• mission churches;
  • New Mexico;
  • permanence;
  • place identity;
  • Pueblo Indians

ABSTRACT. The three Pueblo mission churches of San Esteban del Rey, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and San José de Laguna are the most visually striking structures in the western New Mexico pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, and Laguna. Prime examples of “structures of permanence” on the landscape, the churches define local cultural identity. Church permanence and Pueblo identity are expressed in a five-part typology of visible characteristics: natural materials and hand labor, massive exterior form, adjoining cemeteries, syncretism of interior decorations, and structural decay and rebirth. Permanence must, however, be understood as an evolving condition, undergoing new representations as multicultural relationships evolve.