Villa de Piedre

A Southwestern masterpiece tucked into the very desirable community of Las Campanas is one of the most extraordinary homes in Santa Fe.  Villa de Piedre is a classic adobe home with approximately 12,000 square feet of luxury living designed with Anasazi and Pueblo influences. The home was a collaborative effort of a talented designer with input from her also talented husband, a member of the De Domenico family that created the “Rice-A-Roni” products and a previous owner/president of Ghiradelli Chocolate.  Anita Ludovici DeDomenico has been an international architectural and interior design consultant for a number of celebrities with work shown in Architectural Digest and elsewhere. She is responsible for all the incredible details throughout the home.
The home is constructed mostly of adobe with 24 to 48-inch-thick walls. The home’s large entertaining spaces have floors of imported tile, stone, and cherry wood. What sets this estate apart is the fine details such as custom iron and glass work, hand crafted, hand adzed custom built doors, fine millwork, and nine uniquely designed fireplaces. Large windows show the mountains in the distance. Massive ancient vigas support the ceilings and add a rustic look especially in the glassed in curved dining room with skylight. The incredible features throughout rivals any residence you will find in the Southwest.

The home broadcasts no clue from the street as to its size and quality, This is not just a home…… delivers a state of mind and has an irresistible personality.  The setting and the unparalleled quality of materials makes Villa de Piedre one of the most incredible properties in Santa Fe.

Offered at $5,490,000.









The Entrance to Villa de Piedre

Giant Vigas and Bronze surfaced front doors with custom glass panels created by the glass artist, Duane Dahl.

Guest Parking

Custom iron gate leading to the entrance from porte-cochère with copper wall design.


Entrance corridor

Main Living Area            

Custom designed ironwork throughout the home was and created by a Santa Fe artisan.

Main Dining Room

Replicating the shape of a Kiva, the main Dining Room has an overhead surface constructed of triple staked ancient Vigas recovered from a permitted forest in Colorado.







Kitchen/Family/Dining Area




Master Bedroom Suite















Outdoor Spaces

You have never seen this much usable outdoor living space including  alfresco dining areas, grilling kitchen and relaxing spa……..all with mountain vistas.

Some Notes of Interest about Santa Fe and Other Places in The Land of Enchantment

*The City of Santa Fe was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages with founding dates between 1050 to 1150.

*Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and is the highest capital city in the US at 7,000 feet above sea level. It is the ending point of the 800-mile Santa Fe Trail.

*New Mexico was named by 16th century Spanish explorers who hoped to find gold and wealth equal to Mexico’s Aztec treasures. The province that was once Spanish New Mexico included all of the present day New Mexico, most of Colorado and Arizona, and slices of Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.  Congress drew the boundaries of present day New Mexico in 1863, but NM did not become a state until 1912.

    The Palace of the Governors was originally built in the early 1700’s as Spain’s seat of government, which is known today as the American Southwest. It records the history of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the region as well. The adobe structure, found on the Santa Fe plaza, is now the history museum of the state. It was designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1960 and American Treasure in 1999.

*Barrio de Analco Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is roughly bounded by E. De Vargas and College streets, and the Santa Fe River in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It dates from before the recolonization of New Mexico by the Spanish that followed the 1680 Great Pueblo Revolt. A working-class neighborhood of Spanish Colonial design, the Barrio is characterized by adobe-brick, flat-roofed, Pueblo-style buildings once found throughout the region. Of particular interest is the Chapel of San Miguel built in 1620 and located on the corner of E. De Vargas and College streets. Originally constructed to serve the soldiers, laborers and Indians who settled across the river from the Palace of the Governors, the chapel eventually acted as a focal point for the establishment of Barrio de Analco.

*The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, one of the individual ranges of the Rocky Mountains (and one of the longest ranges in the world) stretch from Poncha Pass, Colorado, in the north to Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, in the south. There are ten peaks over 14,000′ high in the range, two dozen more over 13,000′.

*The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The national monument, on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, includes a national recreation trail and ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level.

*Taos Pueblo located 2 miles north of Taos New Mexico and 70 miles north of Santa Fe is one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in the United States.  People still line in some of its 900 year old buildings.

*“Pueblo “is used to describe a group of people, a town, or an architectural style.  There are 19 Pueblo groups that speak 4 distinct languages.  The pueblo people of the southwest have lived in the same location longer than any other culture in the Nation.

*The Matachines Dance is popular in northern *The Matachines Dance is popular in northern New Mexico Northern New Mexico and along the Rio Grande River. People who join the Matachines do it for a religious purpose, since the dance is intended to venerate either Mother Mary, a saint, Christ, or God the Holy Trinity.  Dressed in fantastic Indian costumes, the chief characters are El Monarca, the monarch (Montezuma); the captains (Montezuma’s main generals); La Malinche, or Malintzin, the Indian mistress of Hernán Cortés; El Toro, the bull, the malevolent comic man of the play is dressed in buffalo skins with buffalo horns on his head.  Characters also include Abuelo, the grandfather, and Abuela, the grandmother. The Matachines dance portrays the desertion of his people by Montezuma, Malinche luring him back with her wiles and smiles, the final reunion of king and people and the killing of El Toro, who is supposed to have made all the mischief. The most basic symbol of the dance is good vs. evil, with good prevailing. Montezuma and la Malinche represent good, and the bull represents mischief.  Hernan Cortes, represents Satan or evil.

*New Mexico’s Indian Reservations to a certain degree function as states within a state where tribal law may supersede state law.

*In Truchas, Chimayo’, and Coyote, isolated villages in North central New Mexico, you will find descendants of Spanish Conquistadors that still speak a form of 16th century Spanish used nowhere else in the world today.

*More than 25,000 Anasazi sites have been identified in New Mexico by archeologists. The Anasazi, an amazing civilization who were the ancestors of the Pueblo, were around for 1300 years but the current consensus. suggests their emergence around1200 BC.  Beginning with the earliest explorations and excavations, researchers have believed that the Ancient Puebloans are ancestors of the modern Pueblo Peoples.  In general, modern Pueblo people claim these ancient people as their ancestors.

*The Bandelier National Monument offers the visitor a rare combination of scenic beauty and antiquarian interest.  Within Bandelier National Monument’s 32,000 acres, 70 miles of trails provide access to these ancient ruins, including the cliff dwellings and Tyuonyi village of Frijoles Canyon. Tsankawi, a separate section of the monument 11 miles north of the main entrance, protects an unexcavated ruin, cave dwellings and many petroglyphs. Sight-seeing at the ruins and other trail hiking, backpacking, bird watching, camping and picnicking areas are available.

*Chaco Culture National Historical Park approximately 190 miles from Santa Fe was a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area from 850 AD to 1250 unlike anything before or since. Chaco is remarkable for its multi-storied public buildings, ceremonial buildings, and distinctive architecture.  These structures required considerable planning, designing, organizing of labor, and engineering to construct.  The Chacoan people combined many elements: pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture–one that still awes and inspires us a thousand years later.

*Valle Caldera National Preserve, located about 50+ miles from Santa Fe and in the vicinity of Bandelier National Monument contains one of the smaller volcanoes in the Supervolcano class and is a 12- mile- wide collapsed volcanic crater with lush and expansive high-altitude grassland valleys; towering mountain domes; verdant forests and woodlands; clear, sparkling streams; waterfalls; rivers carved through narrow, tall canyons; natural hot springs; red rock valleys; and some of the most stunning and isolated scenic beauty and wildlife in the Southwest.

*Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) is a United States Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory managed and operated byLos Alamos Security (LANS), located in Los Alamos, New Mexico  approximately 36 miles from Santa Fe. The laboratory is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world that conducts multidisciplinary research for fields such asnational security, outer space,  renewable energy, medicine,nanotechnology, and supercomputing. The laboratory was founded during World War II as a secret, centralized facility to coordinate the scientific research of the Manhatten Project. the Allied project to develop the first nuclear weapons.  The laboratory was officially known as Site Y.

*The world’s first Atomic Bomb designed and manufactured in Los Alamos was detonated on July 16, 1945 on the White Sands Testing Range near Alamogorda.  North of the impact point a small placard marks the area known as Trinity Site.

*White Sands National Monument about 228 miles south of Santa Fe is a desert, not of sand, but of gleaming white gypsum crystals.

* The VLA (Very Large Array), a radio atronomy obeseratory and a component of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, approximately 131+ miles from Santa Fe, and one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 82 feet in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 22 miles across, with the sensitivity of a dish 422 feet in diameter.

*Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is approximately 156 miles from Santa Fe. Bosque del Apache, which means “woods of the Apache”, was named for the people who often camped in the riverside forest. Today it is know as one of the most spectacular Refuges in North America.   This 57,191 acre refuge straddles the Rio Grande Valley in Socorro County, New Mexico. It ranges in elevation from 4,500 to 6,272 feet above sea level. It receives approximately 7 inches of precipitation each year. Within the refuge borders lie three wilderness areas totaling approximately 30,850 acres and five research natural areas totaling 18,500 acres. Each season at Bosque del Apache, the NWR offers unique wildlife viewing opportunities. Peak visitation occurs in winter, when cranes, bald eagles, and light geese are present. During the spring and fall, visitors can see warblers, flycatchers, and shorebirds. The summer months are a good time to see nesting songbirds, waders, shorebirds, and ducks. This 57,191 acre refuge straddles the Rio Grande Valley in Socorro County, New Mexico. It ranges in elevation from 4,500 to 6,272 feet above sea level. It receives approximately 7 inches of precipitation each year. Within the refuge borders lie three wilderness areas totaling approximately 30,850 acres and five research natural areas totaling 18,500 acres. Each season at Bosque del Apache, the NWR offers unique wildlife viewing opportunities. Peak visitation occurs in winter, when cranes, bald eagles, and light geese are present. During the spring and fall, visitors can see warblers, flycatchers, and shorebirds. The summer months are a good time to see nesting songbirds, waders, shorebirds, and ducks.

Check back for more notes of interest to come!a

Ventana Fine Art

Premiere Gallery on the Historic and Famous Canyon Road

  Gallery Profile

Ventana Fine Art is located in the historical red brick schoolhouse on Santa Fe’s famous Canyon Road. For almost 30 years, Ventana has enjoyed the reputation as one of the Southwest’s premier exhibition spaces, showcasing the best in contemporary American painting and sculpture. Our comfortable sun-filled gallery opens to two inviting, beautifully landscaped sculpture gardens, and visitors are welcomed seven days a week.

The gallery represents many leading artists of the present era including PAINTINGS by Roger Ambrosier, John Axton, Frank Balaam, Tricia Cherrington-Ratliff, Lisa Homan Conger, Debra Corbett, Doug Dawson, Albert Handell, Tamar Kander, Barry McCuan, John Nieto, Tom Noble, Brian Potter, Jean Richardson, Mary Silberwood, Gregory Smith, Lynne E. Windsor, and SCULPTURES by Jim Aqius, Malcolm Alexander, Jimmy Cook, Michael Masse.




John Nieto (biography and art courtesy of Ventana Fine Arts, Santa Fe)

Influential for the powerful style and expressive color that are synonymous with his name, John Nieto has earned world-wide esteem and acclaim for bringing contemporary thinking and brilliant use of arbitrary color to subjects dear to his heart—the peoples and animals native to North America. His paintings are in major museums across the US and in countless private and corporate collections in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North American. Facial expressions and the communicative power of emotional color tell volumes about the lives, histories, and souls of the subjects in John Nieto’s paintings.

Canyon Road

Santa Fe’s Burro Alley

The unique mingling of fine art galleries with gracious adobe homes on winding, shaded streets is the essence of Canyon Road’s charm. Although it is just blocks from Santa Fe’s busy plaza, Canyon Road’s special quality arises from its history as a rural neighborhood of small farms scattered along an old Indian trail.

The oldest adobe houses on Canyon Road date at least to the 1750s, built as modest, two or three-room dwellings by early Spanish settlers. Each house was the center of a family farm that raised corn and wheat and vegetables on the fertile patches of land bordering the Santa Fe River. In those days it would not have been unusual to see a small flock of sheep being driven up the Road on the way to green, mountain pastures deeper in the Canyon.

Farming in this high desert climate was always a challenge. Shortly after founding Santa Fe in 1610, the Spanish built an irrigation canal above the River, parallel to Canyon Road. Still in use, this Acequia Madre, or “mother ditch,” brought precious water out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to sustain crops, livestock, and people in the Canyon Road neighborhood. Present day visitors should take a stroll down shaded Acequia Madre Street (just one block south of Canyon Road) to enjoy the ancient stone-lined canal and the beautiful adobe homes which have depended on it for centuries.

Since the earliest days of Spanish settlement, enterprising Santa Feans had walked their burros up the old “Road of the Canyon” to gather firewood in the mountain forests. Late in the day, residents would see the burros lumbering back down Canyon Road, laden with impossibly large stacks of split pinon wood that were destined for delivery to customers in town or for sale in Santa Fe’s Burro Alley.

A Visit to Santa Fe


A visit to Santa Fe is like stepping out of time to a place where past and present merges seamlessly. Perched high in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe, New Mexico is unparalleled in it’s richness of history, arts and culture.  Signature adobe architecture and old world charm combine with culinary sophistication and a creative flair to make the city one of the country’s most fascinating destinations.

One of the best-preserved cities in the United States, Santa Fe is an ancient city with a distinctive architecture borne out of its remote location and use of local materials.  Dozens of historic sites transport visitors back in time, from ancient Native American ruins and Spanish Colonial churches to mining town and remnants of the nation’s Wild West frontier days.  Historic walking tours showcase the spirit of Santa Fe, both old and new, most notably the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the country.

Santa Fe has long been a center for arts and culture.  It now ranks as the country’s third largest art market with over 250 galleries and dealers.  Perhaps most famous is the home of the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, Santa Fe boasts more than a dozen major museums showcasing an array of art, culture, history and traditions. 

Art galleries and boutiques line Canyon Road while Native American vendors representing 19 Pueblos and three tribes can be found everyday under the portal at the Palace of the Governors, selling jewelry and handmade goods.  The annual Indian, Spanish, and Folk Art markets provide opportunities not found anywhere else in the country,  Surrounded by more than 1.5 million acres of national fores and the 12,500-foot Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe offers year-round outdoor adventure.  The breathtaking scenery is an ideal backdrop for hiking, biking, skiing or rafting.  With an average of 300 days of sunshine and blue sky, the time is always right to visit the many archaeological or fascinating geological sites.

To truly understand why the readers of Conde’ Nast Traveler put Santa Fe near the top of their must-see list, you’ll just have to experience it first hand……..and start a love affair of your own.  It only takes one visit to see that this is one of the world’s extraordinary places…… will want to return again and again.  You many even decide as I did to make Santa Fe your home, or perhaps consider a part-time residence here.  In either case, please contact me and let me share my Santa Fe with you while showing you some great real estate opportunities.  By owning a home in Santa Fe, you can enjoy all this extraordinary city has to offer.

Spaceport America Preview Tours

Spaceport New MexicoFrom the website:  Spaceport America, New Mexico

Spaceport America Preview Tours feature guided, exclusive access to the spaceport site and provide guests an up close and personal encounter only available during the current pre-operational phase. Guests will take a journey through time, learning the history and evolution of transportation and trade in the American continent from the Spanish and Native American pioneers of the past to the space pioneers of the future. The approximately 3 hour experience gives guests an in-depth look at the scenic beauty and rugged ranges of New Mexico’s Old West, as well as man’s efforts to survive in the high desert. From roaming buffalo to the construction of the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, guests will enjoy a memorable experience!

Guests’ Spaceport America journey will start in the community of Hot Springs, or what is known today as “Truth or Consequences”. The tour will travel past the expansive concrete monolith of Elephant Butte Dam, which was built in 1916 to control the then-wild Rio Grande River. After leaving town, the route will shortly coincide with the historic El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro trail- the Spanish “Royal Road” – the highway that connected this region to Mexico City during much of the colonial period. From 1598 to 1680, Spanish Conquistadores used this trail along with Native Americans, and later in the 1800′s, the first U.S. explorers and militias used the same passageway to navigate the southwest. It served as one of the central corridors for U.S.-Mexico trade after the 1820s.

Tour guests will learn fascinating stories about the some of area’s more colorful characters like colonial explorer Don Juan de Oñate, frontiersman Oliver Lee and the unsolved murders of Albert J. Fountain, infamous outlaw Billy The Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrett, all of whom are linked to the El Camino Real Trail.

The expedition will take guests near media mogul Ted Turner’s vast 350,000-acre Armendaris Ranch, which contains some of the most pristine Chihuahuan Desert grasslands in existence today. The Armendaris was established under an old Spanish land grant in 1819 and was patented in 1881. Turner purchased the ranch in 1994.

Following passage through the ghosttown of Engle, guests will embark on the Jornada del Muerto, or the “Journey of the Deadman” on their way to the 18,000-acre site of Spaceport America. The tour will venture inside the spaceport perimeter where guests will witness history in the making: the future home of the personal and commercial spaceflight industry.

The vehicle will first traverse the site to the vertical launch area to see existing space launch facilities and vertical mission control building on the eastern range. Watch out for livestock and wild animals as the group rides through two working cattle ranches that peacefully coexist with the spaceport. With cameras at the ready, tours have even encountered cows jumping over our lunar lander pads! The tour guide will then point out and explain the different components of the new Spaceport America infrastructure currently under construction, including the airfield, spaceport operations center, fuel storage complex, and the iconic terminal hangar facility. Lucky guests may even speak with a project engineer or stand at the head of the 10,000 foot long by 200 foot wide concrete “spaceway”.

Additionally, guests will learn about what it takes to make a successful spaceport and why New Mexico is so ideally suited for space access. A long New Mexico tradition of being first when it comes to space is highlighted through the exploits of local aerospace pioneers, such as Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun, Col. John Stapp, and Capt. Joseph Kittinger.

Finally, the tour will include the latest updates on major players and trends in the emerging commercial space industry. Guests will hear the stories of Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR Aerospace, UP Aerospace, and more, along with predictions for new game-changing technologies like point-to-point transportation and space-based solar power. With so much happening in space every day both on-site and around the world, no two tours will be quite the same!

New Mexico has a rich history spanning over many centuries. The Spaceport America Preview Tour not only introduces you to the people and places that make up our past, but culminates in a taste of the future. Witness the coming of the Second Space Age, and reserve your tour.

Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico

When I first visited Taos, NM in the late 50′s with my parents, I was in awe seeing the  Taos Pueblo for the first time.  The 5-story adobe homes of the Taos Pueblo are between 700 and 1000 years old, making it the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the US. The  pueblo was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992, and is the only pueblo in northern New Mexico, where the inhabitants still live traditionally, without electricity or running water. The Taos Pueblo includes San Geronimo Church, the ruins of the old church and cemetary, the adobe houses, and the kivas. About 150 people live in the adobe buildings Hlauuma and Hlaukwima. The church was finished in 1850, being the 3rd on that site after the first one was destroyed in 1680 during the Pueblo rebellion, and the second by American troops in 1847. Today it is the largest adobe pueblo of New Mexico – a good example of how many others may have looked before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The Southern Way of the Cross

I want to share this interesting article with you that was written by my friend Patricia LaFarge.  It was originally published in The Collectors Guide.

The Southern Way of the Cross

There are myriad forms of—and uses for—the cross
throughout history and across cultures

Humans have always used symbols as instruments of knowledge and as means of expression. Lower animals have signs; humans have symbols, which ultimately transcend them. Symbols span the ages and are international as well, contributing to humankind’s self knowledge.

One of our most persistent and ancient symbols is that of the Cross, which is both the quintessential cosmic symbol and the symbol of universal, archetypal man. Its vertical line is considered male and spiritual; its horizontal line, female and earthly. It is the solstitial axis (North-South) and the equinoctial axis (East-West). It is the symbol of duality and the union of opposites.

One of the earliest forms is the Tau Cross, basically a “T” shape. It was used by the Vikings and the Druids; in Christian times it has been associated with both St Anthony and St Francis. The caduceus, a Tau Cross with winged staff and two intertwined snakes, is the symbol of modern medicine. The Tau Cross is associated with Abraham, and is believed by some to have been used by the Jews in Egypt to mark their doors at the original Passover. The Tau with a circle (symbol of the universe) is called an Ankh.

The two basic cross shapes are the Greek, with arms of equal length, and the Roman, with the bottom of the vertical line elongated; the Tau cross is the Roman type. Variations of the Greek and Roman crosses (including the Tau) can be found throughout Latin America.

The Indians of the Americas used the Greek-style cross to represent the sun, the morning star and the four directions. It was their principal cosmological symbol, and it remains so today. Many of the Indian crosses contain combinations of old and new symbols, such as the sacred squash blossom motif, the dragonfly, and the swastika. Among the Maya, the cross is a symbol of Quetzalcoatl, in whose arms were birds and plants representing the four seasons

, thus associating the cross with the Tree of Life.

Strongly linked to the ancient Tree of Life is the crucified Christ on a cross. To quote Joseph Campbell, “. . . Christ restored to man immortality. His cross . . . was equated with the tree of immortal life, and the fruit of that tree was the crucified Savior himself.”

The Cross as Art

Many Latin American folk artists’ crosses depict the devotional representation known as the Arma Christi – the Arms of Christ or Instruments of the Passion (the ladder, dice, nails, robe, etc). A Franciscan devotion depicting the crucified Christ accompanied by the instruments of the Passion is also represented in House Blessings, Road Crosses and others.

Road Crosses (Cruces del Camino)

Wayside crosses, where the wayfarer could stop to rest or to pray, are common both in Europe and in the New World. They are used as guideposts and as sites for religious ceremonies in the Andean world. They are related to weathervanes, and there is speculation that the Pre-Christian peoples used them to determine wind direction. Sometimes road crosses mark the spot of a wayfarer’s accidental death, such as the descansos in northern New Mexico.

Jungle Crosses

The mola is a traditional reverse appliqué craft of the Kuna Indian women of the San Blas Islands, Panama; the cross is prominently depicted in mola design. Visually, it shares the basic characteristics of Kuna verbal art and thought: repetition, parallelism and symmetry. There are wide differences of opinion among the Kuna women about the symbology. Shipibo and Canela Quichua groups of the Amazon employ the ancient cross symbol in their bark-dyed and painted hand-stitched skirts and in their pottery. The Jungle Cross is most prominent and conspicuous in the crafts of these two groups, sharing with the Kuna crosses the visual characteristics of repetition, parallelism, and symmetry.

Cross Milagros and Milagro Crosses

The cross has been employed throughout the ages to seek protection: we still cross our fingers as a prevention and a hope; “cross-your-heart” verifies the truth of an utterance; burying a metal cross with the dead is an ancient and persistent custom, as is marking a grave with a cross. In Mexican culture, the metal milagro in its many forms (body parts, undedicated human figures, etc) is used to make requests of, or give thanks to, Christ or a saint, and modern adaptations of the milagro-encrusted cross have become popular decorative art. In Peru, the curandero crosses contain magical amulets, herbs, seeds, colored water, and plants, to seek or assure physical and psychological health.

The Cross in Traditional Peruvian Retablo Style

The Peruvian Retablero sculpts or molds religious figures created from his own recipe of a potato-based paste, which probably includes ground huamanga stone and peach juice. He uses an identical technique to make crosses depicting the Passion.

House Blessing(Cruces de Casa)

Throughout Latin America, the protection of home, family, and animals is sought by means of roof crosses, which are installed on the ridgepole at a roof-raising. Among the Zinacantan of Chiapas, Mexico, the crosses of various materials are adorned or replaced periodically, an event which is part of a larger religious celebration. Metal house blessings from Azuay Province, Ecuador, include a wide variety of designs, including Passion symbols, birds, angels, and bullfighters. Most are hand-forged, employing techniques introduced by the Spaniards in the 1500s. In San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, the blacksmiths produce iron crosses that seem to be most commonly used as decorative house blessings. Most of these contain syncretic combinations of Indian and Christian symbols.

Crosses for House Altars

In Latin America, house altar pieces have been made by folk artists emulating academic works and utilizing commonly available materials. For several centuries many have employed tin, which is painted or worked sculpturally. With industrialization of printmaking in the 19th century, prescribed Christian iconography was made readily available to the folk artist. He was essentially a copyist who could bring individual creativity and innovation to his work since it was domestic and out of the reach of ecclesiastical control. Therein lies much of its charm and uniqueness.

New Mexico Decorative Crosses

In New Mexico, the cross figures importantly in a rich variety of religious folk art. Tinwork, which originated during the Moorish occupation of Spain and was brought to our region by Franciscans, has been a principal medium for decorative crosses and house altar crosses. The tin cross, of many styles, is currently very popular in New Mexico. Crosses made of distressed wood, emulating or interpreting old designs, are also being made by local artisans. Another Hispanic New Mexican folk art which dates back to the Moors, and which is currently being executed with great virtuosity, is straw inlay. A design is cut into the wood, and wheat, corn or oak stalks are laid into it. Straw overlay, in which the design is glued on top of the surface, is more popular today. Some artists still use the traditional pine pitch adhesive and varnish, but many have turned to modern glue and store-bought paint. Nonetheless, the tradition remains, uniting the new Hispanic artisan with his forebears.

The Cross in Folk Jewelry

Jewelry crosses were not worn in the Americas until the Conquest. Since then, jewelry crosses of fantastic variety have adorned many “Americans,” be they South, Central, or North Americans. Among the most interesting is the Yalalag Cross of San Juan Yalalag, Sierra de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico. Its basic design, which predates the Conquest, consists of a central cross from which hang three lesser crosses. The decorative elements in the design can be Indian in origin (usually geometric) or Christian (wings, hearts, flowers). A neighboring town, Choapan, uses a cross depicting Christ’s head and a pictograph of the Passion (Arma Christi), a Franciscan representation. A cross with two arms in the upper half is called a Patriarchal Cross. This design, combined with two angels, the Caravaca Cross, is found not only in Spain but also in many parts of Mexico and South America. The Maya traditionally used an equilateral cross (the Greek form), representing the four directions or cardinal points. This cross is associated with astronomical / religious orientation and with the Tree of Life. Despite this strong visual tradition, the jewelry cross of Guatemala is usually of the Roman type.

The crucified Jesus has long been interpreted according to local custom and racial origin. His is shown in many diverse styles, the principal idea always being to show “God as Man.” The missionaries were adaptable in their interpretations of Christ, following in general the color, style, or manner of those being proselytized. Thus, in contrast with the more austere European Christ, the Latin American Cristo is of a more relaxed, naive and sensual form, as seen in Peruvian and Bolivian jewelry crucifixes.

So the Cross symbol, like all symbols, is “a key to a realm greater than itself and greater than the man who employs it,” to quote symbolist JC Cooper. It is a simpler, lower expression of a higher truth. Throughout all of the Americas, the cross remains, in all its forms and interpretations—be they native cosmological or European-derived Christian—a potent symbol and force.

Written by Patricia LaFarge to accompany an exhibition at El Rancho de las Golondrinas remote a living-history museum in La Cienega, NM, south of Santa Fe.

Patricia LaFarge is the owner of que tenga BUENA MANO pic a private gallery of Latin American folk art, Santa Fe, NM 505-982-2912

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos and AlbuquerqueVolume 13