New Mexico History Museum

Exhibit of Rare Spanish Documents Makes its U.S. Debut

August 31, 2010


From a 1602 field drawing of a buffalo to portraits of President George Washington, Spanish explorers, colonists and diplomats have played key roles in American culture for five centuries. An exhibit coming to the New Mexico History Museum from Spain explores the first 300 years of those encounters – from the friars who made first contact with Native peoples through Spain’s timely assistance to American forces in the Revolutionary War.

The Threads of Memory: Spain and the United States (El Hilo de la Memoria: España y los Estados Unidos) opens Oct. 16 with a ticketed event from 6-8 pm, featuring New Mexican and Spanish dignitaries, including His Excellency D. Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, Spanish ambassador to the United States. Tickets are $100 at the Lensic Box Office: 505-988-1234;

On Sunday, Oct. 17, from 10 am to 5 pm, the public is invited to enjoy the U.S. premiere of nearly 140 rare documents, maps, illustrations and paintings – many of which have never been displayed outside of Spain. Sundays are free to NM residents. The Museum of New Mexico Women’s Board will provide refreshments in the Gathering Space from 3-5 pm. The exhibit closes Jan. 9, 2011 before traveling travels to the El Paso Museum of History and the Historic New Orleans Collection.

(Note: High-resolution, downloadable images from the exhibit are available. Click on "Go to related media" at the top left of this screen.)

The opening also marks the start of the Threads of Memory Lecture Series, with keynote speaker Luis Laorden of Madrid, Spain. The series includes lectures, musical performances, panel discussions and more that further explore the role Spain has played in shaping America as it is. 

The exhibition is sponsored by the Fundación Rafael del Pino and is co-organized by the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) and the State Corporation for the Spanish Cultural Action Abroad (Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior, or SEACEX), in collaboration with Spain’s Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Culture.

In New Mexico, the exhibition and lecture series are presented with special support from BBVA Compass Bank, the city of Santa Fe, Wells Fargo Bank, Heritage Hotels, Santa Fe University of Art & Design and the Palace Guard.

Accompanying the exhibit, which is presented in Spanish and English, is a full-color, bilingual catalog, The Threads of Memory, detailing all of the documents on display. Highlights among them:

·         Juan Ponce de León’s letter reporting his discovery of the “island of Florida.”

·         The instructions given to Fray Marcos de Niza to explore northern New Spain, and accounts of his discoveries here, including Cíbola and other towns.

·         A 1701 map by Father Eusebio Kino showing California missions.

·         A letter signed by Fray Junípero Serra giving the viceroy of New Spain news of the missions of Monterey.

·         The first known map of the lower Mississippi Valley, dated 1544; the oldest known map of New Galicia, dated 1550; and a 1602 map of New Mexico showing pueblos and Spanish settlements.

·         A 1684 drawing of the ill-fated French ship, La Belle, which wrecked in present-day Matagorda Bay, Texas, dooming Robert de La Salle’s dreams of a Texas colony.

·         Drawings of the uniforms issued for soldiers in 1804.       

·         Spanish portraits of President George Washington.

Lectures and performances in The Threads of Memory Lecture Series are free with museum admission. (Fridays 5-8 pm free to everyone; Sundays free to NM residents; children 16 and under always free.) The events will be held in the museum auditorium, unless otherwise noted. The schedule:

Sunday, Oct. 17

1:30-3 pm: “Setting the Context of El Hilo de la Memoria: Cartography of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro,” lecture by Dr. Luis Laorden of Madrid, Spain. This lecture is co-sponsored by the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association.

Friday, Oct. 22

6 pm: Tomás Lozano and ¡Viva la Pepa! in concert. Lozano is a singer, musician, scholar and writer, born in Barcelona. With his wife, Rima Montoya, and Juan Wijngaard and Sharon Berman, he performs as part of ¡Viva la Pepa!

Sunday, Oct. 24

2 pm: “Following the Paper Trail: The Daily Life of a Spanish Colonial Document,” lecture by Dr. Alfred E. Lemmon, an authority on French and Spanish colonial history. Lemmon is director of the Williams Research Center at the Historic New Orleans Collection and is its curator of manuscripts.

Sunday, Oct. 31

2 pm: “Finding New Mexico in El Hilo de la Memoria,” lecture by Dr. Jerry L. Gurule and Enrique Lamadrid. Gurule, retired historian-linguist for the National Park Service, has conducted research in various archives in Spain and Mexico, including the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla. His publications include articles, books and other works on Spanish colonial history. Lamadrid is a literary folklorist and cultural historian known for his work on Indo-Hispano cultural traditions, ballads, folk music, and literary recovery projects.

Saturday, Nov. 6

2 pm:Por el Amor de Papel: For the Love of Paper,” a demonstration by Tom Leech, curator and director of the Palace of the Governors’ Print Shop and Bindery. Leech has more than 35 years experience in printing, papermaking and related book arts; he demonstrated paper marbling at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. (This event begins in the exhibit space and moves to the classroom.)

Sunday, Nov. 7

2 pm: “An Afternoon with Pedro Menéndez,” performance by Chaz Mena, a New York-based actor, scholar and Chautauqua performer, on Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, first governor of Florida.

Friday, Nov. 12

6 pm: “Scientists in New Spain: Eighteenth-Century Expeditions,” lecture by Dr. Iris Engstrand, a California-based historian recently awarded the prestigious medal of the Order of Isabel la Católica by King Juan Carlos of Spain for her contributions to the history of Spain in the Americas.

Sunday, Nov. 21

2 pm: “Murder, Martyrdom, and the Struggle for La Florida: Rethinking Spanish Florida’s Mission History, 1565-1606,” lecture by Dr. J. Michael Francis, a history professor at the University of North Florida and the Jay I. Kislak scholar at the Library of Congress, where he will be scholar-in-residence for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Sunday, Dec. 19

2 pm:Navio Quebrado: The Wreck of La Belle and the Failed French Colony in the Southwest,” lecture by Eric Ray, a maritime archaeologist working on the La Belle project at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.

Sunday, Jan. 2

2 pm: “Kissin' Cousins:  The Spanish Vihuela and the Modern Classical Guitar," performance by composer, guitarist and educator Greg Schneider, teaching artist and former artist-in-residence with the Santa Fe Opera.

Sunday, Jan. 9

2 pm: “Tejiendo el Hilo: Weaving the Threads of History,” lecture by State Historian Rick Hendricks.

Related Photos

Coat of Arms, Louisiana
Parish Church of St. Augustine, 1789
Map of North America, 1746
Map of New Mexico, 1727
Map of New Galicia, 1550
George Washington, 1778
Buffalo, 1598
Map, 1701
Letter with Coat of Arms of Diego Rodríguez, October 7, 1540
La Belle
Cavalry Uniform Design
Hussars of Texas
George Washington portrait

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