Pueblo Mission Churches as Symbols of Permanence and Identity [*]

By Blake, Kevin S.; Smith, Jeffrey S. | The Geographical Review, July 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Pueblo Mission Churches as Symbols of Permanence and Identity [*]


Blake, Kevin S., Smith, Jeffrey S., The Geographical Review


ABSTRACT. The three Pueblo mission churches of San Esteban del Rey, Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, and San Jose de Laguna are the most visually striking structures in the western New Mexico pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, and Laguna. Prime examples of "structures of permanence" on the landscape, the churches define local cultural identity. Church permanence and Pueblo identity are expressed in a five-part typology of visible characteristics: natural materials and hand labor, massive exterior form, adjoining cemeteries, syncretism of interior decorations, and structural decay and rebirth. Permanence must, however, be understood as an evolving condition, undergoing new representations as multicultural relationships evolve. Keywords: mission churches, New Mexico, permanence, place identity, Pueblo Indians,

In many cultures, people desire to create something that outlasts them, to leave a mark that says, "We were here." The visually prominent and enduring cultural hallmarks are commonly forged through the built environment, as the New Mexico cultural geographer and landscape historian J. B. Jackson suggested: "All that we ask of our landscape... [is] a monument or two of stone, a series of landmarks to remind us of what we believe and of our origin and identity ... that these landmarks have a permanent, visible character, that they be an integral part of the landscape, part of the cosmic order, and that they have the immediate emotional appeal of a widely recognized archetype" (1984, 107). A construct at once architectural, emotive, and social, the structure of permanence is a material expression grounded in local landscape and integral to cultural identity. Such structures shape place attachment because of what they represent, and they can serve as powerful sources of memory (Hayden 1997). Although permanence i s measured relative to the human life span, it also is one element in an adaptive process over multiple generations.

With notable exceptions, much recent architecture has ceased to symbolize hierarchy, permanence, sacredness, and collective identity (Jackson 1994), yet these characteristics are embedded in New Mexico's Pueblo mission churches (Figure 1). All architecture is contextual; it serves particular purposes, modifies environments, and communicates ideas about relative permanence, change, and time (Saile 1990). In this essay we interpret the development, maintenance, and revival of permanence as a hallmark of cultural identity at three western New Mexico Pueblo mission churches (Figure 2). We offer case studies in how a distinctive architectural landscape takes on specific meanings at the pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, and Laguna. [1] Although existing work has provided detailed interpretations of the architecture and ornamentation of Spanish-era mission churches in New Mexico (Kubler 1940; Dominguez 1956; Kessell 1980; Treib 1993; Wilson 1997), our intent is to explore how cultural identity is manifest through permanence. [2] We first explain our conceptual framework and methods, following that with a discussion of the culture-nature interplay on the Colorado Plateau and the historical context of the Spanish mission system in northern New Spain. Then short historical sketches for each church precede an examination of specific symbols of permanence. Multiculturalism, ties to the land, increasing local control, and adaptations to new values are each found to contribute to a bonding of place, permanence, and identity.

STRUCTURES OF PERMANENCE

Structures of permanence put down foundations in the psyche of place and become icons of local culture. Like time capsules, these structures reflect the values of a particular era, but interpretations of their form and content change over time (Pollan 1999). And unlike time capsules, structures of permanence are open to constant visitation, modifications, and redefinition. Structures of permanence may have a strong religious component, as do ancient pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and European cathedrals; others, including lighthouses, the Great Wall of China, and the Sydney Opera House, serve transportation, political, or entertainment functions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Pueblo Mission Churches as Symbols of Permanence and Identity [*]
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?