What Makes a Winner

Friday, July 27th, 2018, 

Sun beams burst through grey skies, majestically illuminating the New Mexico landscape below. I had picked up my mom from my parents’ house in Chimayo and we were driving to Santa Fe through the desert landscape; my dad following close behind in his white Subaru. We were eagerly driving to the 2018 Spanish Market Preview night.  

My dad, Irvin Trujillo, is always the star of the weaving division. Mom and I were joking with each other: “what award did dad win this year?” “Someday he’ll give someone else a chance to be the superstar.” 

We started driving around the Santa Fe Railyard looking to park at “El Museo Cultural,” the site of the exhibition that year. We decided to check out a few parking lots close by just in case we were lucky enough to find a spot, but we were more than prepared to hike from a more remote area. We weren’t in any hurry since preview night went on for three hours, so we could take our time finding a spot. We drove around the rustic streets of Santa Fe passing paid meter after paid meter. We passed a concert in the Santa Fe Railyards on our way to a small paid-parking area nested behind a new concrete building where, lo and behold, we found not one, but two parking spaces next to each other. The best part is that they were right across the street from the building. I joked with mom “this must be a sign.” 

Dad got out of his car and met us halfway to the pay-station. “Alriiiiiight” he said with a cheesy, satisfied grin spread across his wise face; so big his cheeks lifted his glasses. He gave us both high fives on our way to pay for our spots. There were quite a few things my dad could be high fiving us for: the fact we got great parking, the fact that we finally made it (it is a 45 minute drive, after all), or maybe even excitement for the fancy hors d’oeuvres that await us inside.

We marched into the building together, excited to and see if we (well, my parents) won anything and to see all of our friends. You see, Spanish Market artists are like a family. We know each other, respect each other, and some of us are even friends: friends we see once a year during this annual weekend event. There’s an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) bond that forms between artists that haul themselves out of bed at 4am to sell their art at the crazy weekend event that is Spanish Market. The overwhelming crowds, the heat, the visiting friends, the family, the fatigue: it’s all part of the package. So, while they may compete at preview night, that hardly matters because they will be battling the same storm together the next morning. 

We gave the doormen our tickets and were rushed by the familiar sight we knew so well. The first thing you see is the crowd: collectors, artists and their families and friends, caterers, and assorted art connoisseurs. Some people are flamboyant and others not: there’s never been an official dress code as far as I know. The second thing you notice is the breathtaking art lining the walls and covering scattered tables throughout the auditorium. 

Our first instinct is to casually beeline it to the weaving section. This year it was not hard to find. There, prominently displayed on the back wall, were the weavings. Dad’s piece, “Thinking Inside the Box” was the first one you saw, directly across the room in front of the front door. Mom got distracted talking to one of her “long time no see” friends, but dad and I prevailed. We both halted dead in our tracks when we got close enough to see what he’d won.  

There it was: I saw the big ribbon that every one of the hundreds of attending artists strive for,  

“Hey dad, look, you won ‘Grand Prize!” His elegant wool-silk tapestry of greens, blues, and oranges shined brilliantly, and the ribbons next to it were pretty shiny too. I turned to my dad whose arms were crossed and my favorite smile was on his face. 

Not knowing how else to react he said calmly “We got really good parking.” I laughed because his comment blindsided me. He continued to stare at his piece, his eyes sparking. He’d never let anyone know, but he was excited that he’d won. He’d put his heart into that tapestry and the awards were well deserved. He’d worked hard for eight months to produce the blanket displayed before us all, and it was evident everyone knew.

Even if he was happy with his award, there’s no one as humble (and humbling) as my dad. Not once did he brag or even bring up the award himself, although many were eager to talk about it with him, including the Santa Fe New Mexican (you can read the article here- Mom and I also got interviewed for it).  


Now don’t get me wrong, my dad isn’t the only star of the show. Both of my parents are respectable artists that bring their immense talent to the table, and to be honest, every single artist that vendors at Spanish Market shines in their own way. I’m supposed to be a little biased since they’re my parents, so forgive my boastfulness in this post (you could say I’m ‘genetically predisposed’ to think they’re the best *wink*); 2018 just happened to be my dad’s year to outshine the rest of the masters.  

The moral of the my story is that awards aren’t necessarily what makes an artist (or person) great… at least in my personal opinion. My father is a thoroughly self-effacing and unassuming man, and that’s part of what makes him so inspiring. He’s such a beautiful, humble man on the inside on top of being such an acclaimed artist, and it’s hard to not want to be like him.

We three weavers in front of his prize piece, “Thinking Inside the Box”

Note: That year, my dad won the “Jake O. Trujillo” award (an award named after his father and my grandpa), first place, and grand prize for his piece “Thinking Inside the Box,” and the “La Lana” award for his piece “Mohair Moki,” and my mom won an honorable mention for her piece “Chocolate Mosaic.”

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