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S IN TAO T N E 20 NM ERTAI 1 0, 2 0 T . N N E A J & A R TS , 1989 4 1 . T OC


36 Hours in Taos • Romancito’s gift • Adventures de Taos in film

Romancito’s Gift BY ARIANA KRAMER

F O R T H R E E D E C A D E S, Rick Romancito has excelled at documenting the arts in Taos through his work at the Taos News. As a photographer, videographer, journalist and editor he has skillfully portrayed the stories of who we are and what we care about. Under his watch as Tempo Editor, the arts and entertainment section of the Taos News has flourished, covering happenings from the Taos Fiestas to the Taos Pueblo Powwow, community theater productions to big name rock concerts, world-class art exhibits to


home-grown crafts fairs, Paseo to the Regeneration Festival. Romancito’s unique vision and honest critique have enriched our community. His comprehensive and inclusive definition of “art” and “entertainment” has been of service to the multifaceted muses of Taos, and his coverage – from edgy to traditional – has extended to all reaches of Taos County. With the new year, Romancito is retiring from his post as Tempo Editor to pursue his personal artistic interests and spend time with his family. It’s a change that has made ripples

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throughout the Taos arts community. Here is what a few colleagues and Taos creatives have to say about Romancito’s career and its impact. In a phone interview with Joan Livingston, the former editor of the Taos News said, “I could always count on Rick – there was never a question about meeting deadlines. As the arts and entertainment editor, Romancito had to juggle a lot, and deal with people with healthy egos. He handled it very well. “I really enjoyed working with someone who was a movie star,” Livingston remarked, a reference to Romancito’s

former career as a professional actor, when he appeared in films such as “Rooster Cogburn” with John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn and “Showdown” with Dean Martin and Rock Hudson. I N A D D I T I O N , Romancito has directed film projects including “Warriors: The Native American Experience in Vietnam” and “Benito’s Gift,” which Above: Rick and Melody Romancito enjoy Paseo at the Parsons Gallery Christmas party in 2019. C. JIM COX

Holiday traditions —or not Rick Romancito “talks turkey” BY VIRGINIA L. CLARK


Rick Romancito gets ready to document the 2000 Taos Talking Pictures festival with executive director Morten Nilssen at the TCA. he adapted from his short story of the same name. Filmed in Taos and Taos Pueblo and starring all local actors, “Benito’s Gift” won the 2006 New Mexico Governor’s Cup Short Screenplay Competition. The film is dedicated to Rick’s parents: Richard and Rose Romancito. Livingston, who now lives in Massachusetts, also praised Rick Romancito for his movie reviews, which she says she still reads today. “He is a man of many talents,” said Livingston. Virginia Clark, a long-time colleague at the Taos News, agrees. From photography to videography, movie reviews to social media postings – “he just did everything,” said Clark. “He’s so balanced in all these ways,” she added, marveling at what Romancito could get done in half the time it would take someone else. “He’s just really a workhorse,” she admired. As a freelancer who has written for Romancito for the past 10 years, this writer can say that it has been a joy to work with him as an editor. He is steady, focused, fair and kind. His hands-off approach to management has been refreshing. His rare compliments – sincere gold. “Without Rick Romancito the Tempo won’t be the same,” reflected artist and gallery owner Máye Torres. “For the past three decades, his dedication to reporting on the heart of the arts in Taos, from visual and musical to spoken and written word, traditional and innovative — Rick was there to

cover and photograph the stories. It will be hard to find a new editor who has the same insight and knowledge, from a true local point of view, historical to now, as Rick Romancito. He is truly irreplaceable.” Nancy Laupheimer, artistic director of Taos Chamber Music Group, has worked with Romancito for as long as he’s been arts editor. She recalled the days before digitalization, when she would bring in black-and-white photographs to the Taos News office to hand to Romancito. Laupheimer noted that the Taos arts scene grew exponentially over the period of Romancito’s tenure, and said she admires him for his stability and equanimity through it all. “I’ve always known Rick to be very professional in his work,” said Taos musician Billy Archuleta. “He’s always in a good mood, friendly and courteous. I’ve played at many of the same occasions where he’s been shooting photos and he’s always been very discreet, quiet, quick and friendly He always has something good to say about everyone, and we joke around a bit when we see each other.” Archuleta added that Romancito is a “great photographer!” Romancito has been the heartbeat of Tempo for decades, with what can truly be called a steadfast devotion to his work. When he took over as Tempo editor in 1994, he had already been working for the Taos News as a staff writer, photographer and more.

T E M P O E D I T O R R I C K R O M A N C I T O assigned me to do a feature on Taos holiday traditions some 20 years ago. Though I’d been visiting Taos since 1980, and moved here in ’87, I had not formally partaken of a Taos Pueblo feast yet. So covering Pueblo holiday traditions was a highlight, what with all the Indian cookies, prune pies, posole and red chile stew recipes being bandied about during the season. But this assignment also turned out to be my first introduction to Native American humor. I’d only worked with Rick a few times, and that, basically over the phone. After this exchange it became abundantly clear where his famed film critic persona honed its edge. To round everything out, I asked Rick what the Pueblo does for Thanksgiving. And with deadpan Indian humor he said, “Oh, we throw the turkey on the fire and when it stops squawking we beat it with a stick.” My newbie eyes wide, I hung up the phone and wrapped up the assignment – giving thanks for our blessings and being lucky enough to toast our gratitudes – the chief among which is that Rick doesn’t cook the turkey.


OCT. 14, 1989 - JAN. 10, 2020 | TEMPO


ROMANCITO’S GIFT continues from page 3

A C C O R D I N G T O an insightful 2017 interview with Romancito by Lynne Robinson for, Romancito’s award-winning career with the Taos newspaper began in 1989 when he responded to an ad for a copy camera operator. The interview notes that Romancito attended the Anthropology Film Center in Santa Fe where he studied documentary filmmaking. Soon after starting up at the Taos News, then Tempo editor Melody Elwell recognized Romancito’s talents and background and asked him to photograph and write for the paper. Melody and Rick would later marry and raise a daughter, Ella; they are now grandparents. Over the years, Romancito has covered the arts, Native American issues, veterans affairs (his father served in the United States Navy), and, at times, breaking news for the Taos News. He has earned numerous awards from the New Mexico Press Association. THE EARLIEST MENTION of Romancito in the Taos News’ digital archives is not one of his many bylines. It is a story about a young man of 25 who moved from Albuquerque to Taos Pueblo to join his mother and his brothers and follow his dream of being an artist. The article was written by Janice Daigh and published in the January 11, 1979 issue of the newspaper. The story documents Romancito’s studies in fine arts at the University of New Mexico and his intrigue with visual art and film. “Romancito describes his current state as ‘open,’” Daigh wrote in 1979. “He is experimenting with different ways of resolving visual problems: breaking up planes, rearranging compositions, playing with textures and colors.” That openness and interest in visual fields clearly informed Romancito’s work for Tempo during his tenure as editor. Romancito’s keen sense of composition has always come through in his selection of stories and photographs. A sense of nuanced and balanced perspective has been a hallmark



Rick Romancito announcing the bands at Taos Plaza Live in 2017. of his coverage of this colorful community of artists, dancers, potters, jewelers, musicians, weavers, designers, actors, writers and other creatives. It is worth noting that the Taos arts community first gained international notoriety with the Taos Society of Artists, founded in 1915. These Americans of European ancestry and artistic training looked at Taos – its landscapes, people, cultures and arts – through a lens of discovery and curiosity. Their view was from the outside in, and they shared this view of Taos with the larger world. R I C K R O M A N C I T O, who is of Taos Pueblo and Zuni heritage, has shown us what Taos looks like through

TEMPO | OCT. 14, 1989 - JAN. 10, 2020

the eyes of someone who is deeply at home here. He has followed the cycles of our community’s creative life, while recording and commenting on them with forthright clarity. During a time when Taos has seen major shifts in demographics, land development and cultural influences, Romancito has steadily crafted a staggering body of photographs, videos and stories that document the creativity that has accompanied those changes. His movie reviews are a running commentary on national and international culture. Thankfully, Romancito’s so-called retirement looks to be just one more creative adventure. In addition to pursuing his painting and other artistic endeavors, Romancito plans to contin-

ue to contribute to the Taos News after retiring as Tempo editor. His two dogs, Gabby and Shirley, are looking forward to more walks with their best friend. As his last task as Tempo editor, Romancito is training his successor. He leaves Tempo in the capable hands of Lynne Robinson. For 30 years, Romancito has painted his impressions of this community across the pages of Tempo. His phenomenal legacy of thoughtful and thought-provoking visual and written local art history is documented and archived in the Taos News’ archives. For all of us who love this place called Taos, it stands as an enduring gift.

thank you notes “Congratulations, Rick! I have much respect for you and your commitment to the Taos News and your community. Many blessings and enjoy your family and painting.” —DAVID GARVER

Quoting from William Shakespeare, Garver added,


Rick Romancito as ‘the Indian boy’ in ‘Rooster Cogburn’ with John Wayne in 1975,

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything.” “Rick, my friend! Thank you for your sincere dedication to the arts in Taos. And on a personal note thank you for covering all the adventures I’ve been involved with over the last 35 years. From Moondance recording studio back in the eighties, the TCA, Taos Talking Pictures to more recently Taos Youth Music School and The Paseo. You played a large role in the success of these projects and we can only hope that your successor will continue to provide such professionalism and dedication. Be well and enjoy retirement!” —MORTEN NILSSEN

OCT. 14, 1989 - JAN. 10, 2020 | TEMPO



Rick Romancito: the man, the myth...



O U M I G H T N O T see him, but Rick Romancito is probably at your concert, gallery or poetry jam. He is easy to miss. He won’t show a face — only the lens of his camera — but he is still there. Romancito is there for all of it. Meow Wolf held it’s second Vortex concert at Kit Carson Park over the summer when hundreds of campers made their way onto the lawns and baseball fields of the park. Industrial and alternative music blared through the park speakers until 11 p.m. each night. When all was said and done, when the campers were rolling around in the early morning, stirring in their

sleeping bags, Romancito was there. WAR made its way to Taos for a free Fourth of July show in Taos and, yes, Romancito was there. Though he may have done more dancing than photography— WAR after all is a symbol of the hip era Romancito grew up in — he was still seen walking around with a camera strapped to his neck. It is not known to scholars or colleagues how he manages to be so many places and still have time to put together entire Tempo editions with so much ease. The mystery of Romancito goes far beyond his ubiquitous appearances at nearly every happening going on in Taos. It has been said he carries with him the secrets of the Taos Hum, alien abductions and many other things of

the weird nature. How else would he have such extensive knowledge of the strange and odd happenings in the area? Was it he who was spotted by hunters out scouting? Was he just rearranging his spacecraft parking? One thing is for sure — Romancito has a knack for visiting shows, openings and other affairs while still managing to snap some of the best photography Taos has seen in an age. So how is he able to capture the perfect morning snow or paint a scene while still typing away in his office? There are some who believe he holds the key to time travel, and each time he uses his abilities, hundreds in Taos hear a mystical vibration that has become known as the Hum. The Hum

was first reported in Taos around the 1990s and it is believed this is around the time Romancito learned this ability. In addition, there are some who say Romancito is simply omnipresent. Romancito knows more than he will let anyone know. Many have speculated that his time in this area is both mysterious and welcomed. That he is not just a man, but the embodiment of Taos itself. Romancito is a special force in this small little arts town and brings about a nature of both hard work and silly jokes. Whatever the case, he sure is the embodiment of the Taos News Tempo chair. We’re gonna miss you, Rick. Take care, don’t be a stranger and, for goodness sake, have some fun!


Rick wondering what all the fuss is about at the Taos Fall Arts Festival, 2019. 6

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36 Hours in Taos: How to capture the best of New Mexico’s gem BY DENA MILLER

WEDNESDAY, 9 A.M. You’ve arrived in Taos after a long ride from the Albuquerque International Sunport and it’s time for a hearty breakfast to fuel you during your high-altitude adventures: perhaps a breakfast burrito smothered in red chile, green chile or “Christmas,” with a sopaipilla drizzled with honey on the side, the person dining across from you suggests. He introduces himself as Rick. 11 A.M. Take a drive to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and gawk at New Mexico’s answer to the Grand Canyon while you delight in spotting the big horn sheep that inhabit the canyon’s steep walls. You cross paths with a local and strike a conversation. Don’t miss Taos Pueblo, he advises. He said his name is Rick. 12:30 P.M. Take a walk through the Historic District of Taos, and duck into the many galleries and shops that line the Plaza and Kit Carson Road. Amid the plethora of fine local art, your attention may be captured by photographs of the region, including its stunning scapes, its architecture, and its people. There are some pretty amazing oil paintings for your consideration, as well. Funny: both artists have the same name. Rick. 2 P.M. That breakfast burrito is still holding you over, but maybe a coffee is in store. Grab that Americano. Your barista? Rick. Hmmm... 4:30 P.M. Lugging those shopping bags is hard work, and you’ve earned nachos and a margarita or two at the living room of Taos, says your server, Rick. Double hmmm... Seems like there are a lot of Ricks in this small town. 6 P.M. Ask Rick how to spend the rest of the evening. After his restaurant recommendations, expect he’ll pull out a copy of “Tempo,” the local’s digest of things to do. Or, maybe he’ll recommend a movie at the local multiplex theatre. Rick knows best. 10 P.M. You’re tired and a bit winded from your day at 7,000 feet. Checking in to


Rick and Melody Romancito share jokes with a friend at Taos Plaza Live in 2015. your hotel room, you’re surprised to find that Rick is not your concierge because Rick seems to be everywhere else. Sweet dreams nevertheless await you because, somehow, you know he’s got your back for your final day. THURSDAY, 8 A.M. Coffee is served alongside your complimentary issue of the Taos News and “Tempo” falls into your lap. Ah, ha! This guy, Rick, who’s haunted you all over town, is its editor, Now, it’s

all making sense. (Though the one who’s the expert in hauntings is really his wife, Melody, but that’s a story for another day.) 10 A.M. Head out and scramble to see more of the many things Rick has highlighted over the last 30 years for your enjoyment in Taos. So much to do, so little time, before that flight home. 5 P.M. Head back to the Sunport and wish that your community, wherever that

is, had someone like Rick to inform the locals, welcome the visitors, and bring everyone together in celebration of their own very special hometown. 9 P.M. Your plane waits on the tarmac while a hot air balloon ignites its flame and takes to the air. It’s festooned with a banner waving in the gentle winds of New Mexico. “Rick Romancito, we’ll miss you!”

OCT. 14, 1989 - JAN. 10, 2020 | TEMPO


Parting Shot

Thank you for the views, Rick 8

TEMPO | OCT. 14, 1989 - JAN. 10, 2020

Profile for The Taos News

Tempo Special Edition: Rick Romancito Retirement  

Tempo Special Edition: Rick Romancito Retirement  

Profile for taosnews