Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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JaramilloFlorenceFlorence Jaramillo

Honored May, 2019

Florence Jaramillo

Florence Jaramillo, or “Mrs. J”, as she is fondly called, left the east in 1960 with her then husband, Arturo. to move to the small rural village of Chimayo, New Mexico in pursuit of their dream to create a destination restaurant, Everything was authentic and honored northern New Mexico heritage The family hacienda became the restaurant;  traditional northern New Mexican cuisine from old family recipes was served. Guests were  personally treated to to a genuine New Mexico experience.
    It was a difficult beginning.  It took hard work and sweat equity —and determination— for a remote little restaurant to survive. After it was up and running, there was a devastating fire in the ‘70s.  When most people would have gone out of business, Florence did not give up.
    Rancho de Chimayo recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Today it is the jewel of Chimayo, an iconic destination restaurant for locals and tourists alike.  It has been recognized both regionally and nationally as one of the best restaurants in the country. Florence has received the National Restaurant Association’s “Statue of Excellence Award” and  the James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award plus many others.  The New Mexico House of Representative designated a Florence Jaramillo Day.
Even though she has had hosted political dignitaries, movie stars, leaders of the her the most important people to eat at the restaurant are her family, friends, and neighbors.
    (Florence has dedicated her life to improving and providing for her beloved community.)  She has been a major employer  of Chimayo, especially with the younger generation, Through her example, they learn the value of hard work and fiscal responsibility.  She cares deeply about her employees and treats them like family. She helps the downtrodden and builds them up Some who have transgressed are not fired but are given second and third chances for work. Many from the small village have gone on to successful careers a lot due to Florence’s influence. When asked about what she loves about being an integral employer in Chimayo, she responded, “God blessed me with one child, but gave me thousands of children to raise.” Her generosity and kind spirit extends to the stray animals around the restaurant that she rescues.    
    Florence is active in her church, helps raise funds for non profits, and was instrumental in forming a crime prevention organization that was successful in reducing crime and drugs in the area.
    Florence is a promoter of higher education. She has been on the LANL and Northern NM Community College boards which provides scholarships for under-privileged students as well as providing funds to local communities for development projects.
    Rancho de Chimayo is more than a restaurant, it is a living tribute to the traditions and heritage of northern NM. Florence at 88 is still active in all aspects of running her restaurant. Friends say, “She is a true role model, mentor…  She is the spiritual heart and soul of her beloved community…she has a heart of gold, exudes humanity and humility…she has the drive of a bull, and the gracefulness of a hummingbird…Few people have touched as many lives for as many years as Florence has in her work as a restauranteur and as a deeply engaged community business leader.


Story by Nancy Dahl

Photo © 2019 by Genevieve Russell