Santa Fe photographer Joan Alessi provides a polychromatic exposition of New Mexico's traditional roadside memorials, descansos, as an art form. Her stunning photography captures the artistic attributes of these decorative crosses while preserving their religious and cultural integrity. Sylvia Grider's accompanying essay explains the origin and folkloric tradition of roadside memorials. These religious markers are not in themselves unique to the southwestern United States. Rather, they are a universal phenomenon with a long and curious history. The term descanso (literally translated as ""resting place""), however, may have indeed originated among the Spanish-speaking vecinos of New Mexico.
Joan Alessi has completed photographic projects for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Crafts, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sylvia Ann Grider, emeritus professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University, was asked to be Director of the Bonfire Memorabilia Project after the fatal collapse of the student-built Aggie Bonfire in 1999. That work led to her current research on roadside crosses.