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The Church of Santo Tomas Del Rio de Las Trampas (San Jose de Garcia Catholic Church)

November 22nd, 2022

Blue Rain Gallery staff had the honor of joining Nicolas Otero and Gustavo Victor Goler at the Las Trampas Church for a program on the church's current restoration project. The conservation team is led by Gustavo Victor Goler with Nicolas Otero as apprentice. 

The church is the most historically accurate representation of early Spanish colonial churches. It was built in 1760s. The altars were originally painted in the late 1700s, but were painted over in the mid 1800s. The team has uncovered original frescos in the church that are reminiscent of Indigenous designs. 

The Official Scenic Historic Marker reads: The village of Las Trampas was established as a Spanish-American community in 1751 by 12 families from Santa Fe led by Juan de Arguello, recipient of a land grant from Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupín. The Church of San José de la Garcia, built between 1760 and 1776, is a National Historic Landmark and the community's center where the agriculture cycle is still observed with religious ceremony and ritual. Parishioners periodically re-mud the adobe walls, which are as much as six feet thick. It is considered one of the best preserved examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in New Mexico.

Click here to learn more about the 12 families of the Las Trampas Land Grant.

Blue Rain Gallery traces its own ties to the Church back nine generations. Gallery owner, Leroy Garcia, has a great-grandfather (Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco) that Victor and Nick suspect did the original interior artwork. Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco (1713-1785) was a Spanish cartographer and Santero that worked on New Mexican churches in the latter part of the 18th century. His work can be found in museums and churches across the region. 

Miera would have been remembered just for his exquisite paintings and religious sculptures, but he also had a multifaceted intellectual curiosity. He enthusiastically explored a diverse range of endeavors—a distinguished soldier, a captain of engineers of the Spanish Royal Corp of Engineers, painter, alcalde (town mayor), and an intrepid explorer of Spain’s vast northern colony. He was additionally one of the foremost early cartographers of the region’s vast uncharted lands, producing maps between 1743 and 1779 that were famous for accuracy, artistry, and attention to geography, geology, and ethnography (El Palacio Magazine, The Art and Legacy of Bernardo Miera y Pacheco: New Spain's Explorer, Cartographer, and Artist, 2013).

Preservation of the early Spanish Colonial artwork is important to Nicolas Otero who is practicing the tradition of Santos making today. The art from requires a deep knowledge of the history and traditions of the Spanish colonial era. "Back when New Mexico was first colonized, the settlers didn't have any resources and looked to the Indigenous people for guidance. A lot of our techniques, and what the ancestors learned was more than likely learned from the Native culture. It's a complex history," Nicolas expresses. "What's important to me is learning how to preserve these works though conservation and understanding the link between early colonial art and Indigenous culture." 


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