On a lovely November day, an eager group of six students and three ASU staff members traveled to the Taos, New Mexico, area for a day-long retreat, “Saints and Souls,” filled with art, music, food and spirituality. First stop was the home of Dr. Larry Torres (right), where the group was warmly received. The Torres home was a surprise, with each room revealing its own collection of art and artifacts connected to the region’s Indian-Hispanic culture, devotional Catholicism, and the host’s wide travels and personal story. A retired professor of philosophy who attended commented that the Torres home rivaled the finest museums he had visited.
Torres then led the group on a guided tour of the historic and beautiful La Santissima Trinidad mission church in Arroyo Seco, built in the 1830s. Participants were told the story of the church’s mystical beginnings and were shown the large, triangular shaped stone which is said to have inspired the church’s name. They also heard about a visitor with family in the town who, upon inspecting the old altar screen, recognized her grandmother in one of the retablos. The woman was so moved that she funded its restoration. The visit to the old church ended with a walk up to the choir loft, where students were allowed to ring the old church bell.
The next stop was for lunch at the cozy home of Billy and Tere Archuleta. The meal featured a flavorful meal of calabacitas, tortillas, carne asada, frijoles and arroz dulce. Billy is a local singer and songwriter, and he treated the ASU contingent to a private concert following the meal, playing a selection of traditional favorites. With panzas llenas y corazones contentos, warm good-byes were exchanged, and the group continued on to the San Francisco de Asis mission church in Ranchos de Taos. Once again, Dr. Torres shared his knowledge and gave an interesting tutorial on the history, art, and unique architecture of the mission church, a popular subject for artists like Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe, who called it, “one of the most beautiful buildings left by the Spaniards.” A side trip to the parish hall allowed the viewing of an intriguing painting, “The Shadow of the Cross,” created in 1896 by obscure French-Canadian artist Henri Ault. The work has made its way around the world and has inspired wonder due to the phenomenon of its inexplicable glow-in-the-dark qualities.
Following Saturday afternoon Mass in the mission church, the tired but contented group gathered at a nearby eatery for a last taste of New Mexican cuisine. It was a deliciously fitting end to a heart-expanding and grace-filled day.
By Shirley Atencio, Campus Minister