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ROAST OF THE TOWN

CHILE LOVERS TAKE A STAND ON FEDERAL BOULEVARD.

"I'm praying about it, trying to decide what to do next," he says. "I'll let you know. And meanwhile, I'll pray for you."

With more than twenty chile stands now lining Federal, the start of the New Mexico/Denver chile trail would seem lost in obscurity. But the roots are actually easy to trace.

"I'm the source," claims Willy Martinez, a large, handsome man in his fifties who is sitting out this year's chile season to pursue the importation of Penafiel and other supersweet Mexican soft drinks. "I mean it," he says. "Twenty years ago no one up here knew the New Mexico chile. It started with me. I been messing around with chile forever. The first year I brought it up and sold it from a walk-in cooler behind my house on Wyandot. I don't know how they found out about it, but a lot of people came to the cooler and bought chile. I was messing with Sandia and the 6-4 chiles, and lately, people are just buying and buying."

Last year Willy and Charles Gurule joined forces--operating five chile stands in addition to the one at Vigil's. This year, though, Charles is on his own, with just one stand. "Yeah, I quit having a whole bunch of stands," he says, "because it's a pain in the ass. People get absolutely rude. I tell them my price is twelve bucks a bushel. They tell me it's ten bucks down the street. I say, no it isn't, I'm the guy down the street, and I'm not selling any chile for ten bucks."

In fact, at the moment he's not selling any chile at all--he's run out. Once again, it's time to head for a chile farm. "I don't care if I have to get a farmer out of bed at one in the morning and say `I want a couple hundred pounds of chile, load me up.' They're used to it," Charles says.

Maybe. "Charles is the only person I know who would do a thing like that," laughs Angel Baquera.

While he's gone, Charles's crew--barring fights to the death--will hold down the fort. There's not a lot to it, really--you let the customer taste the chile, you keep the roaster spinning and you don't bargain.

"Right," Charles says. "Do you bargain at King Soopers? A lot of these guys think nothing of spending fifty bucks a night getting drunk, but then they bitch about twelve bucks.

"And that," he reminds you, "is for enough chile to last a year.

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