SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Under a small shelter outside Big Lots in Santa Fe, the Duran Family hustles between customers and chile roasters while baby Aaliyah, all of a tender 8 months, plays among baskets of fresh green chile.
Chris Jr., 7, turns the roasting drum that he has helped his mother Lupita fill and empty, something he said he has done since age 3.
For the Duran family of Taos, the beginning of the chile-roasting season in Santa Fe is a time to renew ties with longtime customers and familial legacies that span generations.
“Everybody is like a brother to us, that is why we are called ‘Los Chile Bros.,’ ” said Johnny Duran, 63, whose family still lives in Taos, where he learned about growing from his father, but farms the Big Jim and Sandia varieties in Hatch in southern New Mexico.
Family members working alongside Johnny among the tumbling roasters include his son Chris, 30; Chris’ wife Lupita, 27; their two children; and nephew Matt Flores.
Johnny Duran plans “to continue the tradition and when I’m done, Chris and the children will continue.”
The cycle that brings the family to sell each year also brings familiar customers.
“It’s my favorite smell. The minute you smell it, if you’re depressed or in a sad mood, it has the power to lift you,” said Hazel Victoria Romero, who recently bought a bag of green chile, then returned minutes later to purchase a bag of red.
“It makes New Mexico what it is,” she said.
The story plays out again and again.
People know Los Chile Bros. and come from New York, Florida and all around the country to get a little piece of the magic. Some tell the Durans they came because their mother or grandmother used to buy their chile from them.
“We still have people in their 90s that come to us,” said Lupita Duran.
More than just a food, green chile has the ability to conjure feelings of childhood, security and home.
Duran comes from a family of eight and recalls as a child buying large bundles of fresh roasted chile, going home to Santa Fe and turning on music, peeling chile and having a wonderful night with her siblings.
In New Mexico, entire sets of memories are built around green chile.
Back at the shady little canopy in the corner of the Big Lots parking lot, a steady stream of customers wait for their bundles of chile to be roasted.
Meanwhile, Matt Flores has three roasters rotating and reflects on the connection between the charring peppers and the people around him.
“The name says it all: Los Chile Bros.,” he says.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com