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Debbie Marquez says her Mexican restaurant in Edwards has been a force of social change in Eagle County.
Debbie Marquez says her Mexican restaurant in Edwards has been a force of social change in Eagle County.
By Dan Davis
Super delegate and local entrepreneur Debbie Marquez traces roots of her activism to California
By David O. Williams

August 23, 2008 — Debbie Marquez, the co-owner of Fiesta’s Mexican restaurant in Edwards, admits she and her cousin Cookie Archuleta, whom Marquez joined in Vail in the fall of 1977, “were some of the few Colorado natives who never learned to ski when we were kids.”

But her family had fished and hunted in the Vail Valley for years when she was a kid growing up in Denver. Then when she was eight she moved to the San Fernando Valley of California, where she lived through high school.

“I really tell people I grew up in Vail, but those formative years were spent on the radical left coast of California, and I’m so grateful for that,” Marquez says. “I saw what radical social change can accomplish.”

That spirit of activism burns in Marquez to this day. The former chairwoman of the Eagle County Democratic Party was elected a Democratic National Committee woman in 2004, and then she was picked as an influential super delegate who pledged for Sen. Barack Obama early in the year.

The wildly popular Edwards eatery she owns with her sister, Susan, remains a force for socializing if not social change in Eagle County.

One Christmas not too long after Fiesta’s opened in 1989, the restaurant was packed with wealthy visitors in fur coats, Latino families speaking Spanish, ranchers in cowboys hats and local families with kids. The Marquez sisters were scrambling during the dinner rush but paused to take it all in.

“We just looked at each other and smiled, and I said to Sue, ‘Wow, we made it and this is what we wanted to accomplish,’ because it was such a diverse clientele,” Marquez says. “This is perfect to be able to cater to everyone; for me that was the pinnacle.”

The entrepreneurial Marquez enjoyed earlier incarnations as a rafting company owner and reservations manager at the Holiday Inn, which lured her away from a similar position she held at an airport hotel in Denver after moving back from California following high school. She still remembers her first day in Vail.

“I walked into the Holiday Inn in late October. We had already had some snow on Vail Pass, which was not an interstate, it was still Highway 6, and I walked in after driving my old Volkswagen Bug up and it was just deserted. The place was so empty for someone coming from a busy airport hotel.”

But the front desk said they were expecting her. The maintenance man at the time, Mike Reid, had just filled his elk tag, and being from Maine he had imported some lobster for the ultimate surf and turf.

“My introduction to Vail was eating elk, homemade peach ice cream and fresh Maine lobster,” Marquez says. “That was just perfect for me because I came from a family that used to hunt in this area. It was just one of those, ‘I-think-I’m-really-going-to-like-it-here’ moments.”



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