Most people who hear about The Legend of Taos Mountain believe the words as truth: If the mountain loves you, it will welcome you; if you leave but the mountain loves you, it will call you back; and if the mountain doesn't want you in Taos, it will send you away.
Mario Perez could attest to this belief as a new resident. In his case, the second part of the legend was true: Taos Mountain called him back. "I think the mountain likes me because it brought me back," he said. "Also, I like a good story."
"I've always been a desert rat," he said, laughing as he described his former places of residence in Las Cruces, Texas and California. "I like the change in climate (in Taos). I also love the dawns I've seen here. I saw an extra special dawn at Taos Ski Valley recently. Also, I like the quiet nights and the stars I can see in the sky. In California, the only stars I see aren't the real ones in the sky. I see the actors (stars)," Perez said with a grin.
When seeking better opportunities, Perez admitted that memory "weighed heaviest" in his decision to live here. By memory, he means his recollection of a previous visit to family in the area. "It was beautiful then, and it's beautiful now. It's the memory that brought me back," said Perez during a recent interview in El Prado.
Perez, born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Las Cruces until age 16, spent most of his adult life traveling. During travel times he used his skills in the work world. He ran computer cable in Texas. He picked green beans in Oklahoma. In Durango, Perez worked for Progressive Roofing while the company completed projects at Fort Lewis College and at homes. In San Dimas and Los Angeles, California, he worked for another roofer and then worked as a forklift operator.
During his nearly three months in Taos, he's worked at Snakedance in Taos Ski Valley. Perez enjoyed the seasonal employment, but with TSV's closure, Mario Perez was on the job hunt once again.
"At Snakedance, people came in after skiing. Most of them lived in other states, so it's been a wonderful experience listening to them and hearing their stories," said the former maintenance worker of the ski valley hotel.
Perez said he enjoys learning new skills. "I'm considering a new experience I thought I'd never do. It is my hope to care for others who need help and learn something new at the same time," Perez said in the interview.
Not long after, he landed a job at the Taos Living Center. "I'm hoping to obtain a CNA (Certified Nurse's Assistant) license," he said.
Searching for work has never frightened Perez. He feels that if a person wants work and remains honest and open with prospective employers, they'll find a job. He observes the process as "an adventure."
A self-avowed "people person," Perez enjoys meeting people of various ethnicities. He said he likes learning from others, their outlook on life and the way in which they live. "I like to hear stories about their families, where they come from and what they do out there. I want to soak up the environment," said Perez.
A large part of the Taos experience, according to the new resident, is that in this close-knit community, someone helps another if needed. He specifically cited someone pulling over to help a person with automobile problems, someone helping a person find a job and lending a helping hand during a catastrophe.
The weather and wide-open spaces greatly appeal to Perez. The terrain is conducive to his love of hiking, fishing and sports. "I wish I could ski. I plan on hunting in the future. I want to have a feel for it," he said.
Perez loves to cook. He refers to himself as "a wannabe chef on my terms." Perez tries to follow a recipe for accuracy because "my palate is different from others."
He favors burners and fryers for cooking, and he does not bake. He enjoys cooking steak and mushrooms with butter, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower and baked potatoes.
When asked about his future plans, Perez said, "I want a motorcycle. A more practical plan includes making a good life in Taos. To that end, I'm grateful that my job hunt was successful and that it will help me remain in this beautiful community, so the Legend of Taos Mountain will remain true for me."