lot of social injustice up north. I think that Standing Rock participants should have gotten rid of the cops and should have been allowed to police themselves. There's no justice for brown people," said Bernal.

Still, she feels that the fight isn't over and there's always hope. She says she realized this through self-reflection and prayer. Bernal also posed a question to the general public: "Would you want to build a road right over a sacred site?"

Another honoree on March 24, Enriqueta Vásquez, was a large part of the Chicano movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The former Denver resident, Vásquez has made her home in San Cristobal for many years.

Vásquez used her language and writing skills to help spread the word about the people's plight through her column, "¡Despierten Hermanos!" (Awaken Brothers and Sisters) for El Grito del Norte newspaper from 1968-1972. Her writings reflect the anger, humor and experience of the times and addressed issues such as racism, sexism, imperialism, poverty, human rights and power structures. The author never rests on her laurels and continues to write books about the movement.

Congress dedicated March to women's history. Each community includes female residents who have contributed to the history of their own communities. Las Pistoleras honors the above-named individuals for their unselfish accomplishments and achievements. The ceremonies are free of charge and open to the public.

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