Like Butta

by Charlotte Jusinski

Ever have a whole chunk of time at work go so smoothly you barely have to think about it? All the puzzle pieces fall into place, everyone gets along with everyone else, the whole organization runs like a well-oiled machine? You are comfortable in your power, you and your colleagues are in perfect harmony, and the result of your work comes out impeccable, exactly as it should be?

Yeah, me neither.

I can say, however, that this issue of El Palacio was about as close to that idealized situation as you can probably get.

Putting together a publication is an enjoyable, albeit tricky business. I must admit that some issues have been a little more blood, sweat, and tears than others.

This one, though? This one was like butta.

Not sure what made it so nice, but the wide selection of fascinating articles and the consummate professionals who brought them to life played a significant role in this issue’s smooth production.

The cover image was the first no-brainer I encountered. A number of the stories herein could have easily been featured prominently, but the moment I saw Carl-Johan Utsi’s captivating image of Jenni Laiti in a gold sequined gákti, I knew Laurann Gilbertson’s exploration of themes in Dressing with Purpose at the Museum of International Folk Art (The Homes That Live In the Heart) had to be our cover feature.

From there, everything just… worked.

Last summer, Fred Friedman, a longtime railroad professional, came to me with a cold pitch for a story about the Lamy Branch. He told me it was about 6,000 words. I said, “Sure, I have room for about 3,000 words, but I’ll take a look.” He then sent me a 10,000-word manuscript. But I’ll tell you, all 10,000 words are captivating. I have published half his story here, and the second half will come in the Spring issue. Photographer Tira Howard contributed breathtaking photographs to his piece, exceeding every expectation I had of landscapes of the rail line.

I also got to tap the talents of photographer Kevin Lange for this issue. He took last-minute mind-blowing portraits of three New Mexico poets to accompany Molly Boyle’s triple-profile of the writers featured in the Museum of Art’s Poetic Justice. Kevin worked like the wind, Molly’s prose was impeccable as ever, and the story looks and reads like a symphony.

New Mexico History Museum Palace of the Governors Photo Archives Archivist Hannah Abelbeck joined forces with California-based scholar Robert Quintana Hopkins for a double-header about Sam Adams, a Black Civil War pensioner, and the impact his family structure had on his descendants and modern-day considerations about race in New Mexico. That such a huge topic was discussed so concisely and by writers so easy to work with felt like a trap, but we made it. Read Hannah’s piece and Robert’s.

Rounded out by a profile of Royal Prentice from Dr. Richard I. Ford, Allison Colborne, and Gary Hein (for which Palace of the Governors Photo Archives Digital Imaging Archivist Catie Carl spent hours heroically hunched over a scanner), a rundown of Collecting Jewelry at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture by curator Ross Altshuler, along with Santa Fe Poet Laureate Darryl Lorenzo Wellington’s poetry selection, and the lilting prose of Southern Colorado writer Chela Lujan, pretty much everything about this issue was easy. I have the writers and photographers herein to thank for that.

Will the next issue be this easy? Probably not. But the last three months of my work life have been an absolute joy, and I can only hope reading this issue is as fun for you as making it was for us.