© Ramón José López

López has always had a strong sense of his role as a link in the chain of tradition. Carrying on the work of his grandfather, santero Lorenzo López, he and the Cofradia de San Isidro rebuilt the family chapel on Cerro Gordo Road and helped to revive the San Ysidro procession that the elder López had initiated in the 1930s. He and his wife Nance have spent many hours with their four children, Lilly, León, Bo and Miller, as well as with Santa Fe school students, teaching them different art forms and impressing upon them the importance of cultural and artistic traditions. This year, in recognition of both his creativity as an artist and his role as a teacher, López received the nation's highest tribute to a traditional artist--a National Heritage Fellowship.

Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded National Heritage Fellowships as a tribute to those who have devoted their lives to practicing and teaching the traditional arts of their communities. Each artist is judged on the authenticity, excellence, and significance of his or her work, within a given tradition. Common to all the National Heritage Fellows is the passionate way in which they embrace their tradition. They share a deep pride with past generations of artists who have transmitted their valuable skills and knowledge to succeeding generations. To receive a National Heritage Fellowship is to receive national recognition of one's life work as a continuation and enhancement of the nation's artistic patrimony.

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