Las Maravillas de Navidad
Las Maravillas de Navidad is a Christmas tour of some of Northern New Mexico’s beautiful and ancient adobe churches and chapels. Maintained with a deep devotion, they hold stories of great love and even miracles.
Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:
Frederick Hammersley Foundation
...and Viewers Like You
THIS TIME, ON COLORES!
LAS MARAVILLAS DE NAVIDAD, IS A CHRISTMAS TOUR OF
SOME OF NORTHERN NEW MEXICO'S BEAUTIFUL AND
ANCIENT ADOBE CHURCHES AND CHAPELS.
MAINTAINED WITH A DEEP DEVOTION, THEY HOLD
STORIES OF GREAT LOVE AND EVEN MIRACLES.
>> Scattered among the snowed capped mountains of
northern New Mexico, are some of the most
remarkable and oldest churches in the United States.
Seeing these beautiful churches at Christmas
time, the tradition of giving is personified by
stories of great love and even miracles.
>> Made hundreds of years ago, these ancient
churches were constructed and maintained over the
years with a deep devotion.
Today, they are symbols of the rich, cultural
heritage, New Mexicans share.
Remote, beyond compare.
Early settlers in this rugged landscape found few
resources and received little support from distant Spain.
Here, there is an old saying, "muchos pocos hacen mucho".
A lot of nothing, makes something.
Using simple, local materials, Nuevo Mexicanos
developed an exceptional architectural style.
They used adobe, stone and timber to make marvelous
handcrafted churches that are uniquely New Mexican.
>> On September 29, 1979, we experienced the collapse
of one of the walls here in the church due
to water damage that seeped in from beneath, from groundwater.
Once the church began to be rebuilt, they began to
realize that as their ancestors had one time
used to come together as a community to replaster the
church with mud or fix the roof, they were retying
those minds that made the community what it was,
they were relinking themselves one to the other and to god.
One of the things that really impressed me about
building this church is that as we were getting
near to its completion, we had found the footprints
of children, bare footprints of children
that had been used by early settlers to run
across the adobe of the forms to the tamp the earth
down into the forms so that the brick would come out perfect.
When we discovered those, it was marvelous, because
it was like that little child 150 years ago, could
have been the great, great grandparent of some of the
people living here today.
It was like that child was impelling us.
This was worth building, you know.
What are you going to do to preserve it, what are
you going to do to make sure it passes on to your
children, and your children's children.
>> I often walk in the door and I stop to bless
myself at the fount and somehow, when no one else
is here, you're immediately in communion
with all the people that have gone before you and
all the people who have just left it, perhaps,
maybe even all the people that are yet to come,
because it is such a very special place, I think,
that it carries all the memories of the past and
the promises of the future.
>> Perhaps the most photographed church in the
united states is the San Francisco de Asis church
located in Ranchos de Taos.
Constructed in 1810, over the years it has at times
been in terrible disrepair, today, it is
well cared for by the community, and considered
one of the crown jewels of New Mexico's adobe churches.
>> I am thinking of a quotation of Bernard
Luzhou who was a Frenchman and he did a painting of
the church and he said that it was a visual experience
and he summed his thoughts up by saying that he felt
that the Ranchos de Taos church was the American
cathedral of the desert and I think that says a lot.
>> In 1980, the framework of the main alter screen was
restored by Santa Fe artists Louise Tapia and Federico Vigil.
The paintings on the main retablo were restored by
an artist who traveled to Mexico and Spain to learn
about the original paintings.
>> The retablo in the east chapel is over 25 feet in
height, it was painted by a master some time before 1818.
As the people build up the church, they also build up
In 1979, the hard plaster exterior was removed and
returned to the traditional mud plaster.
Each year the community comes together to re-mud the exterior.
Over the years, the community that surrounds
San Francisco de Asis has become a strong and happy one.
The coming together, the good food, the hard work
in caring for one of the most beautiful churches in
the United States, all helps to form a special
bond between the members of the community.
>> I was looking at a list of the people who come and
we have 100 names on one sheet of paper, and we
have nine sheets of paper at least.
And when we finish, there is nothing more beautiful than this
church is when we have finished restoring it in the summer.
The bits of straw gleam in the sunshine.
You want to touch it; you want to move up and put your
hands on it.
And, when you do, you almost feel that there is
a pulse in it, that it's beating with hundreds of
heartbeats of the people who have laid their hands upon it.
>> This beautiful old church in Trampas is
considered to be the most perfectly preserved
Spanish colonial church in America.
The church itself is a work of art, built about
1776, walking in the front door of San Jose de Gracia
is like stepping back in time.
The warm floorboards, the carved wood, the beautiful
paintings, the handwritten signs above the entry, it
is as if your ancestors were right there with you.
>> To many people the Santuario de Chimayo is
the spiritual heart of New Mexico.
Thousands find their way during the year and almost
30,000 pilgrims visit during holy week.
>> The first days I was here came a family from Texas.
They had a daughter with a tumor in the brain, and the
doctors told them, we can try to operate, but we don't guarantee.
This is a lost case, but they decide to have the
operation but before, a few days before, the man
told the wife, let's take the child to Chimayo, New Mexico.
And they came with the little girl, was suffering.
They kneel down here.
They make their voice in here asking and they went back home.
A couple of days later was the time of her operation.
They took her to the doctor, they examined and
there was nothing.
She was able to go back to school.
Nobody could explain.
A real cure.
>> Built in 1860, Santuario de Chimayo is
known for la tierra santa, the healing dirt.
A side room is filled with crutches, canes and other items
as a testament to the remarkable healing powers found here.
The father and his assistants fill the posito with holy dirt.
I bless the soil, he says, and I tell the people that
it is not the dirt that cures, but their faith.
>> Then came one man.
I have here my mother, very, very sick.
I think we have little time to go to pray.
She went and they took this very frail old lady
and short, in his arms, and he entered here, went inside.
I was waiting here, but they finish and a few
minutes, I heard, father, father.
And the man came here, I don't know what happened inside.
And we were coming when the little lady was coming walking.
This is impossible, she hadn't been able to walk for a year.
And she, we stopped to pray over here and then by
herself, she went to the car and they left.
>> I was assigned down here to take special care of this place.
45 years ago, 1954, and I never I had to ender sick.
I consider myself part of this.
I had my 81st birthday late July and my place is here.
Here I feel home.
>> Chapels or capillas, were built in every
village in New Mexico.
Smaller versions of their mission predecessors, each
chapel is an individual act of faith made by the
people of the village.
Each has its own distinct handcrafted style due to
the skills of the local craftsmen.
The designs and saints are as different as the
community each chapel serves.
Located near black mesa, and the Rio Grande, the
tiny la Sagrada Familia Chapel built in 1920 is an excellent
example of how families in small communities maintained
their faith and traditions by caring for a chapel.
>> The history on the chapel is it was built in the early 20's.
My great grandfather and his family and other
community members were having to have mass said
in their private homes, so my great grandfather
donated the property and built the chapel and then
in 1937, I believe, the federal government decided
to turn this valley into Indian reservations but my
great grandfather apparently having some
foresight had deeded this property to the archdiocese.
So, the chapel, the property around the chapel,
stayed with the archdiocese, but it was abandoned.
And it wasn't until, oh, back in the early 80's,
late 70's that we started having our family reunions
that we saw what neglect had done to the chapel,
where there were holes in the walls, ceilings were
caving in, the roof was totally deteriorated.
And, great aunts, my grandmother, my mother,
different relatives kept wishing that someday,
somebody would start a restoration on it.
Driving along the highway, my mother would be sitting
in the car with me and she would say, I would love to
see the la Sagrada Familia Chapel restored.
And, I never forgot it.
The restoration of the chapel has really helped
to bring the family even much closer together.
We're a very close-knit family.
If we hear a distant relative need some type of
help, the family is always there to help out.
But by being here together, it symbolizes,
really, the closeness that we are.
My great aunts show up every Saturday.
One of them literally comes in prepared to do work.
The other one comes to see if any of her children are
here, but the encouragement and
enthusiasm that they give us and seeing the
appreciation about having it done.
>> This is a dream that came up to be truth and
this is not the end of it.
We'll keep on.
Our children will do it and we did it.
Our parents did it, we did it.
Our children will do it and all of them will be here.
Oh, it is a feeling that I wish everybody would get it.
This was falling apart.
Look at it.
>> During the course of the restoration, not a single moment
goes by when you are not thinking about
grandma or grandpa or mom.
I knew my great grandmother as a little
boy, and she was a very loving and wonderful lady.
But, knowing that she had a part in building this
church initially and now myself as her great
grandson having something to do with the restoration
of it, just gives one such a deep sense of love,
which is, it permeates through our whole family.
>>(Praying) Sagrado corazÃ³n de JesÃºs,
cuatro cosas hoy te pido con mucha necesidad.
Paciencia para sufrir, fuerza para trabajar, las
penas que me has de dar, entendimiento sereno para
poder arreglar las cosas con santa calma, asÃ
sentir en el alma perfecta tranquilidad.
Esto tengo que robarte, oh mi JesÃºs adorado, en este
dÃa consagrado para servirte y amarte.
>> Who brought the hot chocolate?
>> Located close to the high peaks of the Sangre
de Cristo Mountains in the small town of Truchas, is
the Nuestra SeÃ±ora del Rosario.
Built in 1818, it is a small church that is no
longer used by a growing community.
Although a new church has been built, this church is
still well cared for and with good reason.
Inside is a wonderful alter screen painted by
New Mexico's first native born Pedro San Antonio FrequÃs.
FrequÃs was not Hispanic but of Flemish descent.
He worked in traditional fresco methods.
He incised into the doorway while still wet to
create formless figures.
He used rapid strokes, almost abstract in
appearance, creating broad cheekbones, almond eyes,
slender noses and torsos.
The simplicity of his artwork has an effect all its own.
The two dimensional rendering of his figures,
creates a mystic quality and a saintliness.
>> New Mexico governor Diego de Vargas
established one of the original frontier Spanish
villas; la Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de la CaÃ±ada de
los Mexicanos EspaÃ±oles del Rey Nuestro SeÃ±or Don
Carlos II in 1695.
La iglesia de Santa Cruz de la CaÃ±ada is a
remarkable church due to its long history,
originally a chapel may have been used by early
settlers as their first church, the building of
the present church was begun in 1733.
Families have worshiped, have been baptized,
married and buried here for generations.
Priests are still assigned from Spain, and there are
traditional masses in Spanish.
In 1995, Santa Cruz celebrated 300 years as a parish.
>> Over the years, the parish has carefully
restored the church, no quick fixes, they took the
time to get it as close to the original as possible
in order to preserve this beautiful church, and have
it inspire future generations.
Many people have remarked how wonderful it is to see
some of the finest colonial New Mexican art,
not in the museum but in their very own church.
The magnificent and elaborated alter screen in
Cristo are by renowned colonial Jose Rafael Aragon.
Ever since it was made, the cherished Santo
Entierro has rested in the main naive in the south wall.
This poignant carving depicts Christ laying in his tomb.
It is by Andres Jose Garcia, a friar who served at the church
from 1765 to 1768 and is considered
one of his finest works.
The church is truly a wonder.
It thrives today with the vibrancy of traditions hundreds
of years old.
>> The churches of New Mexico have been at the
heart of peoples' lives for hundreds of years.
These ancient churches are living churches.
Centuries old, they continue to serve and be
cared for by their communities.
It has been said that the beauty of a church is an
expression of love for god and the people who built it.
New Mexico's beautiful ancient adobe churches are
testament to the great history and culture that
thrives in New Mexico today.
>> Everybody has something to offer.
The old timers had the wisdom and the pacing, the
young guys had the strength.
The women oftentimes would make the mud, they would
provide the cooking.
The children would help with the plastering.
It seemed like everybody has a place, has something
to distribute to preserve these churches.
These were churches built by the people for the people.
And the people can fix them and as each adobe is
important only in its relationship to another
adobe and bonded together to form a wall, and even
as that adobe requires the foundation so that it can
be strong, and the adobe supports the woodwork, the
corbel and vigas on top, so it is with everybody's effort.
>> There is always a doubt in one's mind about what
one can accomplish.
I had helped my father as a young child to build
adobe walls, to do mud plastering, to do minor
carpentry work, but I had never attempted it on my
own as an adult, but, in the restoration, here,
they show you that the need is there to be done
and you do the best you can.
It might come out a little crooked but the sense of
accomplishment of being able to say later on, hey,
I did this, does give you a sense of pride.
>> The church contains really all the dreams and
visions, I think, of the wedding couples who march
up this aisle and with them they have all their
hopes and their plans for the future.
Then I think of all the ones who walk behind the
coffin, because some loved one has died and so they go down
the aisle with them, and you have that great sense of loss.
It contains all of that.
It contains the sides, the needs of all the people
that come to light a candle.
And to pray.
It contains so much that one really doesn't have
enough words for it.
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Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:
Frederick Hammersley Foundation
...and Viewers Like You