Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings

By Mary Ann Calo | Go to book overview

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 dominant theme.


NOTES

From El Palacio ( 1988), vol. 94, no. 1. Reprinted by permission of the author.

1.
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.
2.
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 William Wroth , 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.
3.
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.
4.
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.
5.
Luis Pérez Verdía, Historia Particular del Estado de Jalisco ( Guadalajara, 1911), vol. 3, pp. 429-30.
6.
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

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