In New Mexico, Nativity Sets, Creche or manger scenes made by Pueblo Indians depicting the birth of Christ, are commonly known as Nacimientos. That is because of the predominantly Hispanic culture in the area and the fact that the Christianization of the Pueblo people was a result of the Spanish settlers. It’s not a real pretty story, but as times evolved, the Catholic faith has become intermingled with the lives of the Pueblo people.
A few years ago, I was at Sonny Lovato's wedding in Santo Domingo. I was surprised that the wedding was at 8 in the morning and when I asked why they picked that time, I was told that Mass was held at the church at 8 am and the wedding had to be in conjunction with that. At the wedding, everyone was treated to a wonderful mixture of Catholic and Pueblo ceremony. It is an interesting relationship that most Pueblo people feel comfortable with.
The people of Cochiti Pueblo have made pottery figurines for years, but in 1964, Helen Cordero (1915-1994) raised the bar when she made the first Storyteller figurine as a tribute to her Grandfather. It was a figure of a Pueblo man with children crawling on him as he told stories to them. Storyteller’s have become a part of nearly every pottery culture along the Rio Grande today.
This Nacimiento by Helen Cordero is from the estate of Sallie Lippincott Wagner who, no doubt, purchased it from the potter. The Nativity Scene takes the storyteller to a different level, depicting Christ in the manger. No one knows how many of these pieces she did in her lifetime, but there can’t be more than a handful. It is interesting thinking about how she and other potters began to do these pieces. It obviously had to do with the Christianization of the tribes, but I suspect that potters were influenced by the Hispanic wood carvers of the area who had made these pieces for centuries. And, the primary reason was that they were something that could be sold to tourists.
This is a beautiful set by a woman who is certainly one of the most famous of all Pueblo potters. We will have it on display and for sale at our Santa Fe Market Show at the Inn and Spa at Loretto beginning Tuesday, August 14 and running through Sunday, August 19. The show hours are 10am until 6pm daily in the Zuni Ballroom.
These are the scheduled events for the show:
Tuesday at 2pm, “Threads through Time,” a talk on the history of Navajo Weaving
Thursday at 2 m, “From Debutante to Indian Trader,” The story of Sallie Lippincott Wagner who owned the Helen Cordero Nativity set
Thursday from 4 until 6pm, Our Indian Market opening with Waddell Gallery in the Zuni Room.
Friday, from 12 until 2pm, a short talk and book signing by Lynda Teller Pete and her sister, Barbara Teller Ornelas, for their new book, “Spider Woman’s Children.”
My tip for a “Not related to Indian Market” activity in Santa Fe is right downtown. Few states can tell a unique story like New Mexico. One of my favorite Museums in the city is the New Mexico History Museum. It is located just behind the Palace of the Governors right off of the plaza, at 113 Lincoln. It is beautifully designed, with captivating exhibits that tell the story of New Mexico from prehistoric times until today. Cowboys and Indians, the Atomic Age, Oil and Gas, Ranching, Trapping, Conquest by the Spanish and Low-Rider Cars are all a part of this terrific museum. If you want to leave the bustle of Indian Market week for a bit, a quiet walk through can be your respite! I promise you will like it!
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going to be a fun week in Santa Fe!