Daniel Escalante has had a special connection with Taos for many years.
“The first time I came, in 1971, I felt like I was ‘back in the womb,’” he said. “My ethnic roots are Indian and Spanish so I resonated with the local cultures.”
He moved here in 1979 and was often mistaken for a local resident who had just moved away.
“Because he was very well-liked, people were especially friendly to me,” Escalante said. “Locals would frequently smile, wave, shake my hand, strike up heartfelt conversations, and this made me feel like I was a long lost relative.”
It was in Taos where he learned how to create decorated folk art furniture from Jim Wagner, Lydia Garcia and other artists.
“When I moved to Colorado in 1986, I made my living there as a folk art furniture maker,” he said. “Taos has been good to me.”
His partner Betty Artes has also felt particularly attracted to the Taos area.
“After Daniel and I met, I was surprised at the connection he had with Taos and we started coming here together,” she said. “The idea of moving sprouted and eventually became a wonderful reality.”
The birth of Casa Taos
Escalante and Artes moved into their current home located in Ranchos de Taos in spring 2010.
They named it Casa Taos and immediately made it available to family, trainers, artists, and community activists.
“We had the idea that artists, activists and others needed a place like Casa Taos to relax, recharge, and connect or reconnect with themselves and with the natural order of things,” Artes said. “We also wanted to provide a space that was highly conducive to training.”
“We believe that Casa Taos offers the oasis that we all need from time to time,” Escalante added. “We are happy to open our doors to those who can appreciate our vision.”
They have taught workshops related to their experiences as community activists and topics like “Inclusiveness Trainers and Consultants” and “Youth Global Leadership.”
A unique space
Escalante, the Retreat Center coordinator, is a group trainer who has cofounded groups and projects such as Reading to End Racism, Latino Boys Leadership Groups, and Center for Diverse Communities. He presents workshops at regional and national conferences and focuses on inclusiveness and leadership development.
Originally from Argentina, Artes has been a bilingual teacher, restaurateur and business owner. Before moving to Taos, Artes owned and operated Casa Alvarez, a popular Mexican restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. Now she cooks healthy food based on their guests’ dietary needs.
“We are happy to say that much of our produce is grown in our organic garden,” she said. “We love watching our guests eat our tasty, healthy, home-cooked ethnic menus.”
She just co-founded Casa Alvarez Foods, selling the popular chile sauces that won critical acclaim at her restaurant.
“We are now selling it to grocery stores, restaurants and many other places, and also have it here in Casa Taos,” she said. “My love of food has permeated my life and now Daniel and I enjoy sharing it with our guests.”
Artes and Escalante don’t consider Casa Taos a typical inn, motel, or a bed and breakfast.
“We share our home with others who appreciate Taos culture and need an affordable space to be for a while,” Artes said. “We share our home with people who need a space where they can take the needed time to learn and grow.”
“We also share our space with people who understand that they, and we, are guests on Red Ground,” Escalante said. “And if they don’t understand that, we help them to do so. That’s what makes Casa Taos unique.”
They have recently opened up their home as a meeting space to local programs and organizations like Reading to End Racism, Dialogues on Racism, SOMOS, and others.
“We like seeing our guests begin to breathe easier than when they first arrived, hearing them talk about the positive, healing energy of the house and area, engaging in dialogues about cultural identity and social change, sharing personal stories with each other, and making human connections,” Escalante said.
‘Paint a Retablo’
Casa Taos’ first arts workshop will take place from Oct. 9-12. It will be conducted by Latino artist and scholar Tony Ortega, who currently teaches at Regis University.
“His commitment to social change fits very nicely into our vision for Casa Taos,” Escalante said.
During the workshop, which will be limited to eight participants, Ortega will guide students so they can create their very own retablo using natural pigments, watercolors and pine sap varnish.
“They can take the retablo home at the end of the workshop,” Artes said.
For Taos area residents, the reduced cost for the three day workshop is $150. Limited scholarships are available too.