Santo, Santa

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Santo, Santa

Santo and Santa are terms that may refer to a saint or holy person in Roman Catholicism or, by extension, to a representation of such a person in sculpted or flat format. The term is the basis for santero, a maker of religious images, and Santería, a folk religion of African origin. Historical records also refer to a holy image as imagen, but the modern use of the term may emphasize material form over spiritual content. Santo often referred to a smaller domestic representation while imagen was used for a larger, church sculpture defined as de talla if carved or de bulto if also dressed in clothing.

In popular Catholicism and Caribbean santería, folk religious images of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and New Mexico are known as santos. In the United States, many non-Hispanic dealers and collectors use the term to promote the artistic and monetary value of santos while Hispano and Chicano artisans use the term to enforce the ethnic and cultural identity of the images and themselves.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Modern Period .


E. Boyd, Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico (1974).

Yvonne Lange, "'Santos': The Household Saints of Puerto Rico" (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1975).

William Wroth, Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico (1982).

Teodoro Vidal, Los espada: Escultores sangermeños (1994).

Additional Bibliography

Colón, Doreen. Los santos de Puerto Rico: Estudio de la imaginería popular. Hong Kong: Asia Pacific, 2003.

Farago, Claire J., Donna Pierce, et al. Transforming Images: New Mexican Santos In-Between Worlds. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.

Freites, Natividad. Recetario santero. Caracas: Editorial Panapo, 1999.

Vélez, María Teresa. Drumming for the Gods: The Life and Times of Felipe García Villamil, Santero, Palero, and Abakuá. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.

                                   Richard E. Ahlborn

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Santo, Santa

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