The Woman Who Helped Make Chile Hip

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca (far left) with the Sociedad Folklorica in 1945. Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Tough economic times and persistent droughts were nothing new to Fabiola Cabeza de Baca. The native New Mexican, home economist and author saw them as an opportunity to thrive.

During the Depression, she worked for the New Mexico Agricultural Extension Service, helping Hispanic and Tewa women learn new gardening and poultry-raising techniques, along with how to can vegetables and fruits, use sewing machines, and make simple home repairs. She valued traditional ways and documented the recipes for everyday fare that would one day grace restaurant menus throughout the state.

At 2 pm on Sunday, July 10, you can learn even more about this amazing woman when Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo, regents professor at the University of New Mexico,  speaks on her life and legacy.  “Fabiola Cabeza de Baca and the Good life,” in the History Museum Auditorium, is free with admission; Sundays are free to NM residents.

The State Historian’s excellent web site has a comprehensive article on Cabeza de Baca, who’s also featured in the History Museum’s new exhibit, Home Lands: How Women Made the West. What follows is but a brief glimpse — an appetizer, if you will, to Dr. Rebolledo’s lecture.

Born in 1894 in Las Vegas, NM, she could trace her ancestry to Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, a 1530s Spanish explorer. She grew up on her family’s ranch, but was schooled by the Sisters of Loretto and in Spain.

Fabiola in front of New Mexican schoolhouse

In 1916, she took her first job as a school teacher in a one-room school in rural Guadalupe County six miles from the family ranch but a day’s ride from the closest town. During her teaching career, she was introduced to a new field of study called Home Economics. She quickly became hooked and was eventually hired by the Extension Service at the start of the Great Depression.

At the time, none of the other extension agents spoke Spanish, even though more than half of the state’s resident spoke no English. Not only did Cabeza de Baca speak Spanish, but she learned enough Tewa to work with Pueblo women as well. Focusing at first in Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties, she traveled among towns from dawn until midnight. “Some of our counties are larger in area than many of our eastern states,” she once said. “We say so many miles to a person rather than persons to a mile.”

In the 1940s, Cabeza de Baca began writing – Extension Service bulletins, including “Noche Buena,” documenting traditional cultural practices; The Good Life: New Mexico Traditions and Foods, a fictional account of a family that included recipes of their favorites foods; and We Fed Them Cactus, which told of her family’s four generations on the Llano Estacado, blending nostalgia with a critical view of how progress was affecting Southwestern Hispanics.

In the 1950s, Cabeza de Baca’s extension work went global when, with the United Nations, she began developing home economics programs in Mexico and, later, consulted for the Peace Corps.  She was an active member of La Sociedad Folklorica of Santa Fe, an organization that to this day is dedicated to preserving Spanish culture. Cabeza de Baca died in 1991, and is still fondly remembered by those who were lucky enough to know her when.

New Mexico’s African American Story

You can go all the way back to the 1527 exploration of Cabeza de Vaca and a Moor who accompanied him. Esteban de Dorantes was, by some accounts, the first African American to set foot in New Mexico, though other historians have traced the lineage as far back as 1050. Despite such a lengthy history, you don’t often hear the stories of New Mexico’s African Americans.

Enter The African American Legacy: Visible, Vital Valuable. The exhibition, produced by the African American Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico took center stage at the History Museum today (May 15) and will be on display through Oct. 9.

The exhibition focuses on the African American experience from the Civil War into the 1950s and includes the communities of Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Blackdom, a short-lived African American community near Roswell in the early 1900s.

Rita Powdrell, president of the African American Museum, which is still working toward a physical building, invoked a West African term, Sankofa in her remarks at the exhibit’s opening. Its meaning is simple: Go and fetch it. Retrieve the past that you might learn from it. In researching different communities’ African American experience in New Mexico, Powdrell said, members of the museum board learned that it differed, one place to the next.

“But the thread that runs through our culture in every community is we have grace in the face of adversity,” she said. “We have love in the face of hate. We have perseverance and a deep and abiding sense of joy. We hope when you see the faces in this exhibit, they will speak to you.”

Other speakers at the opening included retired NMSU Professor Clarence Fielder, the original curator of the exhibition’s Las Cruces section; Gary Williams from the state Office of African American Affairs; and Brenda Dabney, a board member of the African American Museum who paid tribute to the historians on whose shoulders today’s African American researchers stand.

Told on a series of panels, the exhibition focuses on migration, families, churches, social organizations and entrepreneurs, along with the struggles against segregation.

Among the people it features are Cedric and Merdest Billingsley Bradford (left), longtime operators of the U-Tote-Em Grocery Store in Las Cruces and community activists who devoted time to Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, and Las Cruces’ public schools.

Powdrell hopes other New Mexicans will come forward with tales of their family’s African American experience so that the exhibition can expand and, one day, cover every pocket of the state. A good place to bring those stories is to the two symposia that accompany the exhibition:

2-4 pm, Sunday, June 12: “The Journey of the African American North,” focusing on Santa Fe and other northern New Mexico communities.

2-4 pm, Sunday, September 25: “Entrepreneurship in the African American Community,” from gas stations to barber shops to restaurants and more.

The events are free and will be held in the History Museum Auditorium.

Today was a day for celebrating, and we’d like to share some glimpses of the event — while encouraging you to come to the museum and check out the show.


Dancers from Albuquerque’s Public Academy for the Performing Arts, accompanied by vocalist Josef Scott.

Poet Doris Fields shares a poem she wrote especially for the exhibition.

Clarence Fielder, a retired NMSU professor, who began the research for an exhibition about Las Cruces’ African Americans that, years later, grew into today’s version. His co-researcher, who couldn’t attend the event, was then-student Terry Moody, who today works for the state Historic Preservation Division.

Visitors enjoying the exhibition, which is in the museum’s second-floor Gathering Space.

The Gathering Space has plenty of comfy chairs, perfect for watching a 30-minute Colores program from KNME on Blackdom.

 

Photo Archives Discovers a Rare Photo of Navajo Leader Manuelito

Boxes filled with photographs, negatives and more line shelves that reach ceiling-high in the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives. To the three-person staff responsible for archiving the contents, the process must sometimes feel like bailing out the ocean with a bucket. At high tide.

So you can understand how mysteries might lie hidden for years, decades even. But the promise of a new discovery keeps the archivists pulling the boxes down, tugging open their lids and hunting through their contents.

Last May, Daniel Kosharek had one of those dreamed-of a-ha moments.

ManuelitoPrint_72_4x4

Navajo war chief Manuelito (seated) with another Navajo war chief, identified in the photograph as Cayetanito, ca. 1870s.

In a box holding part of the Henry T. Hiester/Melander Brothers Collection, Kosharek discovered a previously unknown photo of famed Navajo leader Manuelito, taken around 1870 and given to the archives 50 years ago. The photo graces the cover of the new edition of El Palacio, the scholarly magazine of the Museums of New Mexico, and is catching the attention of journalists across the nation. El Palacio carries a story about the discovery by Mary Anne Redding, director of the Photo Archives, and a sidebar by historian Charles Bennett Jr. on Manuelito’s history and lasting impact. An excerpt from Redding’s piece:

The Photo Archives is full of undiscovered treasures like the Manuelito portrait. With a collection of more than 800,000 images and an antiquated cataloguing system, which the current staff of three is rapidly working to update, there are wonderful gems still hidden away in boxes and cabinets, waiting to be discovered. … Each box is like a gift waiting to be opened on a special day.

Manuelito’s monumental role in Navajo life includes his 1866 surrender to the Bosque Redondo reservation (and his subsequent escape), an 1868 meeting with President Ulysses S. Grant in Washington, D.C., and an 1880 meeting with President Rutherford B. Hayes in Santa Fe. On the Navajo reservation, his name is carried by the Manuelito Navajo Children’s Home, the Manuelito Chapter House, and the Chief Manuelito Scholarship.

The photo Kosharek discovered shows Manuelito sitting beside another Navajo war chief identified as Cayetanito. Historians know of only a handful of Manuelito portraits, taken by photographers Charles M. Bell, George Ben Wittick, and possibly William Henry Jackson and John Gaige.

The History Museum has begun the process to put the “new” photo on display, perhaps in the permanent Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now exhibition. Until then, you can get a gander at some of the archives’ holdings without even leaving your chair. Click onto the archives’ digitized collections, and you can keyword-hunt for the portion of images the staff has been able to upload. (Warning: Highly addictive Web site.)

You can also pick up the latest El Palacio for $8 at any of the Museum of New Mexico shops (Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, New Mexico History Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, and New Mexico Museum of Art), or for $10 (postage added in) by calling 505-476-1126 or e-mailing elpalacio@state.nm.us. Here’s a not-so-subtle hint: You can support scholarly research at our museums and deepen your knowledge of New Mexico’s art, history and culture by springing for a subscription. Do I hear jingle bells?

A Voice from the Governor’s Office Past Offers Wisdom for Today

On Tuesday, New Mexicans elected the nation’s first Hispanic woman governor. Regardless of your personal political leanings, that’s a historical milepost and, given that we’re in the business of celebrating our history, we’re taking the opportunity to remember another Hispanic who made history as governor of New Mexico.

A photo of Donaciano Vigil, taken by Albright Art Parlors, 188-82?. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, No. 011405.

A photo of Donaciano Vigil, taken by Albright Art Parlors, 188-82?. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, No. 011405.

Donaciano Vigil was the first native New Mexican Hispanic to serve as New Mexico governor after Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny raised the American flag over the Palace of the Governors. According to the State Historian’s web site: “(H)e was undoubtedly the most important native Hispanic leader in the transition of the Territory from Mexican to American government. His decision to support the American annexation of the New Mexico territory and join the new American sponsored government in 1847 helped ensure the status of New Mexico in the American nation and to assure the participation of Hispanos in that system. ”

In its July 3, 2010, edition, the Santa Fe New Mexican singled out Vigil as one of eight people critical to the preservation of the city’s heritage:

Born in Santa Fe in 1802, Donaciano Vigil chose when he turned 21 to make the military his career. After U.S. conquest of New Mexico in 1846, Vigil’s acceptance of American rule influenced other Hispanos to recognize the reality of the federal presence and calm largely political unrest in the territorial period. During the earlier Spanish colonial period, government and church officials were careful to preserve historical records. After arrival of the Americans, however, it fell to Vigil to champion the cause of saving historical records. As New Mexico’s first civil governor, Vigil organized archival records and made it his cause to preserve New Mexico’s history.

In its newsletter, distributed today, the Historical Society of New Mexico features a remembrance of Vigil by HSN President Mike Stevenson, who quoted a passage from Vigil’s speech to the first Territorial Legislature on Sept. 24, 1847. Stevenson thought, and we agree, that Vigil’s words have only grown more powerful in the 163 years since, as advice to those who would lead us and to we who are choosing those leaders:

If our government here is to be republican—if it is to be based upon democratic republican principles—and if the will of the majority is one day to be the law of the land and the government of the people, it is evident, for this will to be properly exercised, the people must be enlightened and instructed.  And it is particularly important in a country where the right of suffrage is accorded and secured to all, that all should be instructed, and that every[one] should be able to read to inform himself of the passing events of the day, and of the matters interesting to his country and government. This is the age of improvement, both in government and society, and it more particularly becomes us, when commencing as it were a new order of things, to profit by and promote such improvements, and they can only be encouraged and promoted by diffusing knowledge and instruction among the people…All that the legislature can do in the cause of education for the people is most earnestly pressed upon them and will meet with my hearty approval and cooperation. (Emphasis added.)


The Threads of Memory Weaves its Magic

ExteriorSign5x7Opening this weekend, The Threads of Memory: Spain and the United States (El Hilo de la Memoria: Espana y los Estados Unidos) weaves the story of Spain’s first 300 years in the Americas. The History Museum marks the U.S. debut of 138 rare and precious documents, maps, illustrations and paintings — but it’s only here until Jan. 9, 2011, so get it on your calendar. (You’ll also enjoy the 12 weeks of lectures, concerts and Chautauqua performances accompanying it; every one of them is free.)

On Thursday, we took a small group of journalists through the still-under-construction exhibit for a sneak peek. And we figured you deserved to ride along.

WorkersGeoWashington5x7Here, the installation crew buzzes in the part of the gallery where we’ve hung Giuseppe Perovani’s 1796 portrait of George Washington. Many Americans are unaware of the critical role Spain played in helping to win the Revolutionary War.  Perovani lived for several years in the United States and, in 1801, with the prestige he had earned, went to Cuba on contract with Archbishop Espejo to help decorate the Cathedral of Havana. He also worked as a teacher there and, afterward, moved back to Mexico, where he became an academic of merit and second director of painting in the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos.

This portrait was likely commissioned by Jose de Jaudenes y Nebot, Spain’s representative in Philadelphia. Jaudenes knew Washington through Thomas Jefferson and had also been consulted on the negotiation of borders.

FranwDeAnza5x7Dr. Frances Levine (left), director of the museum, points to and talks about one of her favorite pieces in the exhibit,a 1786 agreement, hand-written in the Palace of the Governors, between Gov. Juan Bautista de Anza and Comanche Captain General Ecueracapa. The agreement laid out how much help de Anza would receive from the Comanches in an action against the Apaches.

Dr. Levine says that when she first saw the Threads of Memory exhibit in Sevilla, Spain, this particular document not only brought her to tears but convinced her to lobby for its American debut in Santa Fe. The fact that it was written in the same building that she works in every day carried special meaning, along with a deeper knowledge of the conditions that both colonists and Native peoples lived with.

MediaInXbtSome of the media members who came to our preview was the EFE News Agency of Spain, which is preparing a story for distribution across that nation this weekend.

MayorBeingInterviewedAmong EF’s interviews was one with Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. The city of Santa Fe, celebrating the 400th anniversary of its founding by Spanish colonists, played a key role in bringing the exhibit to life here.

JosefFranLaBelle5x7Dr. Levine and Josef Diaz, the museum’s curator of Southwest and Mexican Art and History, examine an illustration of La Belle. The image is the main “brand” of the exhibit; see it above as part of the exhibit title.)

La Belle, a ship, was part of an attempt by France to displace the spreading power of Spain on the lower Mississippi and what is now the American Southwest. The expedition was led by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who left France with four ships to claim and colonize the area around the mouth of the Mississippi for France.  En route, one ship was lost to pirates, one ran aground, its cargo taken by local natives, and one returned to France. La Salle continued to sail La Belle but missed the Mississippi by some 400 miles, landing on the Gulf Coast, not far from what is now Corpus Christi. The ship was later lost in a storm with about 20 survivors, including La Salle. In 1995, less than 12 feet deep, the remains of the ship were discovered and recovered by the Texas Historical Commission.

At 2 pm on Dec. 19, Eric Ray, a maritime archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission, will deliver a lecture about La Belle in the History Museum Auditorium.

Finally, meet part of the people responsible for bringing the exhibit here. From left, Falia Gonzalez, Spanish curator of the exhibit from the Archivo General de Indias; FaliaJosefMayorFran1_5x7Josef Diaz; Mayor Coss; and Dr. Levine.

Please join us for this weekend’s activities — Saturday’s private reception (tickets $100 at the Lensic) and Sunday’s grand opening. Each week through Jan. 9, we’ll have The Threads of Memory Lecture Series — all of it free with museum admission. (Remember: Children 16 and under are always free; Seniors free on Wednesdays; NM residents free on Sundays; and everyone free 5-8 pm Fridays.)  Bring your family and enjoy learning more about our rich Spanish roots.

Take a Stroll Through “Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton”

America’s forgotten conservationist, Ernest Thompson Seton, is celebrated in the History Museum exhibit Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton. Today, let’s take a short walk through the exhibit, supplemented by what you’ll read and what you’ll see. (All photos are by Blair Clark, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.)

As you head upstairs to the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Changing Exhibitions Gallery, you’ll quickly notice something’s afoot: Hey, there are wolves on the walls!

outside - wolves on wall

Upon entering into the (air-conditioned!) cool, we get our first introduction to Seton.

entrywayIn 1893, on the winter plains of New Mexico, a drama played out between a wolf pack and a wolf hunter named Ernest Thompson Seton. Through his interaction with the wild canines, Seton underwent a personal transformation, changing from their persecutor to their protector, becoming a leading proponent of wildlife conservation. Seton reached an international audience of millions through his drawings, paintings, books and lectures. He wrote the first realistic animal story and established important principles for the sciences of animal behavior and ecology. His passion for self-reliance, ethics, and outdoor youth education led him to become a founder of the worldwide Boy Scout movement. Seton’s insights sparked a revolution in our perceptions of wild nature, provided a model for environmentalism, and inspired generations of youths and adults to take to the outdoors for recreation, adventure, and solace.

Heading counter-clockwise, we learn of Seton’s background and his first foray into New Mexico.

wolf photoOn October 22, 1893, 33-year-old Canadian naturalist and artist Ernest Thompson Seton arrived in Clayton, New Mexico. He had been hired to hunt wolves. As buffalo, antelope and deer had been eliminated through hunting and habitat loss, wolves turned to killing cattle. They threatened the livelihood of ranchers. For the next three months as Seton rode the rangeland of Union County, he thought a great deal about wilderness, wildlife and our relationship to the land. The wolves he hunted were becoming his teachers. Seton hunted a wolf pack along the Corrumpa Creek (“Currumpaw”) which flows east from Capulin Volcano National Monument, an ideal area for wildlife. He wrote: “The place seemed uninviting to a stranger from the lush and fertile prairies of Manitoba, but the more I saw of it the more it was revealed as a paradise.”

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) likely lived in this area for thousands of years. Seton found that wolves in northern New Mexico could weigh up to 100 pounds, although most weighed less, reaching the size of German shepherd dogs. In 1974, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the gray wolf as “Endangered” in the lower 48 states and Mexico. Listing and attempts at de-listing wolf populations have remained contentious issues over the decades.

Seton’s effort to kill a wolf he named “Blanca,” then her mate, the pack-leader “Lobo,” turned into a horrific experience, one that left him asking, in his nature journal, “Why?” He never killed another wolf, returning instead to his home in Toronto, where he wrote a story about the hunt in which he cast himself as the villain. Lobo and Blanca – capable of courage, honor, and love – became the heroes. The story, “The King of Currumpaw,” began to change the way North Americans viewed wildlife, and marked an important turning point for the wildlife conservation movement.

a great grizzly form rose upFrom “The King of Currumpaw”:

As I drew near a great grizzly form arose from the ground, vainly endeavoring to escape, and there revealed before me stood Lobo, King of the Currumpaw, firmly held in the traps. Poor old hero, he had never ceased to search for his darling, and when he found the trail her body had made he followed it recklessly, and so fell into the snare prepared for him…Yet, when I went near him, he rose up with bristling mane and raised his voice, and for the last time made the cañon reverberate with his deep bass roar, a call for help, the muster call of his band. But there was none to answer him…

For the next 10 years, Seton combined intense wildlife study with developing a close relationship with Canada’s First Nations peoples. When not traveling, he lived in Toronto or New York City, developing his career as an illustrator and naturalist. He also began writing short fiction and natural history observations. He would later publish around 40 books that would sell more than 2 million copies.

artist and illustratorSeton published articles and monographs on wildlife from an early age. “Roger Tory Peterson freely acknowledges that the idea for his now familiar technique of identifying birds in the field came from Seton…In this way, Seton provided some of the impetus that has led to the present era of enjoyment and understanding of birds.” Robert W. Nero, American Ornithologists’ Union, 1975.

Seton gained increasing recognition for his illustrations and stories about wildlife throughout the 1890s. He used this celebrity to become a leading advocate for preservation of all wild creatures. Like Henry David Thoreau, he believed that the continued existence of wild nature was vital to our own survival on both a physical and moral level.

“There will always be wild land not required for settlement; and how can we better use it than by making it a sanctuary for living Wild Things that afford pure pleasure to all who see them?” Lives of the Hunted, 1901

By 1905, Seton was one of the most popular lecturers in the United States, Canada, and England. He also turned his attention to creating scientific works. Combining his knowledge of mammalogy, ecology, and ethology (animal behavior) and study with native peoples, his first major nonfiction work, Lives of Northern Animals, won immediate acclaim from biologists.

In 1900, Seton purchased a woodland estate near Greenwich, Connecticut, naming it Wyndygoul, for a Seton family estate in Scotland. It was subject to occasional vandalism by local boys. Instead of calling in law enforcement, Seton invited his young antagonists to join him for a weekend campout on March 28-29, 1902. Seton told compelling stories of the West and taught them the basic skills of “Woodcraft.”

treesHe ran a more formal weekend camp at Summit, New Jersey at the beginning of July. At the same time, he wrote a six-part series for Ladies’ Home Journal, “Ernest Thompson Seton’s Boys.” Thousands of boys joined what became known as the “Woodcraft” movement. The camps and articles established principles of outdoor education influencing the programming of summer youth camps for the next century. His main intent was to help youths connect with nature — an aim the History Museum shares in both the design of the exhibit’s interior space with trunks from real aspen trees (where story-tellers will enthrall children and families in upcoming events) and its supplemental programs that include an urban bird hike and nature-journaling workshops.

Other men took notice of Seton’s success with the “Woodcraft Indians.” Daniel Carter Beard (American boys’ writer and artist) announced the formation of the rival organization, “Sons of Daniel Boone,” in April 1905.  Robert Baden-Powell (British hero of the Second Boer War in South Africa) organized an experimental camp for boys in England in 1908, based in part on the Seton model. He called his organization the Boy Scouts.

Both Beard and Baden-Powell freely adopted many of Seton’s ideas, often without giving Seton credit. Over time, Seton’s Woodcraft movement faded while the Boy Scout movement thrived. Worldwide, more than 350 million boys, girls, and their families have taken part in Scouting over the past century.

furnitureAs part of his own efforts through Woodcraft, Seton made illustrations and items to show Scouts and Woodcrafters how to make their own items. He handcrafted a number of items for his own use.

Seton wrote and edited an edition of Boy Scouts of America, Handbook for Boys on display in the exhibit. In it, he combined his Woodcraft writings with the Scout writings of Baden-Powell. The Boy Scout Handbook has been issued in many subsequent editions over the past century with millions of copies printed.

On February 8, 1910, businessman and newspaper owner W. D. Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. On June 21, Edgar M. Robinson of the YMCA became the temporary head of the organization. He recruited Seton as its most public standard-bearer. Beginning on August 16, Seton led the first official camp of the Boy Scouts of America at Silver Bay, New York. Shortly afterward, Seton was given the honorary title, Chief Scout. He worked tirelessly to establish Scouting as an American institution.

Though Seton eventually parted ways with the Boy Scouts, he remained a tireless champion of outdoors education for youths and for conservation. Some of that work can be seen every summer in Cimarron, N.M., where Boy Scouts gather at the Philmont Scout Ranch.

Beginning in 1930, Seton built a “castle” outside of Santa Fe on what he thought of as “The Last Rampart of the Rockies” and what is still known today as Seton Village. The castle burned down during its renovation by the Academy for the Love of Learning, our partner in this exhibit, but the Academy is offering tours of its ruins, along with Seton-related programming on three dates. The first, Aug. 14, coincides with Seton’s 150th birthday and includes tales around a campfire.

Seton died in Santa Fe on October 23, 1946, almost exactly 53 years after his first trip to Clayton. In all that time, Seton had never forgotten the King of Currumpaw. By forcing Seton to ask WHY, Lobo helped him on his journey from wolf killer to student of the Buffalo Wind. Seton made a transformation within himself, putting the best of what he had learned to work its way in the world – where it is working still. As you leave the exhibit, we ask you to ponder this:

Seton would urge you to experience wild nature: Photograph wildlife. Draw the landscape. Write journal entries about your feelings for glorious outdoors New Mexico. And always, keep the love of learning alive!

NEH Teachers Take Up NM Crafts

NEH teachers - retablos 2The Palace Courtyard was cool, with a reasonable amount of shade this morning — a far cry from the lightning storm predicted for later today. A perfect time, in short, to try out a little plein air painting, New Mexico-style. The teachers participating in this week’s NEH-UNM program, “Contested Homelands: Knowledge, History and Culture of Historic Santa Fe,” ditched the lecture tables in favor of some hands-on activities: creating retablos and punched-tin frames, under the guidance of two notable New Mexico artists.

Santero Gabriel J. Vigil is a Raton native who gave up dreams of professional boxing to build an artist’s career in Santa Fe. Winner of multiple awards for his retablos and bultos at Spanish Market, he hasn’t forgotten his roots and regularly works with children, passing along his art skills to them. Thanks to that experience, he likely had a few tricks up his sleeve when he set out to teach our teachers. He gave them a few hints, provided some drawings for them to work off of, then set them loose.

The results? Soulful and stirring.

A group of teachers in the NEH-UNM workshop enjoy painting retablos on a cool Santa Fe morning.

A group of teachers in the NEH-UNM workshop enjoy painting retablos on a cool Santa Fe morning.

A sacred heart design takes wing.

A sacred heart design takes wing.

Inside the Palace, another group of teachers created a din usually reserved for construction sites. Cleo Romero, a Nambe-based artist, showed them a selection of her punched-tin work — which, in 2006, won top honors in Santa Fe’s Spanish Market. With the assistance of some patterns, nails and hammers, she let the participants work off any potential aggressions by pounding out their own creations.

NEH teachers - tinwork 2

Using a paper pattern, one of the teachers lines up her punched-tin design.

With Romero's works for inspiration (hanging, at right), teachers get to pounding.

With Romero's works for inspiration (hanging, at right), teachers get to pounding.

If any of that got you inspired,take note: Cleo will teach a free tinwork class next Wednesday from 10 am to 2 pm at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts. (Call 982-2226 for details.) For further inspiration, check out the online version of Treasures of Devotion; Tesoros de Devocion, the exquisite exhibit in the Palace of the Governors celebrating the work of New Mexico’s legendary santeros.

Whose Homeland Is It Anyway?

“Place is more than a museum. Place is more than stuff in a case. Place is an experience that is shared through connections with people over time.

With that, Erica Garcia, chief educator at the New Mexico History Museum, today began one of what will become many lessons for 40 kindergarten-through-high-school teachers. Gathered from across the nation at the museum this week (like a similar group last week), the teachers are studying the history and interactions between Native Americans and European settlers in a city where those peoples’ descendants still make history.

Erica Garcia (left) introduces teachers to the NM History Museum.

Erica Garcia (left) introduces teachers to the NM History Museum.

It’s also an education in how the settlement of America is not a story focused on familiar names like Jamestown and the Mayflower.

Contested Homelands: Knowledge, History, and Culture of Historic Santa Fe is a special program offered at the museum by the University of New Mexico’s College of Education. Funded by a $160,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Contested Homelands consists of two weeklong workshops held at the museum, with field trips around Santa Fe and Taos.

“Getting a chance to learn about New Mexico’s history in a place that saw so much of it makes this workshop unique,” Garcia said. “The Palace of the Governors is a living testament to the resiliency of New Mexico’s people and cultures. You can tell people about the history, but something special happens when they stand in its footprint.”

Contested Homelands aims to strengthen the teachers’ knowledge of pre-colonial America and stretch their understanding about the scope of European Colonial America – a topic that too often is taught as an east-to-west migration, overlooking the contemporaneous movements of Spanish colonists from south to north. Besides hearing distinguished scholars discuss topics ranging from historic sites to El Camino Real, participants get to try their hands at cultural creation, hammering out tinwork and designing their own retablos.

Garcia talks about the design of the Palace of the Governors during a walk around the Santa Fe Plaza.

Garcia talks about the design of the Palace of the Governors during a walk around the Santa Fe Plaza.

As this week’s session began, Garcia led the teachers on a tour of the Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors. Standing at the corners of Lincoln Avenue and San Francisco Street, she noted that the corner, once the terminus of El Camino Real, is now “a great place to get ice cream.” Moving down the sidewalk to the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and San Francisco Street, she told the teachers they had just reached the end of the Santa Fe Trail.

The Plaza that connects the trails, she said, has been the heart of Santa Fe life for four centures, with  wedding, executions, protest rallies, military enlistments and, just this weekend, a few nude cyclists.

Sprinkled in were stories of the Spanish colonization and its harsh encomienda system that led to the Pueblo Revolt; the technology of building with mud; and a nod to the Palace’s uniquely colonial security system: Anyone intending to storm the place was forced to simultaneously stoop through a low door while stepping up, thereby making themselves a slower and better target of inhabitants.

This week’s teachers hail from places as far from one another as Maine and Oregon, with Iowa, Chicago, the Carolinas, New Jersey, New York and San Antonio thrown in.

Among the questions participants will ponder: What are homelands? How do homelands stretch, shrink and shift over time? What happens when homelands overlap with one another? How does (perpetual) colonization, conquering, and resistance transform homelands and create new ones? What is the spiritual story of a homeland? How do the artistic products and structures of a homeland tell a story? What connections do people have to a homeland and how are these connections manifested in history and in present-day? And importantly, for the purpose of this workshop, how do the Camino Real and the Palace of the Governors exemplify the unfolding of homeland in an area that already had a vibrant system of Pueblo communities prior to European Settlement?

Using what they learn, the teachers will leave the workshop with something they can use in their classrooms – a lesson, a Power Point Presentation, an informational booklet to share with their students, a lecture.

Besides UNM and the museum, the program received support from the Office of the State Historian, Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Wells Fargo Bank, Albuquerque Historical Society, New Mexico Humanities Council, New Mexico Council for the Social Studies, National Geographic, La Montañita Coop, Dr. Thomas Keyes, Dr. Quincy Spuirlin, Dr. Rebecca Sánchez and Albert and Christine Sánchez.

While the workshops coincide with Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary, they make the point that the area’s history stretches centuries before that.

“Vibrant communities flourished in this place long before European exploration and later settlement,” Assistant Professor Rebecca Sánchez told UNM Today. “ As this region moved toward statehood, the United States inherited the memory and material creations of the region. When it became part of the U.S., the country had to incorporate this history into the national narrative of American history. The place is itself a homeland with a larger story.”

The NEH’s “Edsitement” arm has also selected Santa Fe for this month’s virtual excursion, an online opportunity for teachers and, really, anyone to learn more about this place where so many trails converged.

New Mexico Turquoise Meets Tiffany’s Fabulous Blue Box

tiffany boxFor as long as people have called New Mexico home, they have pulled gems and minerals from its soil. Today, that tradition yields oil, gas, coal, uranium, and always, the gems that decorate our jewelry. Primary among those gems is a a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum known worldwide as turquoise.

For that part of the story, head with us to the hills of Cerrillos, south of Santa Fe, where a once-vibrant mining district held a special allure to famed jewelry company Tiffany’s. All because of a particular type of turquoise and that fabled Tiffany Blue box.

The Cerrillos mining district has seen activity since 600 A.D., first from Native peoples, then Spanish colonists and, later, American mining companies. But the history of turquoise mining wasn’t always a cherished one. From the Cerrillos Hills web site:

During the Spanish Period the pueblos continued to mine turquoise for their own use and trade with the unconquered tribes around New Mexico. The Spanish considered turquoise worthless and laughed at the Indians for mining it. Consequently, Spanish documents …  ignore the continued mining of turquoise by the Indians. Only a few Spanish documents even mention the continued use of turquoise by the pueblos.

Late 1800s documents make references to Santo Domingo and Cochito Puebloans traveling to the Cerrillos Hills to collect turquoise. With the arrival of the railroad in 1881 and the development of tourism, travelers began snapping up Pueblo turquoise jewelry. A fad was being born.

In 1889, George F. Kunz, Tiffany & Co.’s renowned gemologist, won an award in Paris for a collection that contained a sample of New Mexico turquoise. In 1892, Kunz announced that certain colors of turquoise had come to be considered “gem quality” – namely, the Tiffany Blue color.

tiffany pendantAccording to a New York newspaper: That is a turquoise far and away the finest in America, and it came from these new mines in New Mexico. It is worth $4,000. … (I)t is probable that gems to the value of $200,000 a year may be obtained from this mine. Kunz recognized the possibilities of further branding the Tiffany Blue color by maintaining almost-exclusive rights to the turquoise he had made suddenly valuable.

That year, James P. McNulty came to Cerrillos to mine turquoise, eventually landing with the American Turquoise Company, which owned the claims to a number of mines. The ATC sold almost all of its turquoise directly to Tiffany & Co., where designer Pauling Farnham (regarded by some as “Tiffany’s lost genius”) crafted some $2 million worth of it into jewelry.

McNulty died Jan. 26, 1933, and is buried in the Masonic section of the old cemetery on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe.

Herculano Montoya at the Tiffany mine(1937). Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

Herculano Montoya at the Tiffany mine(1937). Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

Today, the Tiffany Mine and with five other mines in Cerrillos are owned by Doug Magnus, a Santa Fe jewelry designer whose Santa Fe 400th line is available in the Spiegelberg Shop at the New Mexico History Museum.

Magnus says the mines are, in all likelihood, played out. Still, he was able to obtain several specimens of the raw ore “that had been hoarded for 80 or 100 years by the man that did all the mining for the American Turquoise Company.”

Despite such difficulties, Magnus said, turquoise seems to be enjoying new verve. “I’ve been working with it since 1972, and I’ve watched it become the single most popular semi-precious gemstone in the realm of semi-precious gemstones. And that’s worldwide.”

Magnus will talk about the mines and about the use of turquoise in jewelry-making at the 5th annual Palace of the Governors Gem & Mineral Show, 9 am-5 pm, June 18-20, in the Palace Courtyard. The event is free via entrance through the Blue Gate south of the History Museum’s main entrance at 113 Lincoln Avenue.

Miners, merchants and jewelers will display (and sell!) specimens ranging from raw ore to polished finery.

Guest speakers at the event:

Garrick Beck, “The History of Fakery in Gemstones,” 11 am Saturday

Beck’s Santa Fe company, Natural Stones, specializes in genuine, natural stones that are not dyed, synthesized, “stabilized” or “enhanced.

Doug Magnus,”The Cerrillos Mines,” 2 pm Saturday

Magnus, a Santa Fe jewelry designer whose Santa Fe 400th line is available in the Spiegelberg Shop at the New Mexico History Museum, has owned the six mines in Cerrillos, N.M., including the fabled Tiffany turquoise mine, since 1988.

Sandy Craig,”The Opals of Ethiopia,” 1 pm Sunday

Craig’s Orca Gems and Opals of Littleton, Colo., carries specimens, rough, rubs and cut stones from Nevada, Mexico, Honduras, Ethiopia, Lightning Ridge, Lambina, Mintabi, Yowah and Koroit.

Lila with crystal 5x3 72The Gem & Mineral Show, in conjunction with the Palace of the Governors Native American Artisan Program, allows gem and mineral dealers and Native American artisans to tell their unique stories about the historical relationships that have existed between Native silversmiths and jewelers, miners, and gem and mineral traders.

Exhibitors will include: Garrick Beck; Orca Gems and Opals; Roadrunner Mining and Minerals; Bright Star Gemstones; and Will Steerman.

Come to look, come to touch, come to buy, but most important, come to learn more about the historic interplay between miners, mineral traders and the artisans who bring life to these fruits of the earth.

Party Like It’s 2009

This time a year ago, we were crossing fingers that floors would be finished, scaffolds would go away, artifacts would appear and maybe, just maybe, a few people might decide to show up for the New Mexico History Museum’s grand opening on May 23, 2009.

Boy, were we surprised. Not only did the interior look as spit-polish as the exterior, but more than 20,000 people stood in blocks-long lines opening weekend outside …..

4x5 lines outside

… and inside …

4x5 line inside

…waiting for a peek. (Worth noting: Those people who not only stood in the waiting lines but did so as a thunderstorm threatened to drown them.)

Since that auspicious start, we’ve drawn more than 150,000 visitors (more than doubling the attendance of our predecessor, the Palace of the Governors); held a packed schedule of lectures, workshops and performances; played host to the Crown Prince of Spain; and carried home an armload of awards.

In honor of its accomplishments and in gratitude to those who helped make the first year such a success, the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents voted to open the museum for free May 22 and 23.

“We want to throw a party to say `thank you’ for everything that New Mexicans and out-of-state visitors have done for us,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the museum. “The outpouring of support from visitors, scholars, donors, businesses, and especially our volunteers has carried us beyond our expectations.”

The highlight of the free “Wild Weekend” is the opening of Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton, an original exhibit created with special support from the Academy for the Love of Learning, home of the Seton Legacy Project.

“It took 20 years and the hard work of many dedicated staff members, volunteers and donors to create this wonderful new museum,” said Stuart Ashman, State Cultural Affairs Department Secretary.  “The overwhelming successes that we’ve witnessed during its first year of life are endorsements of these efforts.”

The full weekend schedule:

Saturday, May 22

10 am – 5 pm: Free admission, plus a sneak peek at the new exhibit, Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton, from 12 – 5 pm.

12 – 2 pm: The Wildlife Center in Española displays an assortment of the wild mammals and raptors it has rescued. Palace Courtyard.

Sunday, May 23

10 am – 5 pm: Free admission. Grand opening of Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton. Albert and Ethel Herzstein Changing Exhibitions Gallery.

12 – 4 pm: Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary brings a live wolf to the Palace Courtyard. Special program at 1:30 pm.

2 – 4 pm: Wild at Heart opening reception, hosted by the Women’s Board of the Museum of New Mexico. Booksigning of Ernest Thompson Seton: The Life and Legacy of an Artist and Conservationist with author and guest curator David L. Witt. Palace Courtyard.

Upon opening, the 96,000-square-foot History Museum joined a campus that included:

The Palace of the Governors, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied public building; Fray Angélico Chávez History Library; Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; Palace Press; and Portal Artisans Program. In its last year as a solo museum, the Palace drew 68,454 visitors.

POG exterior from Washington

Major accomplishments of the last year include:

Renovation of the Palace Press, including the addition of a new permanent exhibit recreating famed artist Gustave Baumann’s original printing studio

BaumannStudio_edited-1

Opening the exhibit Santa Fe Found: Fragments of Time and hosting a series of lectures on the founding of the city, in honor of its 400th birthday

Comb helmet and breast plate

Moving 3,700 textiles and 10,000 artifacts (including 1,404 pieces of furniture) into new, state-of-the-art collections storage inside the museum

wedding dress 5x4

Acquisition of an 1842 book printed by Padre Antonio José Martínez on the first press in New Mexico, as well as letters written by Billy the Kid to Gov. Lew Wallace

martinez book 300

Winning a $147,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to partner with KNME-TV on development and broadcast of history documentaries

covered wagon

Playing host to His Royal highness Prince Felipe of Spain and his wife, Letizia, during a 400th Anniversary event

prince in ctyd

Publication by the Palace Press of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Valerie Martinez’s book, This Is How It Began, commemorating the 400th anniversary

This Is How it Began

Unveiling the commemorative Bill Mauldin stamp with the US Postal Service

unveiling 5x3

“Visitors tell us time and again that they love what we’re doing – and that they want more,” Levine said. “Our goal is to continue bringing forward even more of the stories that shaped the West, more exhibitions, more lectures, and more ways for people to engage with history and be inspired to explore more of New Mexico.”