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Emilio and Senaida Romero

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Emilio Romero learned tinsmithing in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and worked with tin full time after he retired. His wife, Senaida, embroidered *colchas* (coverlets) and sometimes placed them in ornamented tin frames that he created. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1984, photograph by Eduardo Fuss, courtesy Marie Cash
Tinwork by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Emilio Romero, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1984, photograph by Eduardo Fuss, courtesy Marie Cash
Tinwork by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Senaida Romero, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1984, photograph by Eduardo Fuss, courtesy Marie Cash
Tinwork by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Tinwork by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Tinwork by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Tinwork by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Tin cross by Emilio and Senaida Romero, tin with *colcha* embroidery, 34' high, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1988, photograph by Michel Monteaux, courtesy Museum of International Folk Art (a unit of the Museum of New Mexico)
Butterfly Box by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy Marie Cash
Butterfly Box by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy Marie Cash
Colcha Stitch Box by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy Marie Cash
Colcha Stitch Box (detail) by Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy Marie Cash
Cross by Senaida Romero, courtesy Marie Cash
Tinsmithing by Emilio and Senaida Romero, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1984, photograph by Eduardo Fuss, courtesy Marie Cash
Emilio and Senaida Romero, courtesy Marie Cash

Senaida and Emilio Romero began working together as a team when they married in 1930. Senaida, who was born in Ojo de Vaca, New Mexico, recalled seeing her grandfather working with tin as a craftsman. He traveled through northern New Mexico for weeks at a time, returning in a wagon laden with beans, corn and other goods he had traded for his wares.

Emilio, a native of Santa Fe, learned tinsmithing in the Civilian Conservation Corps camps during the Great Depression. Because tin was hard to come by, he cut and flattened five-gallon cans still bearing product inscriptions. In the late 1930s, he worked for the Forest Service. During the early 1940s, with the United States embroiled in World War II, the couple moved to San Diego, California, where Emilio worked in a factory building airplane wings. Then he worked as a sheet-metal worker for the Zia Company in Los Alamos for almost thirty years until he retired.

In the late 1950s, he began doing tinwork again to supplement the family income. He started by duplicating museum pieces, then developed his own patterns. After his retirement, he did tinwork full time. He adapted sheet-metal tools for use with tin. He trained his wife in this work, and she also became proficient at the art of colcha (coverlet) embroidery, which has been used in northern New Mexico for more than 100 years to adorn churches and altar pieces. This led to her idea of placing her colchas in ornamented tin frames.

The Romeros specialized in traditional Spanish Colonial objects, such as candleholders and sconces, gilded mirror frames and the little nichos for carved wooden saints. They also created many useful pieces, including light fixtures, switch plates and telephone-book holders. Many of the works of tin or tin and colcha that the Romeros created over the years are in the permanent collections of museums in the United States and abroad. Through their lives and work, the Romeros influenced many craftspeople, and several of their seven children have become traditional New Mexico artesanos, working with metal or other materials.

Bibliography
Alba, Victoria. "The Romeros Transform Tin into Gold." New Mexican, Pasatiempo (October 23, 1987).
Hazen-Hammond, Suzanne. "Art from Poor Man's Silver." New Mexico Magazine (December 1984).
Lyon, Laura Hinton. "The Tinsmiths." Santa Fe Reporter (summer 1979).
Spanish Market: The Official Publication of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society for the 1988 Spanish Market.
“Romeros Carry on Settlers’ Legacy." Albuquerque Journal (November 1990).

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Masters of Traditional Arts kiosk video, narration by Bob Ray Sanders, produced by Documentary Arts