Eiseley at SMU-in-Taos

Eiseley is a senior majoring in art history from St. Petersburg, Florida. She is helping restore the Catholic church of San Jose de Gracia in Las Trampas, New Mexico, this August at SMU-in-Taos as part of Professor Adam Herring’s course, Art and Architecture of Hispanic New Mexico.

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Day 2: Progress!

Today, we walked into the grounds of San Jose de Gracia with driven purpose. There were no first-timer shocks today. We jumped right in, shovels in hand.

After finishing the disassembling of the portion of the wall that we began yesterday, we started on the side facing the parking lot and the entrance. It was basically the same procedure that we knew so well by this time. Hammers were used to crack the mud in between the outlying bricks and shovels became levers to release the bricks entirely.

Throughout the day, we devised our own individual methods for this process. Some used only the shovels and jammed the pointy tip into the mud to break it off. Others used a combination of hammer blows to the back and sides of the bricks with sheer manual force in lifting. We became very accustomed to the methods of dismantling these walls, and chatted the day away. One student brought a battery-powered boom box along, and we argued about cd choice when a labor break was due.

In the morning, a photographer from the New Mexican newspaper stopped by to observe and shoot. He was less involved than the reporter from Albuquerque, and watched our work quietly from afar. News travels very quickly around these parts! It was incredible to witness the number of people who stopped at the church. A visitor from South America asked to take pictures with a member of our class, and tourists looked at us baffled ouside the entrance of the church.

After our lunch break, Professor Herring’s wife, Professor McCrossen, stopped by with her Culture in New Mexico class to lend a hand. It was great to have the extra help, and we were proud to boast of our completed work.

Two students finished the wall that I helped rebuild yesterday. They added another 4 layers of brick and mud to level off the top layer with the corner supports.

Professor McCrossen’s class took turns atop scaffolding to remove a layer of chicken wire from the entrance arch. The chicken wire is used to anchor the outer layer of adobe. Unfortunately, on this structure, most of the adobe was missing and the chicken wire plainly exposed. The removal of this made a huge difference in the general appearance of the entranceway to the adobe masterpiece.

Tomorrow we hope to begin re-mudding and reconstructing the remaining sections of the walls, and maybe even start adding mud to the church itself. I think that all of us are patiently waiting to get to work on the church (the main attraction).

After today, we can all agree that Mr. Lopez and Mr. Martinez are warming up to us.

- Eiseley

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