Spanish Market

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‘Preserving part of our culture’

By Mercy Lopez

Ronald Samuel Garcia, a self-taught santero, will be among a group of artists showcasing their work during this weekend’s 60th Traditional Spanish Market on the Santa Fe Plaza.
Garcia, a native of El Carmen in Mora County, will feature his New Mexican retablos, relief carvings and “Mora Style bultos,” carvings of religious figures.

“I juried into the (Spanish) Market in 1999,” Garcia said. “I did a few pieces that I thought were decent to get in. It normally takes a couple of years to get in, and before I knew it I got in on the first try.”
Garcia’s hobby in creating the saints originates from his Catholic upbringing and his pride in Hispanic traditions.

“Faith in God is very important in our culture,” Garcia said. “It is that faith that gives me the inspiration and artistic ability to visualize images in a piece of wood and the patiently skilled hands for carving and crafting them.”

Garcia is known as a santero in the art community, but in Las Vegas he is more commonly known as longtime New Mexico Highlands University employee, serving as director of career services. He has been employed by the university for more than 20 years.

His job at the university keeps him busy during the days, but in his spare time Garcia creates the traditional Spanish art.

“I have always done art since I was a kid,” Garcia said. “My mother (Mary Garcia) inspired my art. She saw that I had a talent in it and kept buying me more and more art supplies.”

He started off as a kid carving different animals,  and within years he was able to become a master of retablos, bultos and relief carvings.
“I carved this coyote, but there was something missing,” Garcia said. “And my next piece was St. Francis (the patron saint of animals). That’s how it all started.”

For this weekend’s market he plans to take 15 pieces, including a relief carving of the sacred heart and one of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“The Spanish Market is known as the world’s largest exhibition of Spanish Colonial Art,” Garcia said. “It attracts  ... 40,000 to 70,000 people for that weekend.”

In past Spanish Markets Garcia has sold many of his religious creations including a bulto that a woman from Belgium bought.

“Whether I sell or not, I consider it an honor to be part of Spanish Market,” Garcia said. “It is my way of preserving part of our culture.”



Saturday, July 30 - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, July 31 - 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Santa Fe Plaza
Free to the public
For more information:
505-982-2226 or

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A special Market Mass will be celebrated at the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica at 8 a.m. on Sunday.  A procession from the Cathedral around the Plaza will follow, led by a Mariachi band.