Kearny Road Cemetery Commemoration
In commemoration of the unnamed children buried at the recently excavated cemetery on Kearny Road, Juanito and friend Rick Gonzalez created a beautiful retablo depicting the unnamed ones as they are fostered to revelation by angels.
(Original article from the Santa Fe New Mexican)
Unearthed remains to have final resting place
By Julie Ann Grimm
After a funeral Mass today, a stone memorial will mark the graves of more than 20 people whose first resting places were disturbed when developers built homes over an old cemetery.
People for a long time had known about the cemetery beneath downtown Santa Fe’s Kearny Road, but last year, the community rallied to recognize those who were buried there and whose graves became covered by roads and front yards more than 60 years ago.
Skeletal remains of 13 children and four adults were discovered when workers dug sewer lines for a new home in the neighborhood north of the Plaza in the fall of 2003. That led to a well-publicized excavation of part of the cemetery that state archaeologists believe was last used in the 1800s. Five months later, a priest at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi celebrated a Mass, and the remains were reburied at Rosario Cemetery.
And as history is prone to do, it repeated itself this year.
Another Mass will be celebrated at noon today at the cathedral, and another graveside service is planned afterward to bury the remains of two more people who were first interred in the forgotten cemetery. The services have been arranged by Miguel Lucero, a Santa Fean whose lineage dates back to the arrival of the Spanish. Lucero said he believes the people buried near La Garita Fort were probably Catholic, are probably his distant relatives and should have the proper rites for their earthly resting places.
“It’s like a housewarming,” he said. “They are moving from one place to another.”
A granite marker donated by Block-Salazar Mortuary in Española also will be placed near the new graves. “This time, with a marker being in place, they will know where that grave is. They won’t mistake that there is no one buried here and build another 200 homes,” Lucero said.
The Kearny Road cemetery is shown on maps from the early 1900s, but by 1941, houses and roads had been built on top of the graves. In this long-occupied city, it’s not an uncommon occurrence. Excavations behind the city’s Sweeney Convention Center have uncovered burial sites this year, and several buildings have been erected over other graveyards.
State archaeologist Glenna Dean says the city can avoid further mistreatment of the cemeteries and the memories of people who are buried in them. “We know that that is a cemetery through a whole series of what I can only look back and say were terrible decisions,” she said. “Municipalities can do better by marking on maps with red ink and logs of exclamation points so everyone knows this is a special area that requires archaeological involvement. You can’t just plow through bones and put them back and call it good.”
Dean is seeking state legislation that would establish reburial grounds to inter individuals whose remains are accidentally unearthed. The bill died in last year’s legislative session, but Dean said she’s working on having it introduced in the next session.
The National Preservation Institute is holding a cemetery-preservation workshop in Las Vegas, N.M., next month. For more information, log on to www.nmhistoricpreservation.org.
Timeline of the Kearny Road Cemetery
1700-1800: La Garita Spanish Fort occupies nearby land. Cemetery is shown on maps as campo santo, a Spanish word for “graveyard.” Children and adults are buried there.
1912: Cemetery is no longer used. A stone wall around it falls into disrepair.
1936-1940: Grave markers are no longer visible. Kearny Avenue curves around the cemetery.
1941: Developer plats a subdivision and builds Kearny Road and several homes over the cemetery. Workers installing or repairing waterlines find human remains, put them in a pine box and rebury them.
1997: Public Service Company of New Mexico workers find the box and contact state archaeologists.
2003: Skeletons of more than a dozen children and several adults are discovered when a couple building a new house digs a sewer trench. A priest at St. Francis Cathedral celebrates a Mass, and the remains are reinterred.
2005: More bones are discovered. Another Mass will be celebrated at noon today at the cathedral. A memorial marker is to be placed at the cemetery noting all those buried at the forgotten cemetery. The state archaeology office hopes to erect a marker on Kearny Road so it won’t be forgotten again.
Retablos: An Expression of Ancient Art
By James K. Gavin
For The Santa Fe New Mexican
“The retablo is the New Mexican window to the divine,” said Charlie Carrillo during a recent interview in the kitchen of his Santa Fe home.
Carrillo is a santero, literally “a saint maker,” an artist who makes retablos. He abandoned his career as an archaeologist almost 25 years ago to devote himself to studying the history of this form and to painting.
“Retablos are storytellers,” he said. “They are stories of the saints captured on wood.”
Carrillo said that in the days of his ancestors people used to respond to the retablos in their homes as if the essence of the saint were living in the painting. “The saint became like a member of the family, a daily presence. He, or she, might even mess up from time to time, be scolded or made fun of.” Carrillo believes that this familial relationship with the saint offered a way for people to understand the incarnation of Christ in non-theological terms.
What is a retablo? According to the Diccionario de la Lengua Española of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, a retablo is a group or collection of painted or carved figures that present in serial form a story or event. The word comes from the Latin retro tabula meaning “behind the altar,” referring to a large painting or grouping of paintings hung or mounted behind and above the altar, an altar screen. In New Mexico, this is sometimes called a retablo mayor.
But the word retablo by itself has a very specific meaning here in Northern New Mexico. It is a painting of a religious figure or figures on a board, usually pine, whose surface has been prepared with gesso.
Carrillo, co-author with his Jesuit colleague Thomas J. Steele, of the just released A Century of Retablos: The Janis and Dennis Lyons Collection of New Mexican Santos, 1780-1880, (Hudson Hills Press, 2007) expressed his idea about the efficacy of the 21st-century retablos. Speaking of the modern-day buyer who may be a collector rather than a believer, he said, “Who knows? They may still get some benefit from the long-term presence of the saint in their house.”
From the mid-18th century through the arrival of the railroad in New Mexico in 1879, the art of the retablo flourished in Northern New Mexico. However, the train brought with it new people, new materials and products, new ideas. For a time the traditional art of the New Mexican santero languished. It was practiced and appreciated by few. Then in the second half of the 20th century it experienced a robust rebirth. This is due in large part to the creation of The Spanish Colonial Art Society in 1926 and the society’s subsequent establishment of Spanish Market, which became a permanent annual event in 1965, and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in 2002, which houses an excellent collection of historic and contemporary retablos.
The Franciscan friars who came with Don Juan de Oñate, who led the expedition that began the Spanish settlement of New Mexico in 1598, set about their mission of Christianizing the indigenous people of the Rio Grande Valley with dedication. By 1635 there may have been as many as 40 mission churches. These churches and the convents and other related buildings needed art both for devotion and as teaching tools. Prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, most of this art came up from Mexico in great caravans that made the arduous journey up the Camino Real every three years. Very little of this art – in the Baroque style then in fashion – survived the deliberated destruction of all traces of Christianity during the revolt.
With the resettlement of New Mexico under the leadership of Don Diego de Vargas in 1693-94, Spanish authority, both political and religious, was reimposed in a manner more accommodating to Pueblo peoples. Once again art was needed to meet devotional and educational objectives of the Catholic Church. Initially the art would have been imported from Mexico. By the mid-18th century, however, there were local artists producing the paintings and sculptures, and a new uniquely New Mexican aesthetic was coming to be.
In the pictorial space they create a two-dimensional world. The Baroque style of the previous century gave way to the Rococco, a more fanciful elaboration of the Baroque. However, Rococco embellishments were not eliminated by the local santeros; rather, they were reduced and simplified. The human form became stylized, but the ability to express emotion was not compromised. The palette was limited to colors obtained from local vegetation and minerals with a few pigments that came up from México. These factors and the living conditions of the artists themselves, working under the same hardships as all their brethren who were struggling to survive in this unforgiving environment, resulted in a devotional art unlike any other.
Sitting in his studio in Tesuque discussing the emergence of this distinctly New Mexican art form, present-day santero Juanito Jimenez said of his 18th-century forebears, “They were so isolated! They had to be resourceful. There was no milled lumber, so they split a log and adzed it, found some gypsum rock and ground it down (for gesso). They made their brushes out of yucca fiber, horse hair, chicken feathers – anything that would work. … They were resourceful people. They gave rise to a new form of art.”
“Some people,” he continued, “see the retablo as primitive. I don’t. This is an art form that developed here. This is what they saw.”
Donna Pierce, curator of the Spanish Colonial Collection of the Denver Art Museum, wrote in Spanish New Mexico, (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1996), “…the religious art of New Mexico, although strongly grounded in the Spanish Catholic religious tradition, is a distillation of many influences that forms a stunning new style that is instantly recognizable and unique to the region.”
Jimenez, the Spanish Market Artist of the Year in 2005, reflected on what painting retablos means to him. “It is a way of tying me together with the Almighty. I use it as a form of prayer, as a form of penance, as a pilgrimage. Doing retablos we’re leaving footprints …and some day, I may not even be alive, someone will follow those footprints and be helped, find comfort or peace.”
Juanito was awarded his Masters degree in Education from the New Mexico Highlands University of Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1971 and teaches courses in Retablo Painting throughout New Mexico and United States. Juanito served as Curator of Southwest Devotional Folk Art at the A.R. Mitchell Museum in Trinidad, Colorado and lectured at the Trinidad Historical Society on Spanish Colonial Devotional Art.
With pieces in public Museums throughout New Mexico, Colorado and Washington D.C., Juanito's works are also held in private collections in the United States, Europe, South America, Mexico, Canada and Australia.
- Albuquerque Museum of Fine Arts - One Space, Three Visions
- New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts
- New Mexico International Folk Art Museum - Tradicion de Orgullo II
- Spanish Colonial Art Museum
- Santuario de Guadalupe
- Regis University
- The Fechin Institute
- The Hispanic Heritage Festival
- Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Washington D.C.
- Spanish Colonial Arts Society - Spanish Market - since 1974
- Matteucci Galleries Nedra, Santa Fe, NM
- Spanish Colonial Art Museum, Santa Fe, NM
- High Road Gallery, Truchas, NM
- New Mexico International Folk Art Museum
- Albuquerque Museum of Fine Arts
- Millicent Rogers Museum
- Santuario de Chimayo
- El Rancho de los Golondrinas
- Regis University Collection
- Capillita de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
- Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
- Western Museum of Mining and Industry
- Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
- Catholic Charities, Tulsa, OK
Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Tesuque, minutes from downtown Santa Fe, Juanito sequesters himself in his studio, walls arrayed with inspirational works from colleagues and luminaries alike.
Juanito speaks of his studio. "It's a kind of refuge, a sanctuary, a place of quietude. I feel fortunate to have this space. Here I can watch the progression of the day, the sun rising behind me in the east and setting in front of me. It reminds me of the progression of life."
"New Mexico is a kind of vortex of the faiths and spirits of old. At times, looking out of the windows of my studio, I feel I can see the old ones, the Anasazi, as they go about their daily lives. I sense their spirit and their attachment to the land. New Mexico is like a mistress. She empowers and energizes me as I move through my days."
June 1, 2008
Panel Discussion between Russian Icon Painters and New Mexico Retablo Painters
Museum of International Folk Art
Support provided by the Open World Program of the Library of Congress, the Santa Fe Council on International Relations and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts.
June 13, 2007
Spanish Colonial Art Museum
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Part of the Arts Alive education series.
May 10-13, 2007
St. Bartholomew's Church
St. Bartholomew's Church
April 15 - October 31, 2007
50 Years of Collecting
Spanish Colonial Art Museum
Santa Fe, New Mexico
April 14, 2006
Weekend Window to Santa Fe - Good Morning America
La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Juanito interviewed on life and inspiration around Santa Fe, New Mexico on feature piece from ABC's Good Morning America
email ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
telephone ~ 505-982-1418
PO Box 403
Santa Fe, NM 87504