Origin: San Ildefonso Pueblo
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San Ildefonso Pueblo Pottery and Fine Art
Po-Woh-Geh-Owingeh is the Tewa name for San Ildefonso Pueblo. It means "Where the Water Cuts Through" in the Tewa language. Beginning around the 1200s, residents of Mesa Verde began migrating south in search of better water sources. By the 1300s, people living in the Tsankawi area of what is now Bandelier National Monument began moving closer to the Rio Grande for more consistent supplies of water and settled where San Ildefonso is today.
San Ildefonso is the home of the potter Maria Martinez, whose elegantly polished Black-on-black pottery is valued by collectors worldwide. The pueblo is one of the best known of all New Mexico pueblo villages because of the highly skilled male painters-both of pottery and easel art-and the beautiful blackware pottery produced since the early 1900s.
It is generally accepted that the first pueblo painters emerged from San Ildefonso in the year 1900. At that time, San Ildefonso had a population of 138 Tewa-speaking Indians and one non-native resident: elementary school teacher Ester Hoyt, who arrived at San Ildefonso in 1900 and departed in 1907.
Hoyt provided her students with watercolor paints and paper and told them to paint pictures of pueblo ceremonial dances. At the time, the government's policies were intended to discourage students from embracing their Native culture. Why would a government teacher go against government policy? Perhaps she was looking for a way to understand her pupils through their lifeways and to win their confidence so she could comply with government policies. Alternately, she perhaps did not agree with government policy and chose to teach in her own manner. In this small classroom, a generation of talented artists came into existence. Her first-year class included Tonita Peña, Alfredo Montoya, Alfonso Roybal, Santana Roybal (later, Martinez), Abel Sanchez and Romando Vigil.
For more than 100 years, San Ildefonso has been the center of tradition and innovation.
The pueblo is located twenty-two miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its Feast Day is January 23rd honoring their patron saint: San Ildefonso.
Photo: San Ildefonso Pueblo Dancers - Ansel Adams, 1942, Source Public Domain.