500 Years of Encounters — 1492–1992

A glimpse at events that have shaped
New Mexican Hispanic arts and crafts

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Photograph courtesy of
The Albuquerque Museum remote

Mounted Conquistador sculpture
found in the permanent exhibit
Four Centuries:
A History of Albuquerque

In 1692, when Diego de Vargas reestablished the Spanish presence in what is now New Mexico, two centuries had already passed since a voyage of epic proportions changed the New World forever.

The art forms of the Old World—an accumulation of at least 2000 years of artistic heritage including contributions from Asia and Africa—and the art forms of the New World, also an accumulation of some 2000 years, were brought together during the past five centuries. In many places, native traditions were ruptured and new art forms were introduced, reshaped and finally integrated into the local arts. Perhaps the exception to this trend is the land we call New Mexico. 500 years after the Colombian voyage and 300 years since the resettlement of New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment still remains an area of exploration and discovery . . . and a nurturing place for the arts of the many cultures and peoples that live here.

The Pueblos, Hispanic villages and Euro-American towns that dot New Mexico's landscape testify to the diversity of cultures. Here, centuries-old artistic heritage and the blending of traditions still dictate certain forms and colors; here also, new art forms continually take shape.

The following timeline provides a glimpse at events that shaped New Mexican arts and crafts, with emphasis on Hispanic culture and arts:

1492 Columbus' voyage to the Americas.

1521 Cortez conquers the Aztec Empire.

1531 The appearance of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe to Juan Diego; this is one of the most common images of the Virgin Mary in New Mexican religious arts.

1539 Fray Marcos de Niza visits the Zuni villages.

1540 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explores what is now New Mexico. During this expedition the first depiction of a buffalo was made by a European. The first churro sheep were brought to NM.

1598 Juan de Onate colonizes NM with the first permanent settlement at San Juan de los Caballeros.

1605 Onate writes his name on Inscription Rock at El Morro. This rock is the site of ancient Native American petroglyphs.

1610 Santa Fe founded by Pedro de Peralta; Santa Fe has been a seat of government longer than any other US state capitol.

1620 Plymouth Colony is established by the Pilgrims.

1625 The Fiestas of Santa Fe began as an annual event in celebration of La Conquistadora, the oldest Madonna image in New Mexico.

1638 New Mexican governor Luis de Rosas runs a textile shop employing both Native American and Hispanic weavers.

1680 The Great Pueblo Revolt. This revolt marked a turning point in New Mexico's history, as the Pueblo peoples sought to rid the area of Spanish control. For the following 12 years, the Spanish abandoned the upper Rio Grande area. The effects of nearly one century of Spanish domination had already affected the arts and life styles of the Pueblo people.

1692 NM is recolonized by Don Diego de Vargas.

1723 Annual Trade Fairs established by royal decree at the Pueblos of Taos and Pecos.

1749 Birth of Pedro Antonio Fresquis, the first documented New Mexican-born Santero.

1760 The military chapel of Our Lady of Light, La Castrence, is built on the Plaza in Santa Fe. The reredos carved from local stone is one of the most important artworks of Colonial New Mexico. The great altar screen now adorns the Church of Cristo Rey on Canyon Road.

1776 The Santuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe is dedicated in Santa Fe. American colonies gain independence from England.

1790 Colonial census of New Mexico indicates a thriving textile industry.

1796 Birth of Jose Rafael Aragon, considered the greatest and most prolific New Mexican Santero.

1798–1802 Altar screens in churches of San Miguel de Santa Fe, San Francisco de Santa Fe, and the churches of Zia, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos are painted by an anonymous Santero known as the Laguna Santero.

1806 Lt Zebulon Pike writes that artisans in NM are producing a variety of copper wares.

1807 The Bazan brothers, master weavers from Mexico are brought to New Mexico to improve weaving quality.

1821 First Santa Fe Trail wagon trains from Franklin, Missouri reach Santa Fe. The opening of the Trail would have tremendous impact on New Mexican arts.

1826 First report of a tinsmith in New Mexico.

1833 First written description of the Penitential Brotherhood of the Sangre de Cristo. Hermanos Penitentes, a lay religious group of Catholic men are credited with maintaining the ritual cycles, prayers and devotions of Hispanic New Mexico. The Santero arts of 19th century New Mexico were incorporated into the ritual drama of the Penitente brotherhood.

1848 New Mexico becomes a territory of the US.

1861 Start of the U.S. Civil War.

1879 The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway arrives in NM.

1907 The School of American Archaeology, now the School for Advanced Research remote is founded in Santa Fe.

1909 The Museum of New Mexico remote is established at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.

1912 New Mexico enters the Union as the 47th State.

1917 Museum of Fine Arts established in Santa Fe.

1922 The first Santa Fe Indian Market remote is held; it occurs each year in August.

1925 The Spanish Colonial Arts Society remote is founded.

1929 Colonial Hispanic Crafts School established in Galisteo, NM.

1933–34 Public Works Art Project employs 3600 artists in NM.

1935–39 NM Federal Writers Project records Hispanic artistic traditions and life.

1952 Spanish Market is revived in Santa Fe.

1953 Museum of International Folk Art remote site opens in Santa Fe.

1956 Millicent Rogers Museum remote opens in Taos, dedicated to Native American and Hispanic Arts.

1971 El Rancho de las Golondrinas remote opens, featuring a Spanish Colonial New Mexican living history museum.

1977 La Compania de Teatro de Albuquerque, NM's first bilingual theater, is founded.

1987 King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain visit New Mexico.

1989 Hispanic Heritage Wing opens at the Museum of International Folk Art.

2002 The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art remote opens on Museum Hill.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 6

Related Pages

Traditional New Mexican Hispanic Crafts article
Hispanic Arts and Crafts Tour article

Spanish Colonial Arts Society in Santa Fe remote site

Collector’s Resources


The Albuquerque Museum | 505-243-7255

Santa Fe

GF Contemporary | 505.983.3707
Greenberg Fine Art | 505-955-1500
Museum of International Folk Art | 505-476-1145
Nedra Matteucci Galleries | 505-982-4631
The Owings Gallery | 505-982-6244
New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors | 505-476-5200
Peyton Wright Gallery | 505-989-9888
The Rainbow Man | 505-982-8706


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