José Rafael Aragón
(1790 - 1862)
José Rafael Aragón (known by his middle and last name, Rafael Aragón) was born in Santa Fe some time between 1783 and 1790. He was one of the most prolific and popular santeros in nineteenth-century New Mexico. Santeros are makers of images of saints, known in New Mexico as santos. The Spanish term santero has several meanings, the primary one being a person who takes care of an altar or sanctuary. The use of the term santero meaning a maker of images only became current in New Mexico after about 1925, perhaps in part through the influence of Anglo-American collectors and writers. In colonial and nineteenth-century Mexican and New Mexican documents the term is not used for an artist; the most common terms are imaginero, maestro de arte (or de pintar – of painting or de tallar – of carving), escultor (sculptor), and pintor (painter).
The art of the santero flourished in New Mexico from ca. 1750 to ca. 1900. During this period santeros developed a distinctive style of folk art in both painting and sculpture which in many ways ignored academic conventions of the period and harked back to the spiritualized art of the European Middle Ages. In New Mexico the santeros were often itinerant crafts persons, making images for churches, Penitente meeting houses (moradas), and families throughout a region near their home. They not only made new pieces but retouched, restored, and sometimes completely repainted older pieces. The art of the santero was a communal art based upon traditional norms inherited from the long European Catholic tradition. The artists made images of the most important holy persons and saints revered in Spain and the New World. https://newmexicohistory.org/2014/01/22/jose-rafael-aragon/