Nuestra Señora de los Angeles with Kiva

Otherworldly Gallery
Nuestra Señora de los Angeles with Kiva, late 17th-early 18th c. Pecos, New Mexico, USA.
Photograph by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

The church and the kiva seen in this photograph, the former a peaceful ruin, the latter, a present-day reconstruction, reveal little of their tumultuous history. In the 16th century, Franciscan friars traveled north from Mexico City to convert and live among the Pueblo people of New Mexico. In the thriving pueblo of Pecos, they built their first mission in 1598. This community, a prosperous trading center, was also fiercely independent, and Pecos residents destroyed the first church soon after it was built and a later one during the Pueblo Revolt. In the years after their successful revolt, the people of Pecos built a kiva between the main part of their town and the destroyed church. After the reconquest, the returning Franciscans had the people of Pecos build another church on the same site, and the adjacent kiva, like all kivas at Pecos, was ordered destroyed. Across the 18th century, tensions among Pueblo factions at Pecos, and between indigenous leaders and Spanish officials waxed and waned. And by the time the final church at the site was finished in 1787, the people of Pecos had rebuilt nine kivas throughout their pueblo.

Representing dramatically different religious traditions, the juxtaposition of architectural forms—the church rises from the earth and the kiva penetrates into it—is striking, and was commented upon by visitors to the pueblo from the 19th century to the present. At another Pueblo site, Abó, the kiva exists within the monastic complex. But at Pecos, this kiva stands outside the monastery grounds, suggesting that, rather than a peaceful religious mestizaje, an uneasy standoff was reached in the 18th century between the Franciscans, who desired a complete embrace of Catholic orthodoxy, the Pueblo people, who adhered, then as now, to their distinct forms of worship and communal life.



Kessell, John L. 1979. Kiva, Cross and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service.

Levine, Frances. 1999. Our Prayers are in this Place: Pecos Pueblo identity over the centuries. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Treib, Marc. 1993. Sanctuaries of Spanish New Mexico. Berkeley: Berkeley University Press.

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