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Spirit of Chiapas

The Expressive Art of the Iron Roof Cross Tradition



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Spirit of Chiapas: The Expressive Art of the Iron Roof Cross Tradition by Virginia Ann Guess
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With elements of catalogue, guidebook, and historical summary, this richly illustrated book offers a comprehensive source of information for art historians, folk art enthusiasts, museum curators, and the casual traveller to Chiapas. The Mexican state of Chiapas and its historical connections to Guatemala during the colonial period, offers travellers an experience different from most states in Mexico. Here they see Indians and Ladinos living side by side following centuries-old traditions, each with their own interpretation of Catholicism, and a symbolic language that distinguishes their culture and customs. This book documents a fast-disappearing tradition of iron crosses as house blessings as collected by the late Frans Blom, now located at Na Bolom, the Museum and Cultural Centre established in 1960 in San Cristobal de Las Casas. By extending her purview from this collection to the more than two hundred extant crosses of iron, wood, and cement that are still visible on roofs of San Cristobal, Guess presents a wealth of information that traces the tradition from its origins, identifies stylistic variations that occur among these roof crosses, and provides interpretations of the symbols that adorn them. In a series of walking tours the author guides readers through the streets of the old barrios where the crosses still can be viewed. Interviews with homeowners and ironworkers provide explanations as to the importance of these talismans to those who make them and those who use them to bless their homes.

Author Biography

Virginia Ann Guess holds a doctoral degree in Medical Anthropology from the University of California. An independent researcher of the culture and folk art of Chiapas. She lives in San Cristobal de Las Casas and Santa Barbara, California.
Release date NZ
June 1st, 2004
Photographs by Robert Guess
Country of Publication
United States
colour & b/w photos
Museum of New Mexico Press
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