Father Domínguez would have appreciated the
bumper sticker PRAY FOR ME, I DRIVE NM 44. If the menace in his day was
attack by an enemy war party, not a loaded, forty-ton dry-cement truck,
the impact could be equally fatal.
From San Felipe the road south kept to the river.
Where the Río de Jémez flowed in from the west, the traveler
bound for the Keres pueblo of Santa Ana turned and followed this broad
but scanty stream "of very bad water and bottom" through sandy
unfertile-looking hills. For 7 miles, with Santa Ana Mesa always on the
right, he paralleled New Mexico 44. Another more direct route, of steep
ascent and descent, led straight across the top of the mesa. Up there
Diego de Vargas had found the people of Santa Ana in 1693. He had
induced them to come down and build "on a little plain that hangs from
the Skirt of the said mesa." It proved a poor choice. 
Passing through Santa Ana in August 1696, Vargas
noted that Father Custos Francisco de Vargas, no relative and no friend,
had a convento already up. Timbers and stacks of adobes were at hand for
construction of the church. The Franciscan "had brought the carpenters
of the pueblo of Pecos to hasten working these timbers and likewise the
doors, which he specified and the carpenters took the measurements in
order to make." Evidently meant to serve the more than three hundred
residents of Santa Ana only temporarily, the new church was small, "four
varas wide by seventeen long, with pine timbers." Still, it had
sacristy, antesacristy, baptistery, and a little adobe-walled cemetery.
Thanks to some detailed entries in the inventory
book, by which outgoing ministers turned over accountability to their
successors, an uncommon record of common mission building has survived
for Santa Ana. A new convento, which incorporated the first one as its
kitchen and storeroom, was finished by 1717, the work of young Fray
Pedro Montaño. It featured "eight cells and inner cells, kitchen
and storeroom, and cloister with two wooden doors." Some years later
Fray Diego Arias de Espinosa, who initiated another major phase of
construction in the early 1730s, had much to inventory.
In this year of 1734 three sides of the new convento
are finished, containing three cells, a storeroom with lock and key, and
the kitchen, and having six doors and eight windows. The cloister and
porter's lodge are up to the bed molding. In addition, a two leaved door
on the porter's lodge of the old little church.
Also, the new church is up two varas above the
Also, I, Fray Diego Arias de Espinosa, am leaving as
an addition to the previous inventory eighty-four corbels of royal pine
for roofing of the holy church which I paid the Pecos Indians to cut and
work because at this mission there are no carpenters.
Also, as an addition there are for roofing the
sacristy and baptistery thirty-two medium-size vigas and three morillos
for lintels that I, Fray Diego Espinosa, with the Indians, brought down
from the sierra and now leave here.
Also, two new windows for one of the sides of the
cloister, which I give as an addition to the inventory. 
Before the year was out Alcalde mayor José
González Bas had borrowed eighteen of the vigas, possibly for the
chapel he and his brother were building at Alameda. The work at Santa
Ana, meantime, stopped dead. For nearly sixteen years the partly laid-up
walls of the new church just stood there. Not until the arrival of
energetic and outspoken Fray Juan Sanz de Lezaun in the summer of 1750
was work resumed, and then with a vengeance. Sanz mobilized the entire
pueblo, sending men and oxen to cut and haul down vigas setting others
to making and laying adobes, while he supervised, urged, and sweated
alongside them. In just under two and a half months, without the least
help from Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupín or his appointees,
Santa Ana's new church stood complete "in every detail." That, wrote
Sanz and his co-worker at Zia in passionate defense of their ministry,
was the sort of dedication that had long sustained the Kingdom of New
Boasting aside, Santa Ana now had a suitable church.
It faced east with the pueblo, of more or less parallel house blocks,
behind and to the south between it and the broad thirsty riverbed. Sanz
de Lezaun's successor described the entire physical plant room-by-room,
door-by-door, down to privies and the kitchen drain. The facade of the
church and the placement of the convento were unique in all the colony.
"This church has a mirador to the south [above the baptistery]. The
principal front, featuring a balcony, is sixteen varas across [twice the
width of the nave inside] with its wooden railing and three main
buttresses that support it." That made the facade look unusually broad,
including as it did the baptistery on the south and a covered passageway
from convento to sacristy on the north. Straight-on, it exhibited six
bays, three below at ground level with entranceway through the wider
middle one, and three above at balcony level. The convento, a full
square of rooms with cloisters on all four sides around the patio
within, lay off the northeast corner of the church connected to it by
only the passageway.  Judging from his
comments in 1776, Domínguez rather liked the arrangement.
143. Santa Ana in 1846. The pueblo's
church featured a unique six-bay facade.
Probably not long after the turn of the nineteenth
century, some admirer or colleague of the Laguna santero, not as skilled
as the master, executed a main altar screen for the church of Santa Ana,
just as he had at San Felipe. Here, instead of a statue, he had a large
oil painting of St. Anne around which to construct the reredos.
Considered old by Domínguez in 1776, this canvas is still in
place as the centerpiece, still lighted by the clerestory overhead.
Whatever, if anything, of his own design the Santa Ana santero put on
the side panels is gone. The two oval paintings hanging there now on
"flimsy boards painted white" barely fit. The only things he would
recognize today, mentally applying gallons of paint remover, are his
"sun burst" at the top and his heavy twisted pillars, colored green and
white like candy canes.
Outside, an arched bell gable centered over the main
doors gave way to two tower belfries. In Domínguez's day there
had been no bell and, in his words, "necessary summonses are sounded by
a war drum." Father Pereyro in 1808 considered the entire structure
"decent and adorned." Bishop Lamy called it well preserved in 1874, but
Lieutenant Bourke, seven years later, saw cracks.
Church of Santana Pueblo, N.M. sketched November 4th
1881. Dimensions 57' broad, 35' high to the foot of belfries. Interior,
clean and walls whitewashed, but falling to ruin.
The altar pictures are of unusual merit and display
through all their grime and faded looks the guidance of an artistic
mind. They are four in number, and two others have rotted from their
From Domínguez to Bourke, for more than a
century, visitors to Santa Ana had noted the ill-suited location of the
pueblo. There simply was not enough irrigable land nearby. Floods washed
away the fields they planted out in the riverbed, and the other lands
were uneven and impossible to irrigate. Of necessity the Santa Anas
began buying farmland on the Rio Grande even before the middle of the
eighteenth century. At first they moved to these Ranchos de Santa Ana
seasonally and later they lived there year-round. Gradually this
migration relegated the pueblo proper to its present role as a
An agreement in 1903 between the principal men of
Santa Ana and Archbishop Peter Bourgade reflected the shift in
settlement. The Indians bound themselves to put up and to maintain a
building at Ranchos or Ranchitos, for use as a chapel and school. Even
though the old pueblo church would "continue to be the principal
chapel," the archbishop would not be obliged to have a priest celebrate
Mass at both places when the people were at Ranchos. 
144. By 1899 the two double-tiered
belfries were reduced to one single-tiered belfry.
Around 1916 the roof of the old church was leaking
all over the place. On their own, the Santa Anas decided to reroof. Far
up in the Jémez Mountains they cut the pines for vigas and they
bought from a sawmill green rough lumber for ceiling slabs. Directly on
top they piled a foot of dirt. By the mid-1920s the roof was leaking
again. Thus in 1927, when the Committee for the Preservation and
Restoration of the New Mexican Mission Churches volunteered to pay for a
new and better one, the Indians consented.
Construction boss B. A. Reuter explained the
advantage of latillas, the little peeled poles that they had replaced
with lumber. Because the former were round and covered over by a layer
of "the indestructible leaves of yucca or some hard stemmed slough
grass" before the dirt was applied, they could breathe and dry out. Dirt
piled directly on lumber, however, got wet, trapped the moisture, and as
a consequence the boards rotted. After he had convinced them, Reuter
then had to turn around and tell the Indians that it was too late in the
fall for them to go out and cut latillas. With the modern roofing he
intended to apply, lumber would do admirably well.
So we reset all the beams and hewed away the bumps so
as to give the two inch lumber an even bearing. We creosoted the ends of
the beams, wrapped them with asphalt roofing paper, and then packed dry
gravel around them where they are embedded in the wall. We put in the
usual specification roof as prescribed by your Architect [John Gaw
Meem]. First on the two inch ceiling we put a one ply tar paper, then we
molded the roof with puddled adobe to drain to gutters. Over this we
cast a two inch slab of concrete reinforced with chicken wire. On this
we cemented three ply Johns Manville asbestos roofing with hot
asphaltum, and then coated its upper surface heavily with the same
material. Both the roofing and the flashing are deeply set in the wall,
well fortified with cement and asphalt. Over the entire roof we finished
with a two inch layer of puddled adobe which had previously been
screened to eliminate sharp pebbles that might wound the roof under the
foot of man.
Cost to the Committee totaled $1,399.62. The people
of Santa Ana, who had supplied all the labor and earned the respect of
Reuter, were grateful. "They also insisted that they were not
sentimental about the little fifty cent towers, that they, if they saw
fit, could go up there next spring and completely restore them in one
day. At least now the roof did not leak. 
Today the driver who dares take his eyes off New
Mexico 44 for a look across the wide alkaline bed of the Jémez
River can still make out the low stone and earth houses of Santa Ana
pueblo. Just above them in silhouette rises the church, if not the roof,
that Father Sanz de Lezaun laid up in 1750 in record time.
145. Adam Clark Vroman stood in the
choir loft of the Santa Ana church to get this shot in 1899. Judging
from the hole in the earth floor, the froof was leaking badly.
146. The church of Santa Ana in 1938.
147. Santa Ana's church, photographed
here from a helicopter in 1964, still looks much the same.
148. The pueblo of Santa Ana, March 8, 1979.
Copyright © 1980 by
the University of New Mexico Press. All rights reserved. Material from
this edition published for the Cultural Properties Review Committee by
the University of New Mexico Press may not be reproduced in any manner
without the written consent of the author and the University of New