Big Jim: A saint, a fiesta and a sculptor

2014-05-13T00:00:00Z 2014-05-13T00:26:30Z Big Jim: A saint, a fiesta and a sculptorJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

May 15 is the day of San Ysidro Labrador — Saint Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130), of whom I wrote a year ago. He was the hired hand who spent so much time praying that God sent an angel to plow the field for him. He is the patron of farmers, and is often prayed to in Mexico to help bring rain. He is usually shown kneeling in prayer, while an angel plows with his oxen.

This year, the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace will hold a traditional San Ysidro Fiesta on the morning of Saturday, May 17, at the Mission Garden at the foot of "A" Mountain. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. with a procession to the Garden from the site of the San José mission church, for the harvesting and blessing of this year’s winter wheat crop.

The rest of the morning will feature the blessing in several traditions of the orchard, animals, fields, and food. There will be a chance to taste the famous pozole de San Ysidro, and Las Aguilitas of Davis Bilingual School and the Desert Indian Dancers of San Xavier Village will perform. The program will be over around 11:30. There is no admission charge.

Now for the sculptor. The first photograph is of a life-sized statue of San Ysidro by the late Pedro Calles Encinas (1914–1994). Raised as an orphan in the Sonoran town of San Pedro de la Cueva (of which more in a later blog), Sr. Calles showed early ability as an artist. His wife, a local school principal, helped send him to Mexico City in the 1950s, where he studied at the famous Academía Nacional de Arte. While there, where also worked with the well-known Mexican sculptor Ignacio Asúnsolo. Returning to Sonora, he took up permanent residence in Hermosillo in 1956. A devout Catholic, he specialized in religious sculpture, while also turning his hand to other commissions such as portrait busts, and elegant custom furniture.

Calles worked in clay, plaster, stone, wood, and gold. His statues appear in virtually every church and chapel within a hundred-mile radius of Hermosillo, as well as in California and Arizona. Calles’ work is well-executed, and some individual pieces are truly brilliant and moving. In addition to the three statues illustrated today, we’ll see one more of his sculptures in my next blog.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com

Deals, offers & events

View more...