By William P. Thompson
A southern belle will come to life at noon Friday inside the Portales Public Library when performance artist VanAnn Moore brings her one-woman show from Belen.
It’s all part of the library’s celebration of Women’s History Month. Moore, who has created 20 characters for herself over the past two decades, said the Portales visit will showcase her first rendition of Mary (Mamie) Bier Bernard Aguirre, a southern belle who fled Missouri at the height of the Civil War and settled in Arizona with her Mexican husband. Aguirre went on to become the first female professor at the University of Arizona in 1896.
“In 1862, the Union forces were close to her town in Missouri,” Moore said. “Her father asked a trading partner of his, a Mexican named Epifanio Aguirre, if he could help protect his daughter and the rest of the family. Epifanio said he would protect the family if he could have the hand of his daughter (Mamie) in marriage.”
Moore said Mamie and Epifanio were married within six months and moved to what is now Arizona. She said Mamie went up and down the Camino Real and Santa Fe Trail five times during her husband’s trading expeditions.
A slew of adventures and tragic twists of fate befell Mamie Aguirre from the time she moved west with her husband until the time she became a university professor, and Moore said she will bring those episodes to life through the character of Aguirre.
“Sometimes I talk to the audience and sometimes I talk to other characters (invisible) on stage,” Moore said. “I move around a lot and relate with the audience.”
Moore said she found much of her information about Aguirre from a recent novel by Annette Gray called “A Journey of the Heart.”
”It’s a true story,” Moore said. “I become the character. I utilize some of her (Aguirre’s ) journals.”
Moore has performed for schools, libraries, historical groups and conventions during her 20-year performance career. On Wednesday she said she was still getting her costumes ready for Friday’s performance. She said she hopes to make Aguirre a permanent character in her repertoire.
The library will be offering a free brunch at 11 a.m. Friday prior to Moore’s performance. Quiche will be the entree, according to Danielle Swopes, assistant director of the library.
“Everything is free to the public,” Swopes said. “I think she (Moore) will be an enjoyable person to watch. We will also have quilts from the quilting groups Dora Soars and the Red Barn Quilters and art from the local La Escalera Art Guild on exhibit through March 28. The (women’s history) event has become pretty popular over the years. The meeting room here has been packed the past three years.”