Jordan at SMU-in-Taos

Jordan is a senior from Atlanta studying cinema/television and music. He 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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Getting our hands dirty

We spent our fifth day of class in the classroom reviewing our experiences before and discussing our plans for the remaining week of class. Dr. Herring prepared a slideshow of photos and we were relieved to stay on campus for a change. As soon as class was dismissed, students began to enjoy the weekend. We headed to the Rio Grande River for relaxation, a scenic view and beverages.

Day six of class started off with a bang. We gathered together in the morning and squeezed ourselves into the van. We drove half an hour away from Taos, up the mountains and into the small town of Las Trampas. This community was established in 1751. We arrived at the destination where we spend the next four days of class, the Catholic church of San Jose de Gracia which was established in 1760.

We knew little about what we would be doing at the church prior to our arrival. Dr. Herring had organized a sort of service project for us through the Cornerstones Community Partnership Organization. We exited the van and were greeted by two Spanish men of small stature, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Lopez. The men looked uneager to meet our acquaintance and lacked the social politeness we city-slickers are used to. They obviously wanted to get straight down to business. ???Grab a shovel and follow me!??? said Mr. Martinez with a mottled accent. Without hesitation we dropped our paper bag lunches and started getting our hands dirty.

By noon, the entire class had worked up a sweat as well as an appetite. While some of us were unloading the truck???s trailer, others disassembled an old adobe that surrounded the church. The wall had been eroded from years of water damage and needed to be reconstructed. We had the honor of rebuilding the wall brick by brick. Some students sifted dirt in order to create rock and pebble free bricks.

We learned that creating adobe is neither the most complicated process nor an exact science. We shoveled dirt into an industrial-sized mixer along with water and hay. The blazing sun was beating us down and we took a break for lunch. Some students were still able to crack a smile while others we upset about ruining their designer shoes and shirts. We SMU students managed to remain fashionable despite being covered in dirt.

While we were eating our lunch, we were visited by Polly Summar, a reporter from the Albuquerque Journal. She interviewed Professor Herring along with some other students. Some of us, myself included, got our pictures in the paper.

We knew the ropes and our jobs by the second day of working with adobe. We learned that whistling while you work can make a huge difference in the enjoyment of working when we played music through our portable CD player. By the third day, we had successfully demolished the wall and rebuilt half of it.

Both Mr. Martinez and Mr. Lopez wore new faces once they realized our impact. Their smiles stretched from ear to ear and we even managed to get a laugh out of them once or twice. We were visited by both tourists and more reporters that were curious about our business in Las Trampas. And we began to take pride in our work.

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