Land of Enchanting Nativities:
Our convention in Santa Fe this November
By Susan Topp Weber
New Mexico is called the “Land of Enchantment” because it is so different and special. Our biennial convention in Santa Fe this year is called “Land of Enchanting Nativities”. We will meet at La Fonda, a famous historic hotel right on the plaza of Santa Fe. This hotel has an amazing art collection throughout the hotel and inside each guest room. There are free tours of this art, guided by docents. Just ask the concierge in the lobby.
The focus of our convention will be on the nativities of the American Southwest. On the mezzanine of La Fonda will be a special exhibit of fine southwest nativities, borrowed from many collectors, and displayed inside locked cases. Some of the artists who made these nativities are no longer alive.
(1)Would you like to add to your nativity collection? There will be one market where you can buy nativities directly from the Pueblo and Navajo Indians who made them. As usual at our conventions, there will be another market where you can buy nativities from dealers whose merchandise may be from outside the southwest.
Would you like to reduce your nativity collection? Bring those nativities to the convention for the “Silent Auction”. The sale of these nativities will bring money to Friends of the Creche and find new homes for the nativities you are donating. Send photos of these nativities, if you can, to
We will begin on Friday with an evening reception at the Museum of International Folk Art on “Museum Hill”. The Girard Wing of that museum has many nativities on display, because Alexander Girard loved and collected nativities. You will be asked to find as many nativities as possible. There will also be live music and food to nibble. There will be several southwest nativities from the museum’s collection on display in Lloyd’s Treasure Chest, which is at a lower level, accessible by an elevator. If you are still hungry after the reception, you might like to have dinner at one of Santa Fe’s many good restaurants. A list of restaurants will be given to you, with choices ranging from affordable to fine dining.
The formal opening of the convention will be on Saturday morning at La Fonda’s ballroom. The mayor of Santa Fe will give a proclamation. Later that morning, another mayor, the mayor of Belen, New Mexico, will give a talk about defend- ing the public nativity in his town. Belen is south of Albuquerque. Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem.
(2) Susan Topp Weber will speak about Southwest nativities from the different cultures we have in New Mexico, such as Pueblo, Navajo, New Mexico Spanish, and Anglo. She is the author of an award-winning book on the subject.
(3) Christopher Toya from Jemez Pueblo will speak on the unique custom of “Bethlehem” at that village. This is a live in- door nativity consisting of a husband and wife who allow their pueblo home to become “Bethlehem” between Christmas Eve and Epiphany while they host the wooden baby from the village church. Chris will have photos of various Jemez Pueblo versions of “Bethlehem”, from its beginnings to the present. Jemez is a pueblo where photography is not al- lowed, so it will be a rare privilege to see them. Chris Toya is the first person to research this subject. Don’t miss this talk!
After lunch on Saturday, we will see a Spanish Colonial Christmas play called Los Pastores. (The Shepherds). The ama- teur group of actors is from a catholic church in Belen, New Mexico. They own a rare surviving colonial script. The play has a musical aspect, and they sing and play music during the play. The script is in Spanish. (4)
Charlie Carrillo is a well-known Santa Fe maker of religious images. These makers are called santeros in New Mexico (but not in any other Spanish speaking country). He has personally taught most of the artists who sell at Spanish Mar- ket on the Santa Fe plaza in late July. Years ago, Charlie designed a New Mexico style nativity, which was reproduced for a few years, but is no longer available. It was very popular and those who own one feel very fortunate.
Charlie spoke at our convention in 2005 and he designed the logo for that convention. He will speak again at this con- vention.
5. Work of Charlie Carrillo 6. Biscochtitos
Charlie Carrillo survived a serious automobile accident two years ago and we are lucky he is still alive. One of our members, who will be attending our biennial convention, donated generously and anonymously to a fund for Charlie’s recovery. Charlie will not know his benefactor’s identity, but he knows that the benefactor will be in the audience when he speaks.
After Charlie’s talk, we will enjoy New Mexico hot chocolate and Susan Weber’s hand-formed biscochitos., the official state cookie of New Mexico. (6)
On Sunday morning, after the annual meeting of Friends of the Creche, Kathy Chilton will speak on how to repair bro- ken nativities. She spoke to us in 2005. Her talk is titled, “Oops, I Just Dropped My Best Nativity. Now What Do I Do?”
Sunday afternoon, there will be demonstrations in the ballroom by New Mexico Spanish artists in a variety of tech- niques, such as wheat straw applique, woodcarving, painting, or a colonial embroidery stitch called colcha. You will be able to watch, ask questions, and buy directly from the artists. The various markets and exhibits will be open till 3:30.
There will be a service available for packing and shipping any treasures you purchase.
Also, on Sunday afternoon, Susan Weber will give two Jemez Pueblo briefings to those planning to go to Jemez Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th. If you have paid to be on one of our rented buses, you will be fed in a pueblo home. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive to Jemez Pueblo. It is a public event.
Sunday evening, we can meet at La Terazza, the lovely hall above the parking garage, with dramatic second floor views of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. We will enjoy fellowship and drinks with new and old friends prior to the formal banquet in the ballroom that ends the biennial convention in Santa Fe.
On Monday, some of our attendees may be exploring Santa Fe and Taos or Los Alamos and Bandelier or Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Others will be going on a tour of homes with fine nativity collections, a sold-out event. Some attendees will be going to Jemez Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th.
If you have not yet registered for Land of Enchanting Nativities, but are interested, please do not delay, as it is likely to sell out. If you have never been to Santa Fe, come and discover this international destination in the Land of En- chantment.