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Charles Carrillo is a renowned New Mexico santero, a carver and painter of the images of santos (Roman Catholic saints). His interest in this traditional craft began as a young man when, as an undergraduate in archeology at University of New Mexico, he oversaw a project to research the original village of Abiquiu. This immersion into the Hispano history of northern New Mexico gave Carrillo an intense appreciation of his own roots.
His subsequent marriage to a woman from the village of Abiquiu and his membership with its Penitente brotherhood deepened his cultural involvement. But it was his decision to pursue his interest in the carving and painting of the two dimensional retablos and the three dimensional bultos that finally sealed a commitment to his life’s work as a santero.
The depiction of saints in New Mexican communities dates back to the 18th century. They served various religious purposes; one was to embody the stories that passed along values, morals and religious philosophy to the community. Carrillo, anxious that the cultural traditions that surrounded the work of the santero not be lost, lectures in schools and universities, mentors aspiring artists, and continues to research the original pigments, varnishes, techniques, and history of his predecessors. His two children, Roan and Estrellita are also santeros and participate, like their father, in Santa Fe’s annual Spanish market.
The recipient of many awards at Spanish Market including its Lifetime Achievement Award, Carrillo was also honored by a National Endowment of the Arts Lifetime Honor. He has a doctorate in anthropology from University of New Mexico, is the author of many books, and is represented in many private collections and museums nationwide.