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New Mexican Colombiana: South American Authenticity in the North American Southwest

Florecita Inn Bed & Breakfast (Photo Credit: R.Henderson)

When Colombian-born Sildana Brown saw a tiny, two-word sign along highway 522 in Northern New Mexico, she said to her husband, “Amor, that’s it. That’s the one.”

Her husband Rinaldo Brown, born and raised in Washington, DC, kept his eyes on the road but assured his wife that they could stop on their way back. Costilla, Spanish for “rib,” is a tiny town located 40 miles outside of Taos, NM, a city known for its art, food and strong magical vibes.

New Mexico’s state slogan is the “Land of Enchantment” and the land is indeed very enchanting: Hot springs, high deserts, incredible storms and blooms of flowers; it’s a beautiful place. The area draws tourism including camping, hunting and fishing.

Brown, although far from her home town of Cúcuta, Colombia, is thankful she saw the sign on the way to lunch. She believes the energy of the land pulled them in, that the place found them,  made them stop, and ultimately purchase a dilapidated roadside cantina with that tiny “for sale” sign. 

The Innkeeper From Cúcuta (Photo credit: R. Henderson)

International love

Brown never dreamed she would meet a man who would convince her to leave her home and live in a town of 93 residents. She saw beyond the collapsed roof, the tree roots growing in the dirt floors, the crumbling adobe and the piles of junk left behind.

Brown had a vision: She saw a restful and beautiful place for travelers and a destination for artists looking for inspiration and a quiet space to create. She envisioned weddings, family gatherings and retreats. Her mind was blooming with possibility. On reality television shows, they film over a long period or have highly paid crews working overtime to complete projects but when it’s just two lovebirds building a dream nest, construction can take a bit longer.  

Lovebirds at the Florecita Inn (Photo credit: R. Henderson)

Surviving Costilla 

Locals in the tiny town placed bets on how long the city folk would last. Three months, they said for the new neighbors, three months or less. When the Browns moved to Costilla, they both knew it would be tough, but didn’t realize how tough. They spent the first few years proving their resilience to cold winters, minimal amenities and constant work. There were times when the Browns weren’t sure if they had made the right decision. They spent their first winters huddled around the early 19th century fireplace and dreamed of spring and summer and a roof. 

Main fireplace, Florecita Inn Photo R. Brown

Florecita Inn’s soft opening

In 2017, the Florecita Inn Bed & Breakfast opened to the public.

The Innkeeper, Florecita Inn (Photo credit: R. Brown)
Room, Florecita Inn Photo R. Henderson

The Browns are still living and working on the property and Costillans have finally accepted them as members of the community. The life they have created is simple and satisfying. Brown’s husband Rinaldo has made time to write and has published his first book. 

Because Brown had no experience working in construction, she hired a crew to work on the roof. 

One of the workers, septuagenarian Don Miguel Lucero, took Sildana under his wing and became her right-hand man. She spent her days sanding wood, hammering nails and transforming the property. Lucero was born and raised in the area and Brown describes him as her angel. Their friendship and work relationship is one of the many delights of her life in Costilla.

Although Sildana knew people who had emigrated to the U.S.A., she never dreamed of living there until she met Rinaldo. They fell in love while he was living and working in Colombia. Now as a U.S. citizen, Brown is thankful for her cross-cultural life. The opportunities living in the U.S.A. are numerous and for Brown, it’s home. 

Big Skies and Peace at Florecita Inn

Many of her friends and acquaintances who have emigrated from Colombia to the U.S.A. live in the major cities — New York, Los Angeles, and Miami — but the love and reverence and joy in Brown’s voice explains why she chose this life. She speaks of peace, prosperity and community. She attributes her calm attitude to the calm that comes when you live somewhere with big skies and plenty of space, especially during a global pandemic that highlighted the need for open air. 

Big Sky, El Prado, Taos NM (Photo Credit: R. Henderson)

One of Costillas’ 93 residents is Brown’s mother-in-law. She relocated to Costilla during the height of the pandemic. Rinaldo was worried about her on her own and encouraged her to join them. She quickly adapted to the peaceful, calm life and took up a very old tradition of the area: wine making. In addition, she assists with guests on the property, cooking meals and making sure her daughter-in-law has help whenever she needs.

The Browns are currently restoring and rebuilding the former bar and outdoor areas. Items left behind from years ago have led to a small treasure trove, which they plan to use for decor when the renovations are complete. They have plans for hot tubs and a gazebo/stage. 

R. Henderson and S. Brown Sipping Homemade wine (Photo credit: R. Henderson)

‘Land of Enchantment’

This rustic little hideaway is less than an hour by car from Taos, NM. Taos is known for its artist community, green chile, hot springs and Earthships. Wild horses run across the grasses and the sky provides an incredible view. On clear days, you can see the mountains and when the storms roll through, the clouds provide their own breathtaking, ever-changing landscape. 

One of the bonuses of living in the area is proximity to the natural wonders of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. From fishing to hiking the Great Sand Dunes, to star gazing, Costilla offers all of that and more. The plant life in the area inspired Brown to name the bed and breakfast “Florecita,” which translates as “little flower.” Breakfast includes fresh eggs, bacon, and arepas, a staple of the traditional Colombian breakfast.  

They have been considering how to host with the continued spread of COVID-19. With six rooms, it’s an intimate space and perfect for family get-togethers, with a private screening room, a telescope for stargazing, beautiful common space, serviceable gym and proximity to outdoor recreation areas in northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, Florecita Inn will no doubt become a destination for those traveling in the area. 

Nearby attractions

Taos Pueblo: Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA.  The village belongs to the Taos-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. It lies about 1 mile north of the modern city of Taos and is a must-see, although unfortunately at the time of publication it is closed to the public due to the pandemic. 

Earthship community: Earthships are passive solar shelters made out of recycled materials and up-cycled materials. They are energy efficient and look amazing. There is a house available to tour as well as rentals for the Earthship curious.

Earthship Global Visitor Center (Photo Credit R. Henderson)
Interior of Earthship Global Visitor Center (Photo Credit R. Henderson)

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge: The bridge is a perfect place to hop out and take pictures and possibly spot wildlife. It’s the fifth highest bridge in the United States and offers incredible vistas and opportunities for breathtaking photos. 

   

View from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (Photo Credit: R. Henderson)

Hacienda de los Martinez: La Hacienda de los Martinez is one of the few northern New Mexico-style, late-Spanish Colonial period “Great Houses” remaining in the American Southwest. Located on the bank of the Rio Pueblo de Taos, It is now a living museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Courtyard Hacienda Martinez (Photo Credit: R. Henderson)
Loom Room Hacienda Martinez (Photo Credit R. Henderson)
Loom. Hacienda Martinez (Photo Credit: R. Henderson)
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