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Frances Torres Atencio

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By The Staff

Atencio family matriarch Frances Torres Atencio was born to eternal life on Oct. 25, 2007. She passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and family as her husband Luis held her hand. She was born on Feb. 7, 1924, in Miami, Ariz., to Rafael and Lydia Torres. In 1944, she graduated from Miami High School. She met the love of her life, Luis L. Atencio, when he was visiting his brother who was working in the mines in Arizona. They were married in 1946 and settled in Espaola, where they lived in the house where Luis was born.

They founded El Paragua Restaurant in 1966 in the former Atencio family tack rooms and sheds. Using her recipes, El Paragua became famous, and her cooking won acclaim nationally with articles featured in many publications, including Bon Appetit, Gourmet and The New York Times. She personally supervised the kitchen with the help of all her children and loyal staff. Until recently she would direct the food preparation from her home when she couldn't be there herself. She enjoyed gardening and won first-place ribbons at the New Mexico State Fair for her beautiful flowers. Her hobbies also included quilting, sewing and playing the piano. She was active in the Santa Cruz de la Caada Catholic Church and in living her faith.


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