Maria Montez-Skolnik

Maria Montez-Skolnik


Both sides of my family trace their roots in the Santa Fé area to the 1600s.  In the earlier years they were primarily farmers, builders, craftsmen, artists (wood carvers and weavers), and educators.  I graduated from SFHS & NMSU and received my BA & MA in Speech & Language Pathology. I divide my time between Santa Fé and the San Francisco Bay Area.  


Next weekend is Spanish Market weekend in Santa Fé. This is a good time to honor the life of Celso Gallegos. I first learned about Celso from my dad, a santero artist, who remembers him when my dad was a boy. My dad said he was an inspiration to him both as an artist and as a spiritual force in the community--quiet and humble Celso leaves a legacy that should be remembered in Santa Fé history, especially in regard to Spanish art.

TIO CELSO by Carmella Padilla

"The photograph is faded and fuzzy. An elderly man of small stature, his hair and beard a shaggy gray, sits upright in a slatted wooden chair. In his knotty right hand, he clutches a cane carved to curl into the shape of a horse's head. His brown eyes sink like shadows between high cheekbones and bushy brows. And a gentle, jolly smile emerges from his lips.

"Celso Gallegos was 73 in 1937 when he he sat outside his adobe house in Agua Fria to have the provocative portrait snapped. His engaging looks alone would have been enough to inspire a photographer to record his likeness for the generations to come, but Gallegos was no ordinary man. A santero, or maker of sacred images, he was renowned for the religious wood carvings he created with a pocket knife. He lived as a farmer yet he left behind a legacy that, while still little-known today, places him among New Mexico's greatest artists.

"I knew the man," Melinda Romero Pike, a lifelong Agua Fria resident, proudly recalls. "I remember seeing him there in his little woodshed, deep in meditation, carving in the cool of the morning."

"Romero Pike was 16 when her great-uncle, her "Tio Celso," died at 79. She still remembers his funeral: the bells of San Isidro church cried a mournful toll as people gathered at the graveyard to grieve his death. The affair was small, but the loss was monumental. "Tio Celso was born during the Civil War and he died during World War II," Romero Pike says. "He lived during a time when life was very hard."

"A local history buff who has traced her family lineage back six generations, Romero Pike has pieced together a rough history of a man whose talent reached beyond New Mexico's still-isolated borders into mainstream art centers like Chicago and New York. At home in Agua Fria, however, no one considered Celso a great artist. He was just a sweet neighbor who prayed many hours a day and carved in his spare time.

"He was a poor little man living in a poor little village, but there was something in him that was beyond all that," she says. "Compared to some other artists of his time, he's not recognized. He's like the forgotten santero."

"Celso's story begins and ends in the tiny agricultural village of Agua Fria, six miles west of Santa Fe. Celso was born in 1864, the fifth and youngest child of Jose Jacinto Gallegos and Florentina Dominguez Gallegos. Like his two brothers and two sisters, Celso was brought up to be close to the land. Above all, he was taught to be close to God.

"Somewhere between 1835 and 1850, Celso's father and an uncle donated a plot of land on which to build a village church. Local legend has it that Celso's father tossed his hat in four opposite directions to determine the church boundaries. Exactly when the adobe Church of San Isidro was completed is unknown, but like most churches then, it quickly became the community's spiritual and social hub.

"For Celso's family, who lived next door, the church was a source of pride. His father volunteered as sacristano, or caretaker, while his mother assumed the role of resador, or reader of prayers. The resador preserved traditional Hispanic prayers and hymns, attending baptisms, wakes and funerals to lead the faithful in prayer and song.

"Celso's siblings eventually married and settled upon the stretch of family land. Shortly before the turn of the century, Celso, a carpenter, married, too. In his worn wedding picture, Celso stands seriously in an ill-fitting suit, his intense brown eyes the focal point upon his contemplative face. His wife, Adelaida Montoya Gallegos, died shortly after their one daughter was born. Celso never remarried. The baby was raised by a relative.

"Before Celso's parents died, they passed their titles of sacristano and resador down to him. Celso soon gained respect throughout the region as a highly spiritual man. "Santa Fe knew Celso by virtue of his prayer," Romero Pike says. "He was requested to attend wakes all over Santa Fe and surrounding villages because he knew the most beautiful prayers and hymns by heart. He directed many souls to heaven."

"Family legend has it that Celso started carving after inheriting an eighteenth-century wood carving that his great-great-grandfather was believed to have made. As he did in prayer, Celso poured his entire spirit into his art. Though crude, Celso's santos (saints) expressed his deep religious devotion and appeared throughout the church as personal offerings of faith. Celso gave other works to relatives and friends.

"Celso was a prolific artist: Besides religious sculptures, he carved cemetery markers, chests, and walking canes. His front yard was inhabited by an array of horses, birds and other whimsical creations. In one corner of the yard, Celso posted a sign: La Curiosidad, it said, Curio Shop. "He probably had one of the first galleries in Santa Fe for all we know," Romero Pike jokes.

"Celso's first public exhibition was in 1926, when the first Spanish Market was held in downtown Santa Fe. By 1931, a local newspaper article proclaimed Celso "one of the best known and beloved of the native craftsmen, and one of the most skilled." The exposure, plus the respect of local Anglo art patrons, brought Celso recognition among Hispanic art aficionados beyond New Mexico. In January, 1932, his work was featured in a prestigious exhibit of American folk art in Chicago. By the late 1930s, collectors from New York and elsewhere were driving to Agua Fria to purchase the work of the San Isidro Santero, as Celso was known.

"Celso carved until he could no longer hold a knife in his arthritic hands. When he died on April 6, 1943, his artistry had been acclaimed in exhibitions and publications nationwide. But at his funeral the next day, Romero Pike says, Celso was remembered not for his art, but for his faith.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012 06:32

Arturo Jaramillo of Chimayo

To see entire write up, including photos, go below to Download attachments: 


Arturo Jaramillo


His Life and Contributions to His Community


Born November 9, 1931 in Santa Fe, NM


When asked to write a biography about someone I admire, I did not have to think long to select my uncle, Arturo Jaramillo.  Arturo has accomplished much in his lifetime.  Achievements which have affected the history of Northern New Mexico and impacted many people’s lives in personal and positive ways.   Too, he has always been an adored son, grandson, brother, uncle, father and grandfather, becoming the patriarch of the Jaramillo family and being there in times of support. 


Included here are both a small composite of photographs and a list of accomplishments, which will be woven to tell the story of Arturo’s life and triumphs.




Arturo’s Early Years in Chimayo


The precious world he witnessed: La vida en norte New Mexico




Arturo Jaramillo’s life is the personification of deep cultural roots, devotion to family and duty to community.  He was born on November 9th, 1931, in Santa Fe, NM, to my mother’s oldest sister, Laura Jaramillo Sisneros.  A single mother who needed to continue her work in Santa Fé, Laura turned over custody of her precious baby to her parents, my grandparents, Hermenejildo and Trinidad Jaramillo of Chimayo.  Later Laura would raise four other children who would be lifelong close siblings to Arturo.  However, his grandparents adopted and raised Arturo as their own son.  My mother, Emma, was twelve years old at the time.  She loved and protected him her whole life as her baby brother.  Their lifetime relationship was a deep bond and loyalty; always there for one another during life’s joyous moments as well as their greatest hardships.  I would grow up to think of him as my Tio Arturo and he would have a great influence on my life.


A thoughtful person who wins the hearts of those who know him, Arturo listens to what you have to say with great focus and interest.  In a soft spoken and gracious manner, he talks about how blessed he is to have the life he has led.  His early experiences would shape Arturo’s goals as a charitable advocate for his beloved norte New Mexico.  Born with an outgoing personality as well as a genuine compassion for people, he would hold close to his heart the old traditions and richness of his heritage, unique in this country. 




Monday, 04 June 2012 14:16

Santero Artist Ramon Montes

An artist steeped in tradition

Ana Maria Trujillo | The New Mexican, Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2009  

Ramon Montes

The living room in Ramon Montes' house near the Railyard is filled with original pieces by Montes himself. Wooden carvings of La Virgen de Guadalupe and the Stations of the Cross hang proudly. A few kachinas can be spotted if one looks carefully. Framed Christmas trees made from his late wife's jewelry are displayed on stands on the dining room table. 

It's his work as a santero and a mentor to young artists, his heritage and his amazing life story that earned him a spot as a Living Treasure. According to the Living Treasures Committee, Montes, who was born and raised in Santa Fe, is a "true Santa Fean." 

Montes, 90, has been an artist since he was a little boy, he said. He still works a few hours every day, creating new things. 

His late father was a wood carver. One day, he took the boy aside, gave him his first knife and taught Montes the trade. 

In addition to carving, Montes started working when he was just a little boy. 

"When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my brother and I used to sell The New Mexican, and once a week we used to sell the Nuevo Mexicano," Montes said. He earned enough money — $7 — to purchase part of his first communion suit. 

"I got all my nickels and dimes and quarters and I had enough money to buy my jacket and pants," Montes remembers with a laugh. "My father and mother bought the rest. 

"I always worked," Montes added. "I worked all my life." 

He eventually joined the Civil Conservation Corps to help provide for his family when his father was sick with cancer. Every time he would receive his $30 check, he would send $25 home and keep $5 for himself. After two years, Montes had to leave as per the organization's requirement, and wait six months before returning. Within that six months, though, his life changed drastically. 

His parents died, leaving Montes in charge of his six younger siblings. Both his work ethic and his carving skills were utilized during this time. He worked to provide for his siblings and carved toys for them for every holiday and celebration. 

He created so many beautiful toys and cribs, in excess of what he needed for his siblings, that he showed his work to a couple who owned a furniture store downtown [where the Hilton Hotel is now]. The owners asked him to bring over everything he had so they could sell it. Shortly after Montes took over all his work, there was an explosion at the store, killing the owners and destroying his work. 

"That was the end of my woodworking," Montes said. "Everything I had was gone. The poor man was so good to me and they both died." 

Montes entered the Army during World War II. Before he left New York, a priest gave him a rosary, with which he prayed fervently for his safe return. He made a promise that if he returned safely, he would make a pilgrimage to Chimayó — a promise he kept when he returned home [walking in his combat boots through trails over the hills before there was a road like today]. Montes still prays with the rosary, twice a day. 

Also, when he returned home, Montes' grandfather convinced him he should began to carve again — but this time to carve something more meaningful. Montes drew on his faith and began carving santos. His house is filled with art because he doesn't sell it. 

He said he's witnessed the drastic change of Santa Fe — which had only about

10,000 residents when he was a boy. In his neighborhood, which now includes the Railyard, only Spanish was spoken. 

He said he doesn't know why he was chosen to be Living Treasure, but "It's a big honor."

 The Silvers, Abe and Marion, are longtime Santa Feans and owners of a well-known downtown building that came to house The Guarantee on the Plaza, a prominent retail store with a long history in Santa Fe. 

The Silvers discussed their family's history in the area during a recent interview. 

The Silvers' comments came during New Mexico 1912-2012, the state's public celebration of a century of statehood. 

"We're fifth generation here," Marion Silver said. "We have a history in Santa Fe." 

The Silvers co-owned and operated The Guarantee, a department store at 53-55 Old Santa Fe Trail, with Gene and Jane Petchesky, Marion's sister. 

Friday, 27 April 2012 01:53

New Mexico Museum of Art

Friday, 27 April 2012 00:55

1866 Street view in Santa Fé

"Created by an unidentified wood engraver after a sketch by Theodore R. Davis." NEW MEXICO MUSEUM OF ART

"Theodore R. Davis (1840–1894) was a 19th-century American artist, who made numerous drawings of significant military and political events during the American Civil War and its aftermath. His most significant sketch was of General Joseph E. Johnston and General William T. Sherman meeting at the Bennett Farm near Durham Station to discuss the surrender terms of the remaining Confederate armies in the Southeast. Many of his drawings were published as wood engravings in Harper's Weekly."

"The Southwest corner of the Santa Fe Plaza, circa 1866, just a few years after the city was held by Texas forces loyal to the Confederacy. The Confederates entered Santa Fe in early March 1862, and then returned to the city — cold, hungry and wounded — after defeating Union forces in the Battle of Glorieta Pass." - Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, NMHM/DCA, Negative No. 038178


Bert's Burger Bowl: "Scenes for "Two-Lane Blacktop" were shot in the early 70s near the Santa Fé Plaza and at a motel in Santa Fé. The car race scenes were shot on Airport Road. This nighttime scene was shot at Bert’s Burger Bowl. It starred musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson."
Movie Locations of the Great Southwest

While there are some features of the Northern New Mexico experience which have transformed or even diminished in recent years, there are those treasured aspects of the culture  which have endured and should be preserved.  Some of these include the food created from locally grown produce such as the chilé; the distinctive dialects as differentiated from one Spanish-speaking town to another, reflecting the uniqueness of the people in each community; and certainly the arts such as the music, again a story of the people's experiences and life-journeys.   

Long adored for her passion and her talent, and now appreciated for her contribution to that notion that we must not forget from where we came, is 89-year old  Antonia Apodaca.  Antonia was born into a family of musicians in Rociada, NM. A talented guitarist and songwriter and a dynamic button accordion player, she has an extensive repertoire of traditional Hispanic tunes and songs from Northern New Mexico that she learned from her parents and uncles.

If you know  Antonia's music, you know how special she is to Northern New Mexico.  If you are hearing about her for the first time, Voces de Santa Fé is proud to introduce her, as it is the goal of this website to honor and preserve the traditions of our families.

La música de Antonia Apodaca:



The Lone Ranger is currently being filmed in New Mexico and Santa Fé.

To discuss this movie as well as film making in New Mexico, join to discuss.


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