Traditional Crosses

Hidden Grave with Flowers ~ Nambe, New Mexico

Nambe Cemetery
Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico
Karen Rivera
January 2011

I shoot a lot of cemetaries. For heart-rending, technicolor boisterous displays, you just can’t beat a New Mexican cemetary on Easter, Day of the Dead or Christmas. I’ve made it to my favorite, the Nambe Church cemetary in Nambe, every Boxing Day for most of the last 20 years. I follow that up with New Year’s Day in Acoma. It seems to make the perfect emotional double-header.

I found this small, weathered cross tucked away in a far corner surrounded by tumbleweeds and scruffy dead plants. The new flowers shows that this lonely hidden grave hadn’t been forgotten.

Alley Cross with Thunderclouds

Alley Cross
Dave Siemer 2010

Crosses are everywhere you look, even in an alley in a small town in Oregon.

Sanctuario Church Tower with Cross

Church Tower with Cross, Chimayo
Chimayo, New Mexico
Karen Rivera 2007

San Antonio Church ~ Punta de Agua, New Mexico

Punta de Agua

Highway 55, Southern New Mexico
Karen Rivera

The small villages along Highway 55 have always held a special place in my hard-scrabble New Mexican heart. Using the few resources available in the barren, harsh acres early settlers recycled the ever-present rocks into homes, walls, and churches.

In Punta de Agua, the rough-cut stone San Antonio Church stands as a monument to an earlier example of sustainable and green building.

If you’d like to walk through Punta de Agua at street level, click here to go to Google Maps, then click satellite.


4 Corners Baskets ~ Zia Pueblo, New Mexico

Four Corners Baskets
Zia Pueblo
July 2010
Karen Rivera

Local Native American Basket Makers incorporate the designs of crosses, native plants, mountains and rivers into their wonderful baskets. Made of raw reeds and natural dyes, the basketmakers weave spirituality into their art.

Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores de Manzano

Nuestra Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores de Manzano
Manzano, New Mexico
Karen Rivera

Andreita Avila’s Cross

Andreita Avila’s Cross
Our Lady of Sorrows Cemetery
Bernalillo, New Mexico
kd sebastian 21010

There’s something so touching about handmade grave markers. Many of the cemeteries in New Mexico have suffered from vandalism and neglect. Families die out, move away or simply abandon the traditional New Mexican ways.

My favorite crosses are what I call the “hard times” crosses: handmade from whatever durable materials could be afforded. Rebar, cement, wood, rocks–everything is fair game and free. Oddly enough, the poorer the community, the better kept the graveyards are.

Andreita Avila’s Cross is on the left side of Our Lady of Sorrows Graveyard in Bernalillo, New Mexico. It’s proximity to the Placitas off-ramp has made it a vandal’s dream so it was heart-warming to find this small pocket size memorial exactly where it was placed  years ago.