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Spanish Arts and Catholicism in Santa Fe

Spanish Arts and Catholicism in Santa Fe

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Published by Paul Henrickson
this version is edited.It deals with art, creative thinking, and social pressures
this version is edited.It deals with art, creative thinking, and social pressures

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Published by: Paul Henrickson on Jul 05, 2012
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SPANISH ARTS AND CATHOLICISM AND OTHER SOCIO-CULTURALCONCERNS IN SANTA FE, NEW MEXICOby Paul Henrickson,
©2007
The Spanish Market in Santa Fe was first established in 1925 some seventy-fiveyears after the Mexican American war and a dozen years after New Mexico hadbecome a state.I have often wondered what the private comments, discussions and negotiationswere relative to breaking up the territory and partitioning it into what is todayknown as two states, New Mexico and Arizona. I shall have to research thematter to see whether any concern had been expressed over the nature of theNew Mexican Hispanic personality.Certainly, nothing I have read thus far would indicate that the decision of theinhabitants area was based on their obstinate determination to resist outsideinfluences of any kind
 – 
which is fine in itself. But when it takes the enlargedshape of niggardly, and meanly depriving others ,namely non-Hispanics oranyone not this brand of Hispanic, of their rights, dignity and property itbecomes offensive.When this attitude becomes institutionalized, which it has, wherever, as in thecourt rooms and the offices of government it becomes a matter of considerablymore seriousness.
My drawing the reader’s attention to those historical events could lead a reader 
to suppose that the Hispanic ranching and farming families of New Mexico hadlittle
interest in developing the more ―lofty‖ expressions of civilization. Th
erewould be some basis for this conclusion for even as early as 1909 the committeenumbering five or six persons, as I recall only one of whom was Hispanic andhe spoke negatively of the project on the grounds that encouraging the arts wasinconsistent with the practical experiences of the population and their economicinterests.This committee which formed what is today known as The Museum of NewMexico was largely the result of a private effort to create a venue for practicingpainters. These men had a vision, perhaps, in part, selfishly motivated, but largeenough a vision to include the beneficial effects on future generations.Today the Museum of New Mexico comprises several divisions and is activelyinvolved in research and other aspects of cultural development. The effort hasproved notably successful and stands as a refutation of the argument based onthe practical needs of the coming generations to make a living. This is an
 
argument that even today can be heard in many non-Hispanic householdselsewhere.Today, the participation of the Hispanic in all areas of expressive activity thatmight be called an art form is noticeably tenuous. It is regrettable for where thetalent does reveal itself it is a moving contribution to our insights into humanbehavior and an instructive mode of transmitting concepts, but these efforts, arelargely literary and have little to do with the formal aspects as one knows themin the plastic arts of painting and sculpture.Orlando Romero who may be the best Hispanic writer in the area as one might judge by
his novel ―Nambe Year One‖, which I found particularly rich
,although strongly reminiscent of Herman Hesse, in his use of language.It is, by the way, the English language and not, as it might have been, in thelocal Hispanic dialect, which was, as His Majestry Juan Carlos noted to ConchaOrtiz y Pino de Kleven the language Spain spoke 400 years earlier. There mayhave been economic reasons for the choice of language as well, for there arefewer numbers, even among the New Mexico Hispanics who are fluent in thatlanguage.To my knowledge he has not written anything that significant since. He haswritten a great deal, however, but much of it has been directed toward morepractical ends such as the creation of a climate of Hispanic despair, but adespair that is not at all as rich as one experiences it in some of the works byOctavio Paz,
―The Labyrinth of Solitude‖,
for example, which is like looking atthe world through several layers of black lace.
Romero’s column in The Santa
Fe Reporter was entitled LA VILLA REAL, the royal city, an attribution whichneeds a lot of explanation.The focus of one of his articles was
something called ―The Agresto Affair‖,
which had its origins in the regrettable incident
where a relatively small (3’x5’
approximately) fresco which had been placed on one of the corridor walls of St.
John’s College. I had seen the fresco on one occasi
on and was pleased to see theattempt at experimentation
 — 
experimentation on the part of the College, not the
artist, for St. John’s has not been known for being particularly sensitive
tographic works and the ones that have been there are so innocuous that they arehardly worth a mention.It had never occurred to me that what I had seen was intended to be a permanentfixture, so when suddenly there had been an outcry from Orlando and others
that St. John’s, Like Rockefeller, had willfully and scornfully d
estroyed a work of art I
was quite bewildered. I wasn’t particularly enlightened, either, when for 
 
some reason, equally bewildering to me, I had been included in a to be videoedinformal discussion organized by Charles Bell one of the more outstanding and
 better known St. John’s
celebrities.The makeup of the discussion was in itself interesting as I was the only person
not
 
associated with St. John’s. All others were either currently or had been at
one time associated with the College, including one Indian woman and oneHispanic by the name of Alejandro Lopez, a self-styled art historian.
I was impressed, however, by Charles Bell’s thoughtfulness in organizing the
 group and explaining, as he does, on the tape, that he felt the affair needed to be
recorded…for posterity, I suppose.
 The work under discussion, executed by Frederico Vigil, had been vandalizedby some unknown individual who, it had been reported, objected to somegraphic details in the work.The video tries to clarify what those details were. After this occurrence the work was removed. Nothing to my knowledge has ever been said about whatarrangements had been made between the artist and the College either before orafter this incident, but it occurs to me that the College, if it has a responsibilityat all in this matter, that that responsibility lies only in the area of education andthat the college would take, as I believe it did, the opportunity to demonstratethat acts of vandalism are inappropriate.Having been involved in renting residential facilities
to various St. John’s
students I can also testify that, in general, they are a very uncivilized and callouslot. A characteristic which, I assume, had been built into their character longbefore they ever thought of attending S
t. John’s College
.During the video taping of this meeting I limited my comments to theobservation that the work , as I had seen it, could only be considered no morethan a fresco sketch and not at all a finished work. A sketch is valuable in itself,or course and becomes a valuable document, at least for most scholars they do.The video tape does very clearly demonstrates, however, the current Hispanic
attitude toward their lives’ experiences and
the rather twisted logic of AlejandroLopez put a real strain on my reserve. More later about Alejandro.The matter of the so-called Agresto Affair, named after the then President of St.
John’s
College, together with the complaint brought forth by a coalition of Indian and Hispanic artists that The New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts and itsnew curator exhibited an Anglo-centric perspective which excluded indigenous

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