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Spirit of Chiapas: The Expressive Art of the Roof Cross Tradition Hardcover – June 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Chiapas may be most notorious for its recent rebellious history; however, the southerly region of Mexico is also home to the rich folk art of rooftop iron-wrought crosses. These symbols festoon not only local church steeples, but homes, water springs, town entrances and many other local sites. To preserve this fading tradition, anthropologist Guess explores the origins of the cross, which was significant both for the conquering Europeans and the indigenous pre-Columbian cultures, aided by a plethora of photographs shot by her husband, Robert Guest. In addition to the typical Christian crosss North-South and East-West axes, the ancient Chiapas crosses also depicted a sun-like axis mundi representing the four directions of the "Mother Wind" that blew the clouds and rain. Guess devotes a large portion of the book to identifying different ironwork styles, especially those illustrated in the 32 roof crosses on permanent display at the Na Bolom regional museum in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. (Danish archeologist Frans Blom collected the crosses when he relocated to the area in the 1950s.) Against this visual library, the author also investigates the increasing pressure on the herreros, or traditional ironworkers, to forge crosses that fit the tastes of the tourist hordes, and compares the Chiapas motifs with those that adorn roof crosses in Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia. For those who visit the region physically or only vicariously through the pages, Guess includes a "walking tour" of the old barrios of San Cristóbal. Glossary. 80 color and 41 b&w photographs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Publisher
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 Center established in 1960 in San Cristóbal 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 Cristóbal, 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.
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This authoritative account, the product of many years of research, details the rich social and religious history, variety and iconography associated with this disappearing folk tradition.
After a discussion of the role and symbolism of the cross in Christian and Maya tradition, Spirit of Chiapas continues with a full description and stylistic analysis of the different cross forms, based in part on the noted Frans Blom collection of metal crosses in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. There is also a comprehensive street by street guide to the roof crosses of San Cristóbal, the old colonial capital.
Robert Guess' fine color pictures complement the authoritative text and add special distinction to the book.
This timely volume - the only published study of this unique folk art - not only serves to publicly document this dying tradition but, it is hoped, may lead to its authentic revival. Guaranteed to appeal to lovers of hispanic folk art and folk traditions as well as travelers to Mexico.
(from the author of guides to colonial Mexico)