Moquino is almost, but not quite, a ghost town.
My first visit to Moquino was in 2008 and from that trip there is only one surviving image which I published in a previous post about a nearby small town called Cubero. A few years later I shot an album cover for a local musician at the churches in Moquino so that was probably 2010 and I hadn't been back since, until a couple weeks ago.
It took Johnpaul and I two trips to find the churches in Moquino, mostly because I couldn't remember the name of the town and I thought they were in Cubero (they're not).
Moquino, New Mexico is almost, but not quite, a ghost town. According to census data from 2010, Moquino has 37 residents and all of them live within easy viewing distance of the churches. They are very protective of these churches so don't go there looking for trouble or you'll find it.
Santa Rosalia Church
The church out front is Santa Rosalia Catholic Church. Despite it's popularity with photographers like myself, actual information about this church is rather hard to come by. What I know for sure is: the doors are locked, the windows are curtained (no way to see inside) and occasionally a mass is held there. Sufficed to say, this church is old, like, really old.
Penitinte Morada in Moquino, New Mexico
Can I just say that I feel extraordinarily lucky to have shown up on a day when there was not only snow on the ground but also water in the reservoir? This is not the way the scene normally looks and I am so fortunate to have captured this rare moment in time.
Clearing up a misconception
I had always thought that the two churches in Moquino were like old and older versions of the same church, this is not the case.
As I said at the beginning of this post, everyone in Moquino lives within viewing distance of the churches. Should you choose to visit this place, be advised that many pairs of eyes are immediately aware of your arrival and shortly thereafter begins the drawing of straws to see whose turn it will be to go out and see what you're doing.
As a photographer, you are not technically doing anything wrong to walk around and photograph the churches. There are no fences or No Trespassing signs and, so long as you're not vandalizing anything, it's all good. That being said, the townspeople are protective of their historic churches and you are an outsider.
When the scout shows up, and they will, greet them with a smile, be courteous and respectful. The residents of Moquino are friendly and have a wealth of information about the local history. It's well worth your time to have a conversation with them and allow them to share with you what they know.
As expected, about ten minutes after our arrival, an old Honda Civic turned down Cemetery Road and drove out to where we were by the 2nd church. The man's name was Bill and our conservation with him was enlightening to say the least.
Bill explained to us that the two churches are not in any way affiliated with each other. The church out front is an actual Catholic Church but the church in back is a Penitente Morada. So far as I can tell, Penitente Moradas do not have names other than the name of the location.
Bill talked to us about the troubled relationship between the Penitente and the Catholic Church and told us that he was one of just a few practicing Penitente left in the area.
What happened next was completely unexpected. Bill took us on a tour of the inside of the Morada! Unfortunately, the one condition of the tour was that no photos were to be taken and I certainly wasn't going to argue with him.
The Penitente Morada in Moquino, New Mexico was originally constructed in the 1700's. It has undergone some renovation since then but is essentially still the original building. Inside the sanctuary of this historic adobe is a beautiful mud floor with no pews or chairs. Saints from Spain watch from the alter and other dark effigies, some concealed by veils, look down from the walls. To enter this building is to walk back in time 300 years.
Just like the snow on the ground and the water in the pond, this chance encounter with Bill was an unexpected gift from our trip to Moquino!
All photos shot with a Canon EOS 50D and Lensbaby 2.0, sometimes with an additional accessory wide angle attachment, edited in Adobe Photoshop using actions from The Luxe Lens.
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I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.