In May I went with a group of photographers on a two-day trip to visit and photograph churches in small towns in south-central New Mexico between Albuquerque and Truth or Consequences. The trip was organized by the Corrales Arts Center, and planned and led by Mark Werner, Dennis Chamberlain, and Lynda Chamberlain.
In addition to the churches, along the way we spotted a few abandoned gas stations, an abandoned school building, and a museum filled with artifacts from the almost-ghost town of Chloride, NM (no church there, though). And we learned some New Mexico history, too!
This post is an account of the first day of the trip; the second day's adventures will be recounted in a separate post. Here's a map of our Day 1 route.
Our first stop was Iglesia de San Isidro on NM 337 between Ten Points and Chilili, southeast of Albuquerque.
San Isidro is the patron saint of farmers, so there are a lot of San Isidro or San Ysidro churches scattered about New Mexico . . . including one in the village of Corrales where I live.
Many of the churches also feature a shrine to the Virgin Mary on or near the church grounds. Here are a few we saw along the way:
There was even one -- a specific version, the Virgin of Guadalupe, commemorating an appearance of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1531 -- carved out of (into?) the trunk of a dead tree:
A few miles down the road our next stop was the village of Chilili and its San Juan Nepomuceno church which featured a really unattractive front portal:
Fortunately, there was a nice gateway arch I could use to block out most of the portal structure and still get a glimpse of the church:
The church was built in 1841, 71 years before New Mexico statehood, in honor of John of Nepomuk (1340 - 1393), who was born in Bohemia. According to a mural on the back outside wall of the church building . . .
Nepomuk (Nepomuceno) was tortured and martyred for refusing to reveal the confession of Queen Sophia of Bavaria to her husband, King Wenceslas IV . . . preserving the confidentiality of the confessional (for which he was canonized in 1729) and, in a way, preserving a woman's right to privacy.
The land on which the church sits is supposedly protected by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) which ended the Mexican-American War and ceded Mexican territory (including what is now New Mexico) to the United States.
Interestingly, however, if you check the treaty itself, there is no "Sect. 5" in Article 2, and nothing in Article 2 relates to preservation of land rights . . . frontier legend, I guess.
Across the street from the church we photographers also gravitated to an abandoned gas station -- the first of three we saw:
Continuing south on NM 337, then turning west onto NM 55, we came to the San Antonio church of Tajique.
Next stop . . . Our Lady of Sorrows in Manzano, built in 1829.
Our next stop was the San Vicente de Paul Catholic church in Punte de Agua, established in 1878.
And across the highway was another abandoned gas station!
Our last stop before lunch was the oldest church on the tour: Quarai Mission Church, one of the three structures in the Salinas Mission National Monument.
The church and related buildings were constructed between 1627 and 1632, but were abandoned in 1678 due to a combination of disease, drought, famine, and raids by indigenous Apache people. You can read more about Quarai and the other two mission churches in the vicinity by clicking here.
From Quarai we motored on into Mountainair, NM, to eat lunch at the Shaffer Hotel dining room decorated in what might be diplomatically called "Pueblo Deco."
The hotel and restaurant were built in 1923, and have been opened and closed multiple times over the past 99 years. Fortunately for us, for now they're back in business. You can read more about the hotel's origins in J.M. House's "City of Dust" blog by clicking here.
And right across the street from the hotel, there was another abandoned gas station/garage, complete with a vintage 1954 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe parked in front.
After lunch we headed southwest to the villages of Contreras and La Joya.
In Contreras we photographed the tidy, well-kept church, as well as an empty old adobe house nearby and an abandoned school building on the main road:
In the village of La Joya, the Our Lady of Sorrows church was undergoing repairs, but was still available for photographs. Following my "walk around the teacup" strategy, I shot it from a few different angles.
And there was even a joyful Jesus tree carving reminiscent of the "Touchdown Jesus" at one end of the Notre Dame football stadium.
From La Joya we hopped on I-25 and went south to the village of San Acacia to see the abandoned and overgrown Chapel of St. Acacius.
This was the only church we were able to enter on the first day of the tour (other than the Quarai Mission church).
Our last stop for the day was the Sagrada Familia church in Lemitar, NM.
By this time in the afternoon, the wind had picked up and everyone was tired, so we skipped the San Miguel Mission church in Socorro (which looks a lot like the Lemitar church) and headed for our hotel and dinner in Truth or Consequences, NM.
If you would like to see these images (and a few others) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.