Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities

Shackles  Mexico, 17th century Private Collection  Photo by Jorge Pérez de Lara These Shackles are from the inquisition prison in Mexico City.

Shackles from the Inquisition prison in Mexico City, 17th century. Private collection. Photo by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

In the 10th through 13th centuries, Spain flowered into a golden age, as Muslim, Jewish and Catholic peoples achieved new heights in science, philosophy and the arts. That triculturalism, though, endured repeated challenges, first by fundamentalist Islamic Almohads in the 12th century, then by Christian kingdoms in the late-14th century, when it finally deteriorated into dissent, segregation and riots.

By 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella unified the nation under the Catholic crown, cultural chaos roared forth. A royal edict ordered all Jews to either leave the country or convert to Catholicism within four months—or else. (A similar edict befell Muslims in 1502.) The Spanish Inquisition (and later, the Portuguese and Mexican Inquisitions) stood ready to persecute any Christian who failed to abide. Violators endured prisons, torture and death.

What would you do? Repudiate the language, religion and customs of your people in order to stay in your home and with your family? Or walk away from all you owned, all you knew, and embark upon treacherous journeys across land and sea toward a life you could barely imagine?

Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities, opening May 22, 2016 (tentatively through December 31, 2016), stands on the brink of that chasm and leaps into a diaspora that dates to biblical times. For the first time, a major institution tells the comprehensive story of how Spain’s Jewry found a tenuous foothold in North America. Despite continued persecution and investigation, its people persisted—sometimes as upright Catholic conversos, sometimes as secret “crypto-Jews”—to finally make a mark as successful merchants, artists and philanthropists in New Mexico. Emblems of that struggle for cultural identity appear even today: A menorah carved into a tombstone in a Catholic cemetery; oral histories of tangled roots; Hispanic villages where genetic clusters speak to Jewish lineage.

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Oral-History Project Captures War Stories

Curator Meredith Davidson interviews World War II veteran Elvert Pooler.

Curator Meredith Davidson interviews World War II veteran Elvert Pooler.

Jacob Erickson long wondered about his grandfather’s service in World War II but, he said, “Understandably, he never wanted to talk about it—and he passed away a few years ago.” A new oral-history program started by Meredith Davidson, the museum’s curator of 19th– and 20th-century Southwest collections, and Department of Veterans Services Secretary Jack Fox fulfilled that interest for him.

Erickson and Ivana Vidal, part of New Mexico Highlands University’s Media Arts program, were picked as interns, partly funded by Fox’s agency. They tracked down people to interview and videotaped Davidson’s conversations with them. Over the summer, the trio traveled from Las Vegas, NM, to Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and Las Cruces, interviewing a total of 18 men and women, including draftees, enlistees, and home-front workers.

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A Big Award for Our Favorite Printers

4-PalacePress_TomAndJames-2015The Press at the Palace of the Governors will receive the Edgar L. Hewett Award by the New Mexico Association of Museums. The award is made to individuals or organizations whose actions exemplify leadership and service to the New Mexico museum community and for their achievements in the museum field. Past recipients include the New Mexico History Museum (2009), the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (2011), and the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

The Palace Press, as it’s informally known, was nominated by the general membership, with the final selection by the executive board. The group noted in particular how the Press has preserved the state’s printing traditions and invites visitors “to explore this fascinating facet of New Mexico history.”

In 1969, the museum acquired the contents of the Estancia News-Herald Print Shop and in 1972 gave birth to its own print shop. Facing the courtyard of the centuries-old Palace of the Governors, it welcomes thousands of visitors annually and serves as a vital center for the revival, stimulation, and pursuit of the book arts and frequently sponsors programs of interest to book-lovers. Award-winning, limited-edition books are published on historic presses, and a research library related to the book arts is available to the public during museum hours. It houses permanent exhibits that feature the press that printed the first-ever book of cowboy songs (1908) and a re-creation of the studio of renowned artist-printer Gustave Baumann.

Two people carry out all that work: Curator and Director Thomas Leech (at left in photo), and Printing Specialist James Bourland.

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Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico

1963 Chevrolet Impala, Owner Lee Cordova of Alcalde, NM, 1998. Jack Parsons, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2007.11.

1963 Chevrolet Impala, Owner Lee Cordova of Alcalde, NM, 1998. Jack Parsons, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2007.11.

¡Orale! Take a ride into the creative reimaginings of American steel as captured in photographs, hubcaps, hood ornaments, car show banners and, yes, actual cars. Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico, opening May 1 (through March 5, 2017) focuses on mobile works of art and their makers—home-grown Nuevomexicanos who customize, detail, paint and upholster these favorite symbols of Hispanic culture.

Photo Curator Daniel Kosharek has pulled together an extensive collection of images by Don Usner, Annie Sahlin, Jack Parsons, Sam Adams, Norman Mauskopf, Dottie Lopez, Gabriela Campos, Meridel Rubinstein and others. In addition, visitors will see a chromed and touchable engine, miniature-scale model-car collections, trophies, memorabilia and other ephemera. The museum lobby will host a rotating selection of cherry examples.

And the thrill ride doesn’t stop there.

On May 20, the New Mexico Museum of Art will unveil an exhibit curated by Katherine Ware showing photographs and art inspired by car culture. Also in May, the Museum of New Mexico Press will release a companion book featuring essays by Ware and Usner.

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Japanese Internee Fathers, American Patriot Sons

Military sons visiting their interned fathers and friends at the Santa Fe Internment Camp. Photo courtesy Shinoda Family Collection.

Military sons visiting their interned fathers and friends at the Santa Fe Internment Camp. Photo courtesy Shinoda Family Collection.

During World War II, Santa Fe was the site of one of the nation’s largest Justice Department internment camps. It primarily housed Japanese immigrants, among them the Rev. Tamasaku Watanabe. On Sunday, November 15, at 2 pm, Watanabe’s granddaughter, Dr. Gail Y. Okawa, speaks on a brain-twisting aspect of that heartbreaking period: Even as our government locked up Japanese residents over fears of their supposed disloyalty, their own children put on soldiers’ uniforms to defend the nation.

“Compounded Ironies: Japanese Internee Fathers, American Patriot Sons” is a free-with-admission lecture in the New Mexico History Museum auditorium. (Sundays are free to NM residents.)

Tensions between the United States and Japan were brewing well before the December 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor. Officials with the War and Justice Departments were working together to identify the leaders of Japanese American communities. As a minister, the Rev. Watanabe made one of their lists. Within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, he was arrested and eventually exiled from Hawai`i. He and others ended up at the camp that today is the site of Santa Fe’s Casa Solana neighborhood. Between March 1942 and April 1946, 4,555 men of Japanese ancestry were held there. (The Army also operated an internment camp in Lordsburg.)

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Creating an Opera to Remember

SFO_Dance2When Black Bart was forced to choose between a ghost and a dancer, then suffered an untimely death, but was brought back to life by a genie, what was the moral of the story?

“Love conquers all. Love is eternal.”

That’s according to participants in the latest Community-in-Residence program held last month at the Santa Fe Opera and supported by the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and the Academy for the Love of Learning’s Lifesongs program. The New Mexico History Museum began working with Gary Glazner and the Alzheimer’s project several years ago, inviting people with memory illnesses and their care partners into the museum to enjoy an hour of creative poetry, music and dance inspired by our exhibits.

Last year, we held a daylong conference on ways to use the arts to reach such people, which inspired other local arts organizations to collaborate on Community-in-Residence. The program offers occasional events at venues that have included the Museum of International Folk Art and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

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Mapping Out a New Curriculum


72-MieraYPacheco_MapGroups of New Mexico educators found their way to the New Mexico History Museum this summer for a free, one-day workshop focused on teaching with historic maps. Led by educators Dennis and Judy Reinhartz, with assistance from Patricia Hewitt of the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, the sessions drew from the museum’s extensive map collection. Attendees received extra insights on a number of maps through slideshow presentation, hands-on access to a few print maps, and a gallery walk-through with museum docents, who shared information on some of the maps with museum exhibits.

“They all have different reasons for coming here today,” Judy Reinhartz said. “Some are teachers, others are in the general field of education and some are rangers or tour guides.”

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Spanish Colonial Armor Gets a 21st-Century `Wow’

helmet2While preparing an upcoming exhibit, Virgin of Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas, the Houston Museum of Natural Science asked to borrow our morion helmet (left) and a breastplate. The 16th-century pieces were found in a cave in Grants’ El Malpais and given to the museum by then-Rep. Nick Salazar.

Why the interest? Both bear delicate etchings that include Christ on the cross and Our Lady with the Christ Child. But Houston, we had a problem: Both are on long-term display in Santa Fe Found: Fragments of Time, and we didn’t want our exhibition to suffer.

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Books on Books, Their Craft and Beauty

5x7_DSC_0206If you’re like most people, walking into the Palace Press causes a bit of bedazzlement. All those old presses, stacks of cases and walls lined with posters, broadsides and fliers. There’s so much eye candy that you might miss one of its best attributes: Its library.

“There were probably around 300 books when I started, and now there must be a thousand,” said Tom Leech, director of the Palace Press. “This collection was inherited from my predecessor, Pam Smith, but has easily doubled in the time I have been here. It’s an extensive collection on graphic arts and the history of the book, including papermaking and typesetting.”

The Palace Press library covers subjects like lettering, papermaking, and typesetting, and features examples of works done in the early days of printing.

“The purpose is to have a research and reference collection. It isn’t a lending library, but if someone wants to come in and peruse, it’s OK,” Leech said. “It seems like lately we’ve gotten donations with real frequency. Recently, 250 small-press pamphlet-type books were donated to us. We get donations simply because people thought the books belonged here. We also try to collect information on what is related to the incoming exhibitions, so we know what we can be producing.”

Leech also has a fascination with the history of printing. “By virtue of our interest in type, we have a book by Dard Hunter Jr., whose father was well-known for his books on papermaking. It has nice, simple explanations of casting type, how he carved and cast it by hand, and it is all printed on paper that was probably even made by his dad.”

Dard Hunter’s interest began in the early 1920s. Since then, there has been a renaissance of creating paper and using it in traditional presses, which feeds into the craft of printing and its significance today. Leech and fellow pressman James Bourland follow that example even today—often after consulting the books on their shelves.

“Simple books are really the most beautiful,” Leech said. “Sometimes the book is about a particular subject, and other times it’s the book itself that is the work of art.”



From Child’s Play to Honored Photographer

Rodeo, San Juan Pueblo, by Sam Adams, 1996-2005. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, Photo Legacy Project.

Rodeo, San Juan Pueblo, by Sam Adams, 1996-2005. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, Photo Legacy Project.

An ad aimed at kids may well have changed Sam Adams life. “When I was a little boy, we used to read comic books,” he said, “and at the back were a series of advertisements for all sorts of weird things, like whoopee cushions, magic kits, things that kids would enjoy getting their hands on. And one of those was for a Candid camera, which cost three or four dollars at that time.”

Adams bit and began snapping pics at age 9. Today, he’s a retired motion-picture and television literary agent who moved to Santa Fe in 1989 and turned his attention full-time to photography.

“In the beginning it wasn’t really about the photography, it was more about the equipment, and then it became more about the subjects as time went on.”

In 2005, he won the New Mexico Council on Photography’s Eliot Porter Award. His work has been exhibited at regional museums and, most recently, took over the Meem Community Room, where we’ll host a small reception for Photography of Sam Adams, from 5–7 pm on Friday, August 7.

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