cance of the images, it is appropriate and even
beneficial, for such a display helps to educate
both Hispanics and non-Hispanics about the values and history of Hispanic culture, and it contributes to intercultural understanding and communication. In addition, the objects are often
much safer in museums than they are in a village
church which may not have the resources to protect and care for them.
Fortunately, the tradition of image veneration
in Christianity has never stressed the uniqueness
of any specific created image, for it is the holy
prototype that is worshipped, not the material
representation. A respectful and accurate copy of
a holy image consequently conveys the same
grace as the original. The recent flowering of traditionally conceived santos by Hispanic New
Mexican carvers and painters provides an abundant source of images for churches and homes,
and it testifies to the remarkable persistence of
the image-making tradition through the last two
hundred turbulent years, in which loss rather
than survival of cultural values has been the
From El Palacio ( 1988), vol. 94, no. 1. Reprinted by
permission of the author.
It is often suggested that the poor condition of the
churches as described by nineteenth-century commentators can be neatly equated with a lack of interest in
religion on the part of Hispanic New Mexicans. Such a
view overlooks the many other expressions of piety
and fervor, such as the santos and all they imply as
well as promesas, processions, and the penitential
brotherhoods. It is more likely that the poor state of the
churches was an expression of official neglect--improvements of conditions in New Mexico were not a
priority--and also resulted from the extreme poverty
of most rural New Mexicans in this period.
For a recent study of land loss and adoption of
cash economy in northern New Mexico, see William debuys
, Enchantment and Exploitation ( Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1985), especially pp. 163-213. See also Charles L. Briggs, "Remembering
the Past: Chamisal and Peñasco in 1940:" in
, ed., Russell Lee's FSA Photographs of
Chamisal and Peñasco, New Mexico ( Santa Fe: Ancient City Press for The Taylor Museum, 1985), pp. 5-15. On the historical basis of communal land holding in New Mexico, see John R. Van Ness, "Hispanic
Village Organization in New Mexico: Corporate Community Structure in Historical and Comparative Perspective," in
Paul Kutsche, ed., The Survival of Spanish American Villages ( Colorado Springs: The
Colorado College Studies, no. 15, 1975), pp. 21-44.
On nineteenth-century Mexican liberal thought,
see Charles A. Hale, Mexican Liberalism in the Age of
Mora, 1821-1853 ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), and Wilfred H. Callcott, Church and State in
Mexico, 1822-1857 ( Durham: Duke University Press, 1926). The idea that Catholic practices obstructed efficient economic activity was often expressed by nineteenth-century commentators. See, for instance, Through the Land of the Aztecs . . . by a Gringo ( London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1892), p. 119.
Richard N. Sinkin, The Mexican Reform,
1855-1876 ( Austin: The Institute of Latin American
Studies, 1979), pp. 126-27, 170-72. See also Hale, Mexican Liberalism, pp. 220 ff., and Jean Meyer, Problemas Campesinos y Revueltas Agrarias
(1821-1910) ( Mexico: Sepsetentas, 1973). Prior to the
establishment of republican rule in 1821, there were of
course encroachments upon communal lands and large
haciendas were established in many areas to the detriment of local communities. Such encroachments in the
colonial period, however, occurred in defiance of
Spanish law which sought to protect native land holdings, while after 1821, the republican governments actively supported the alienation of communal lands.
Luis Pérez Verdía, Historia Particular del Estado
de Jalisco ( Guadalajara, 1911), vol. 3, pp. 429-30.
The enactment of the Leyes Lerdo in 1873 resulted
in the rebellion of the religioneros ( 1874-1876) throughout rural areas in much of central Mexico, a spontaneous
uprising of rural people in defense of their religion. The