Date of this Version
In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000
Policarpio Valencia was an artist, a poet, a salt merchant, farmer, water ditch boss, miller, town philosopher, and justice of the peace in the town of Santa Cruz, New Mexico, 25 miles north of Santa Fe. He lived in a section of Santa Cruz named El Santo Nino his whole life, from 1854 until 1931, where he married and had two children. Residents there were known as "Canaderos" because they lived close to the old Santa Cruz Mission (built in the 1730s) which was called Santa Cruz de la Canada. To get an idea of how geographically isolated this community was, it is interesting to note that he was considered a well traveled man because for a few years he had a trade route from Santa Cruz to Santa Fe to Taos, a distance of only about 70 miles.1
Hispanic communities first began settling along the Rio Grande River in the 1590s. Franciscan friars came with these early Spanish settlers preaching a strong Christian moral code. They left Spain during the infamous Spanish Inquisition. In New Mexico, one of the most remote places in the Spanish Empire, there was not a lot of direct contact with the Roman Catholic Church. Those priests who were sent concentrated their efforts on converting Native Americans to Christianity. Spanish Catholics were largely left to themselves to practice their religion on their own. The Penitentes are a lay order of Catholicism that developed in Colonial New Mexico from followers of the Brotherhood of the Third Order of St. Francis, which began in 13th century Spain. They perform acts of charity, community service, and do penance in the form of self-flagellation and reenacting the crucifixion every Easter. They identify with the suffering of Christ by physical experience of pain in order to attain a higher spiritual awareness. Their rituals are controversial and they have often had to practice them covertly or be persecuted.