Local food hero: Lucy Gonzales

Photo courtesy Food System/Food Equity Coalition
Lucy Gonzales, of Lucy’s Tamale’s, has been deemed a local food hero. At Saturday’s Archuleta Food System Summit, she co-hosted a heritage food demonstration featuring tamales.

By Rose Chavez | Food System/Food Equity Coalition

Healthy Archuleta, a local nonprofit in Archuleta County also known as the Food Coalition, continues to celebrate the local food heroes that make up the food system in Archuleta County and the surrounding region. 

These individuals uniquely contribute to the community’s vision for a sustainable, health-promoting and equitable local food system so that everyone has access to affordable nutritious foods. 

The effort to capture the profiles of these integral community members was initiated as part of the Archuleta Food System Summit that took place April 9. Today, we would like to feature Lucy Gonzales of Lucy’s Tamale’s in her own words. 

As part of the Food System Summit, she co-hosted last week a heritage food demonstration featuring tamales so that community members could understand the process it takes to prepare these delicacies and where to source the ingredients locally. 

The following is a narrative that Gonzales shared with us: 

“I sell tamales as part of my Lucy’s Tamales business and like to describe myself as a modern homesteader. I enjoy raising rabbits for meat, chicken for fryers, chickens for eggs and also raising a lot of different types of fresh greens. I enjoy gardening, especially growing tomatoes, chiles, lettuce that I use for my day-to-day food preparation during the growing season. I place a premium on nutrition and make a lot of home cooked meals and rarely go out to eat.

“In 1996, I was in a terrible accident and as a result had plenty of time to read and started reading about homesteading and that helped me reprioritize my needs and desire for being self-sufficient. Around 1980, friends started to express an interest to have my tamales so I started selling them on an individual basis. Then I got the idea of selling them in larger quantities to the community. She soon started selling under her canopy at the East Side Market about four to five years ago as one of the first members of the food court. Soon after, the Farmers Market also joined the East Side Market and she became a regular business member on the local farmers market scene.

“Gardening and growing my own food is my passion. I don’t know what I will do when I can’t do that anymore. Before gardening, it was folklorico dancing in my younger years and Spanish. Gardening is very relaxing to me and I just love to do it because it makes me so happy. Planting seeds and seeing them growing, transplanting and eventually eating the fruits of your labor. It is hard to explain. It doesn’t matter if I get dirty, because I just love gardening and being outside. I just learn to adjust with all the changes that come into my life and the garden is a great metaphor for life. I make myself cope and learn to deal with it. I love the rural nature and people of our beautiful community.

“Education has been a challenge, to see what it takes for a person like me. How to figure out navigating a personal business without an education has been a challenge. Learning how to get my license was hard when you have to apply and fill out all the paperwork. It can be intimidating. It was a challenge, but I got it done. There should be more help for people to help themselves and be self-sufficient. Not handouts, but hands up. If you want to help someone, then provide these learning opportunities for people to be resourceful for themselves. It would be great to have some programs in the community to go back to the basics. Provide examples and resources that it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to be resourceful. Sooner or later, people will need to draw on these resources. We are going through tough times and will have more in the future.

“I was stopped too many times in these 86 years of mine because of things that happened, but I overcame them. They stopped me for a while, but I went through four head-on collisions and still walk this earth today. I am grateful that God has been there for me and will continue. But I don’t really see these stops as obstacles because really they were lessons learned that took me in the direction I needed to go. I’ve learned that I need to do things for myself. Focus on the positive and you will get positive. Everyday is a learning day.

“I arrived here in Pagosa in 1976 and over these years have had the great blessing to be of service to my community in many ways. I’ve celebrated many accomplishments in business, my long time role leading the Spanish Fiestas, participation with the Guadalupanas and president of the VFW and American Legion. Alongside me have been so many special people who listened to my vision and believed in me and believed with all of us together we could do it. To have the support of the people has meant so much to me and to see our heritage traditions being revived makes me so happy.”

For more information, please contact us at fsfearchuleta@gmail.org or (401) 371-3227. To donate to support the work of Healthy Archuleta, please visit our website, https://www.foodcoalition4archuleta.org/donate.html.