Subject descriptions on these pages include all the saints represented by New Mexico santeros from the eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth. Each listing gives pertinent biographical and devotional information about the saint or holy person, his or her iconographic properties, and any information about patronage. The lists are illustrated with examples from the Regis University Santo Collection.
Descriptions are taken from: Thomas J. Steele, S.J., Santos and Saints: the Religious Folk Art of New Mexico, Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1994, and are used here with permission.
Source: Biblical (Dan. 8:16, 9:21; Lk. 1:11-19, 26-38)
Feast day: March 22 or 24
Patronage: Enlightenment; informing God of our good works, announcing our arrival in heaven; protecting small children.
Gabriel is the preeminent messenger, appearing to Daniel to explain things to him and to Zechariah and Mary to announce and explain the coming births of John the Baptist and Jesus. The Franciscans revered him greatly because of his association with Christ's humanity. Hence he is also associated with the Eucharist and often holds a monstrance. The angelito on a few New Mexican crucifixes who holds a chalice to catch the blood from the wound in Jesus' side should probably be identified as Gabriel.
Winged, holding a monstrance, a chalice, a censer, or the trumpet with which he will announce the end of the world; he sometimes also holds a lily or a palm and is occasionally crowned.
Source: Biblical (Daniel 10:13; Rev. 12:7)
Feast day: May 8, September 29
Patronage: Opponent of the devil (see Brown, Hispano Folklife of New Mexico, pp. 131-32) and all evil; patron of soldiers; guardian of small children.
Michael's main task is battle against the devil and all his symbols.
Clad often in armor and crowned, holding balance-scales and a sword or spear, standing on a snakelike monster. He weighs souls in the pans of his balance scales, sometimes marked with a cross for eternal life and a zero for punishment. As guide of the soul in its journey to heaven, he may hold keys. In a few retablos, there is an as-yet-unexplained bracket over his left wing.
Source: Biblical (Book of Tobias)
Feast day: October 24
Patronage: Patron of travelers, protector against eye trouble, protector against monsters.
Raphael is the guide of travelers and pilgrims and the source of spiritual and physical health. He is also a protector against monsters. Clad in pilgrim's garb, carrying a staff and a fish. The staff often has a gourd of water at its top.
Source: Biblical (Ps. 91:11-12; Mt. 18:10; Acts 12:7-11)
Feast day: October 2
Patronage: Guidance on journeys; protection against evil spirits; protection especially of small children.
Angels are pure spirits, less powerful than the archangels and not known by proper names, who are thought to protect each individual human. They have the same general duties as the archangels, particularly guiding humans through this world and guiding the souls of the dead from this world to the next.
A winged figure.