Jemez Pueblo native starts a business focused on healthy foods for her people

Andy Smith

I’m not a vegetarian, at least not a vegetarian, so talking about food in those terms is like learning a new language.

For example, vegans don’t eat cheese made from milk, so vegan restaurant menus refer to cheese as “cheese” – consumers understand that it means plant-based food products. .

I learned this from Albuquerque restaurateur Tina Archuleta, a native vegetarian whose experience living in a “food desert” shaped her future. Archuleta makes his own “cheese” from pumpkin, but he calls it “chi” sauce – two things that sound like “cheese” and refer to the traditional Chinese word for life force or the vital force that permeates all living things.

Archuleta has a whole philosophy about food and nutrition centered around his experience as a native of the Jemez Pueblo, but the colors of other world cultures strive to live in harmony with nature.

That’s why his restaurant is called Italianity Plant Based Foods. Although it sounds Italian, the name is a contraction of the Rastafarian word for food – Italian. Most Rafastari members follow the general principle that food should be natural, clean and directly from the earth. That excludes animal meat, dairy products or eggs.

I met Archuleta while inquiring about trade and commerce in New Mexico’s Native American community. Since November is National American Heritage Month, there is no shortage of gifts to explore. But entrepreneurship is a part of indigenous life in a simpler way through friendly images that non-indigenous people are familiar with: art, jewelry, jewelry, dancing, pottery and textiles.

There is a strong tradition of entrepreneurs in tribal culture, said Marvis Aragon Jr., an Acoma Pueblo native and president of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico, located on the grounds of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. And not all of them are artisans.

From selling crops or alfalfa, to harvesting piñon seeds and logging, many citizens in New Mexico are self-employed businesses that reduce the risk in their environment. -income.

He said: “For many of these people, it is a way of life. “They fly under the radar and some may not consider themselves business owners. In fact, many do not qualify for the many supports that have come during the COVID and this pandemic because they are not registered business – even if it’s not in the state.”

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Archuleta’s work in food and nutrition work has similar roots.

He said: “We are pueblo people. “Our community is based on food.”

He grew up helping his family shop for food prepared in Jemez Pueblo tents that catered to visitors. Jemez food vendors enter a lottery for a chance to operate one of the six booths each week during business hours.

Archuleta describes “Jemez,” a tourist area that includes Jemez Pueblo and nearby villages, as “the first place in New Mexico.” But it has a few restaurants, making the restaurants of the pueblo a great opportunity for the Jemez family to make money. “Jemez enchilada” is the signature dish of the pueblo, which features flour tortillas, cheese and onions – a favorite Archuleta has adapted in his restaurant as “Hey Miss Enchilada” but with chi sauce, of course .

The area is also a food desert — with no access to supermarkets — just like in rural New Mexico, Archuleta said.

He remembers making 60-mile round trips with his mother to Bernalillo or Albuquerque to buy groceries — “cheap food with a shelf life” that would last between trips. Archuleta, a self-described “rebellious girl,” began to feel that what she ate was affecting her well-being.

“Food” from the government – flour, sugar and lard – has contributed to a negative change in the indigenous diet, he says.

“Native Americans have high rates of diet-related diabetes.”

Therefore, he adopted the food from his family’s confusing plant.

She said: “When I stopped eating sad things, I was surprised. “I left home because I wanted to control my diet.”

He started farming himself and selling it at local farmers markets, but many of his fellow pueblo members didn’t know what to do with the kale, chard and other unfamiliar vegetables. It was then that he saw an opportunity to teach his community the benefits of incorporating plant foods into their diets.

What follows is a series of entrepreneurial experiments to test whether his passion can be a money maker. It became known as the “healthy cooking” of the pueblo. There is a food fair and the pueblo’s health center Archuleta has begun preparing grab-and-go options for the “new fridge” of the local convenience store. He started eating food for pueblo events – things like salads, sandwiches and quinoa stir fry.

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But it was the Women in Business Leadership Summit at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center that finally got her thinking big. One of the workshops focused on marketing and Archuleta quickly realized he was building a brand. He also discovered that he is a “social entrepreneur” which means that he does not only do business to make money, but also affects social outcomes. For him, health was improved for his fellow tribesmen.

He entered the city’s entrepreneur program at New Mexico Community Capital, which offered a $16,000 start-up grant. He bought the ingredients and created the menu. Then he struggled to find a commercial kitchen space to expand his business. Local incubators don’t prioritize business owners who don’t live in Albuquerque, he said. Archuleta still lives in Jemez Pueblo and commutes to Albuquerque every day. During that time he worked from his own home kitchen to prepare the food he sold at the Railyard and on pueblo feast days. The feast day shows that its food is native and non-native.

“I have all this market, all this need, and I have nowhere to share my talent – I call it my medicine,” he says.

Lack of available kitchen space forced Archuleta to scale up. With technical support from Native Women Lead, Archuleta gathered the capital and funds she needed to launch Italy Plant Based Foods and the latest business development program next to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The restaurant has small indoor seating, which reflects the Italian focus. Eating and preparing food to be sold on pueblo feast days is still the main business focus. And now the public has access to breakfast and lunch which, frankly, is amazing. Tamaya blue corn grown on a roasted pumpkin plant. Blue corn amaranth waffles with berry maple syrup. Pueblo Pizza is made with pueblo oven bread.

This is not a “de-colonized” currency, which only uses foods that must have been available to the indigenous people before Columbus. Archuleta will use whatever plants he has — even tropical ones like jackfruit — but emphasizes local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. And whatever he does will always confuse the pueblo.

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Being in the Albuquerque region of 19 pueblos has two important advantages for Archuleta. Since his business is on tribal land, the tax he pays goes to the tribal communities in the rural areas of the state – a food desert he is determined to create. The hotel setting also provides cultural importance.

He said: “If I hadn’t done this, I would have seen someone else do it, but in a non-civilized way. “This is where the future is going. We cannot continue to eat in this way, in a system of oppression and abuse, based on milk and meat production. It is not in accordance with the moral standards of the world.”

Archuleta invented his own method by following a simple desire to control food. First for himself and now for his people.

He said: “I’m trying to feed people and change health outcomes.

Andy Smith writes a column based on conversations with members of New Mexico’s homeless community. Contact him at [email protected]

Assistance for entrepreneurs will be citizens

There are many resources for New Mexico citizens to develop business skills and knowledge. Aragon, together with the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico, has a number of training modules that help entrepreneurs at all stages of business development. New Mexico State University houses Arrowhead and the nonprofit American Indian Business Enterprise. In August, AIBE hosted a one-day conference on entrepreneurship, “Breaking Barriers” that explored issues such as networking, entrepreneurship and access to capital.

And the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is in the midst of raising about $9 million to build a multi-faceted “open space” that will include space and equipment for creative industries such as jewelry and pottery and a culinary incubator. Students will not only learn specific business skills, but the business component of their skills includes lessons on financial literacy and starting a business.

“We think we have the resources to help people who want to learn a new business, people who want to trade, who are looking for a job, get some job skills,” IPCC President and CEO Mike Canfield told the Journal last December. “We think we’re the perfect place to do that.”

—Andrew Smith

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