True Taos treasure

Scott Gerdes/Taos News

Life is a dance for Stella Mares-McGinnis. Her world twirls like the traditional Hispanic waltz and polka that she could perform in her sleep. And her soundtrack better have “a helluva good fiddler.”

Mares-McGinnis, 76, will be onstage in a different way Sunday (July 21) as the Fiestas de Taos Historical Parade grand marshal and an honoree. She is excited about being a part of this community tradition.

As a life-long Fiesta attendee, Mares-McGinnis is one of the few Taoseñas who still adorns herself in customary Fiesta attire such as a broomstick skirt with a laced or embroidered peasant blouse accented by a squash blossom and concha belt.

This Taoseña’s ties to Fiestas goes back decades. Her parents, Felipe and Lucy Mares, danced during the annual festivities for many years. Thanks to her parents, Mares-McGinnis learned the steps at a young age and later, helped teach friend Tim Romero the ways of traditional Hispanic dancing. Together, they danced during Fiestas and at the New Mexico State Fair, having won an award at the latter. Tradition is near and dear to her heart — “You don’t take that away from me.”

Most of the pair’s dancing these days is mostly performed during the grand march at weddings. And while she is heavily involved with the Fraternal Order of Eagles and New Mexico Association of Educational Retirees (her late husband, Joseph, was a teacher), her list of community volunteerism has been shaved a bit. She spent many years running from organization to organization and event to event, but felt she needed some time for herself.

“Community work is what it’s all about,” she said. “I’m the Energizer Bunny, but it’s time to let the younger folks take over. We’ll teach them.”

Her community involvement has not gone unnoticed.

“She has been and continues to be an active member of the community who is proud of her heritage and history and reflects it in her persona,” said Fiesta Council President Don Francisco Trujillo II. “She is a proud family member of the famed Padre Jose Antonio Martinez lineage, and for decades has lead more marchas in Taos than I have for weddings and other special occasions.”

One thing Mares-McGinnis hasn’t hung up are her hairstyling sheers. She has been creating beautiful quaffs for 54 years. Presently, she’s a hairstylist at It’s A Small World Salon & Boutique in Taos. And always arriving with a list of deserving peers, for more than 10 years she has participated as an Unsung Heroes committee member for the Tradiciones publication of The Taos News.

“Stella truly believes in maintaining our various Northern New Mexico traditions,” Trujillo said. “And it comes from the heart. The Fiesta Council feels that she is deserving of the public acknowledgement as one of our true Taos treasures.”

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