Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeRio Grande Hispanic

Tradition Name: Rio Grande Hispanic

First posted by C. Dean Wilson

The identification and classification of pottery from vessels that appear to have been produced by potters thought to have resided in widely spread “Hispanic” villages or settlements in central and north central New Mexico from the late eighteenth through the nineteenth century represents a very difficult and often contentious issue. Beginning in the Late Spanish Colonial to Early Santa Fe Trail periods, pottery production at Spanish villages may have become increasingly important. While previously established Pueblo pottery traditions appear to have initially easily supplied almost all of the pottery needs of the first wave of Spanish colonists into New Mexico, intermarriage and acculturation may have eventually contributed to pottery-making becoming a part of the economy at some Hispanic villages (Levine 1990).

The various pottery traditions practiced at Spanish villages appear to have been introduced by Pueblo potters and are best considered as part of the regional variation that is represented and ultimately derived from Pueblo groups. While the production of pottery at Hispanic villages occurred over a very wide area, the similarity of this pottery to that associated with practices that appear to have developed in the Northern Rio Grande has resulted here in the inclusion of Hispanic pottery traditions with those included in the Northern Rio Grande branch. Much of the pottery manufactured at Hispanic villages appears to have occurred in more isolated areas located away from Pueblos and on the margins of areas controlled by the Spanish (Carrillo 1997; Eiselt 2005; Hurt and Dick 1946; Levine 1990). One area where pottery-making has been documented at Hispanic villages is in the Rio Abajo near Socorro n (Marshall and Marshall 1992; Marshall and Walt 1984). Other examples may include areas occupied by detribalized Indians (Genízaros) forced to settle villages along the northern (Abiquiu and Ojo Caliente) and southern (Belen and Tomé) margins of the areas controlled by the Spanish.

Snow (1984) rejects the concept of a distinct Hispanic pottery tradition, stating that the evidence for this is scarce and the oral traditions are not trustworthy, citing instances in Spanish documents implying that Spanish colonists did not produce pottery. He believes that what evidence there is for a Hispanic ceramic tradition refers to a period no earlier than 1800 to 1850 (Snow 1984). Also, based on evidence that the production and exchange of pottery by the Pueblos and the Apaches was a significant economic activity in New Mexico, he notes that there was no need for colonists and their descendants to produce ceramic vessels. Another impediment cited for Hispanic pottery manufacture was the low social status associated with this industry (Snow 1984). This point is further elaborated by Boyer (2015) who explains the late production of pottery at Hispanic villages as reflecting a response to increased isolation and decreasing power resulting from American control of New Mexico by the mid nineteenth century. Still, there seems to be no question that simple forms of pottery derived but distinct from to those produced by contemporaneous Pueblo potters were produced in Hispanic villages. Due to difficulties in the identification of such pottery, only types which can be clearly assumed to represent Hispanic are described here. In descriptions of late Pueblo pottery categories described elsewhere in this document, similar potential Hispanic types are noted. For example, pottery described for the Middle Rio Gray Wares as Carnue Gray certainly includes examples produced at Hispanic villages.

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