About Ortegas Weaving Shop
In the early 1700s, a young man named Gabriel Ortega was among a group of settlers who came to the Northern Rio Grande Valley to settle in what is now Chimayo, New Mexico. In those days Chimayo and the surrounding area were the last frontiers of New Spain. Life was difficult which meant Gabriel Ortega and his contemporaries were self-sufficient people. One of the skills needed to survive was weaving, with which they made clothes, blankets, rugs, and even mattresses.
Life continued much the same for Gabriel and his son Manuel, Manuels son Jose Gervacio and Jose Gervacios son Ramon. The Ortegas wove, farmed, and made do with what they had.
In 1885, a few years after Jose Ramons son Nicacio was born, the railroad came to nearby Espanola and things soon began to change. The American culture started to mix with the isolated Spanish and Native American cultures of Northern New Mexico. New products such as roofing, canned foods, tools, sewing machines, etc. became available for the first time. In contrast, the newcomers wanted chile rastras, Indian pottery, hand-woven Chimayo blankets, and other indigenous products.
In the early 1900s, Nicacio and his wife Virginia, also from a weaving family, opened a general store in Chimayo. Nicacio had a loom in his store and sold his weavings along with those of his sons, relatives, and friends. The demand kept growing as more people discovered Santa Fe and New Mexico.