Tapestry of Kinship: The Web of Influence Among the Escultores and Carpinteros of the Parish of Santa Fe, 1790-1860
by Jose Antonio Esquibel & Charles M. Carrillo

Ranked as the 24th Most Popular Hispanic-American History Book on Amazon.com (9/28/2008)

A Tapestry of Kinship is an exploration of the connections between the various artisans working in Santa Fe between 1790 and 1860. This book establishes for the first time the family relationship between Jose Rafel Aragon and Jose Aragon, and the working relationships between the two Aragon brothers and Jose Manuel Benevides (previously known as the Santo Nino Santero) and Jose Anastacio Casados.

A Tapestry of Kinship: The Web of Influence Among Escultores and Carpinteros in the Parish of Sante Fe, 1790-1860 is a close study of a type of religious art that emerged in New Mexico during the early nineteenth century. Four distinguished santeros of New Mexico's "golden age" of Spanish colonial art became sought-after masters of locally created artworks of faith and devotion. A Tapestry of Kinship particularly examines the kinship and social occupation connections between these artists and several families of carpenters, which worked to foment the surge of devotional creativity. A handful of inset color plates of artworks illustrate this meticulous and scholarly retracing of bloodlines as well as other means of interconnection amid faithful artists and carvers. -- Midwest Book Reviews, September 2007

Over the past seventy years there has been a great deal of scholarly interest in the origins of the distinctive tradition of New Mexico santos (painted and sculpted images of saints) and the different styles that became prominent in the florescent period of New Mexican image-making, ca. 1800-1860. The most recent and exciting research in this field appears in A Tapestry of Kinship by Jose Antonio Esquibel and Charles M. Carrillo.The authors combine exhaustive documentary research in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Museum and Archives and the Spanish and Mexican Archives of New Mexico with stylistic and technical analysis of actual peices. Existing documentary records concerning the early arts in New Mexico are few compared to those of other regions. However, by diligent search into the extant records the authors have put together a convincing picture of the close network of relationships that existed among families of carpenters and image-makers in Santa Fe prior to 1860. Further, they have suggested possible new identifications of the artists responsible for existing bodies of work, thereby beginning to solve questions which have concerned scholars for many years. With the density and complexity of documentary data presented here, this book is geared toward the scholar and aficionado of the art of the santero, rather than the general public. The publishers are to be congratulated for publishing such a scholarly work, with obviously so limited an audience. While the book is focused on the work of a small group of carpenters and santeros, implicit in it are larger issues concerning the fabric of life in Santa Fe. Using the methods so ably employed by Esquibel and Carrillo, a much fuller picture than we currently have could be drawn of the cultural and socio-economic history of early-nineteenth-century New Mexico. -- William Wroth, New Mexico Historical Review, Winter 2006

Jose Esquibel and Charles Carrillo have combined their talents to produce a study about four notable santeros or escultores who influenced the traditional religious art of New Mexico. Within a web of influence they fashioned adaptions of this tradition to create works of devotional art that were practical and met a growing demand for local production of such art. This book is recommended for genealogists dealing with Hispanic families and the general reader interested in New Mexico's religious art. -- Colonial Latin American Historical Review, Winter 2004

The authors’ research into the identification and genealogies of New Mexican santeros, “saint-makers,” has resulted in this careful, scholarly examination of the relationships between sculptors and carpenters. It was this web of influence, “a complex pattern of social relationships [that] connected artisans through kinship, compadrazgo, proximity as neighbors, and social occupation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,” that contributed heavily to the santero art which evolved throughout New Mexico. “These artisans,” say the authors, “supported and influenced each other in the production of woodcrafts, specifically in the construction and renovation of churches and private chapels, in the making of wooden items for these facilities, and in the artistic creation of altar screens, colaterales side altars), bultos, and retablos.” This well-documented text, which includes genealogical charts of the Aragon, Casados, Ortega, Lucero, Dominguez, and Benavides families, would seem to leave no doubt of their thesis. Included are color illustrations of bultos of saints by members of the Aragon, Benavides, and Casados families. This is a lovely little book, one that all who have an interest in the religious art of New Mexico will want to read. -- Southwestern Mission Research Center SMRC Revista, Spring 2005

In the first two decades of the 19th century four notable santeros (escultores) of New Mexico’s “golden age” of Spanish colonial art grew into maturity in Santa Fe and became sought after masters of locally created devotional art. Among their associates were carpenters of the previous and contemporary generations. This books reveals the pattern of social relationships that connected these escultores with several families of carpenters through kinship, compadrazgo and social occupations. These inter-relations formed a tapestry of kinship that underscored the outburst of creativity in the production of religious devotional art among Nuevomejicanos. -- People of God August 2004

Just in time for Spanish Market are two books that underscore the importance of faith and family in the creation of sacred art. In A Tapestry of Kinship, Charles Carrillo and José Antonio Esquibel show the crisscross of relationships among colonial santeros, putting these men in context as members of faith communities, husbands, brothers, neighbors, marriage sponsors, godfathers, and artisans. Carrillo, as any lover of retablos and bultos knows, is simply one of the best of New Mexico’s contemporary santeros. He brings to his art a wealth of scholarship and knowledge in addition to the faith and talent that shine in his work. In addition to being an artist, Carrillo is a writer, scholar, teacher and lecturer who has long studied the early carvers and painters. His co-author, Esquibel, is a well-known New Mexico genealogist, historian and researcher, author of more than 70 articles related to Spanish colonial genealogy and two award-winning books. Together, they meticulously examined records and documents to show the community of santeros working between 1790 and 1860 was more closely entwined than many modern historians might have realized. For the first time, the authors establish a family relationship between José Rafael Aragon and José Aragon and also show a working relationship between the two Aragon brothers and José Manuel Benavides (known previously as the Santo Niño Santero) and José Anastacio Casados. This book places these now-revered artists squarely in their time as members of a parish church and a community of craftsmen, and makes a strong case that the legendary José Aragón, who “has eluded social identification and stands more as a legend than as a person,” as a brother to José Rafael Aragon and not a man with a similar name from the Las Cruces area, as some have argued. This identification will be the basis for much future scholarly debate and for the reidentification of a number of pieces in New Mexico churches and museums. It’s a serious work but written invitingly so that everyone from the most devoted collector of art to the once-in-a-while shopper at Spanish Market can enjoy what Carrillo and Esquibel have discovered. -- Inez Russell , The New Mexican

Jose Antonio Esquibel
Jose Esquibel is a genealogical researcher and author of over seventy articles related to Spanish colonial genealogy and history with particular regard to New Mexico. With John Colligan, he is the co-author of The Spanish Recolonization of New Mexico: An Account of the Families Recruited in Mexico City, 1693, and, with Christine and Douglas Preston, The Royal Road: El Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe.

Charles M. Carrillo
Dr. Carrillo is a scholar, teacher, and lecturer, as well as an artist. He has been a participant at Spanish Market in Santa Fe for over twenty years and has won numerous awards. His work is exhibited in many major museums including The Heard Museum, Denver Art Museum, Regis University, Albuquerque Museum, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Smithsonian. He is the author of
Hispanic New Mexican Pottery (1996) and A Tapestry of Kinship (co-authored with José Antonio Esquibel, 2004); he has also written many articles on New Mexico art and culture. Carrillo earned his doctorate in anthropology from the University of New Mexico and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the University of New Mexico’s Religious Studies Program. A book on Carrillo and his art, Charlie Carrillo: Tradition & Soul, was published by LPD Press in 1994. The first Santos of the Pueblos exhibit at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in 2003 was so popular that an expanded version of the show was installed in its new gallery in 2004. Carrillo lives in Santa Fe with his wife Debbie, who is an award-winning potter, and their two children, Estrellita and Roán, who have also won awards for their santos.