Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

<<Back to Treasures Index
Elias & Tona Maes

Elias & Tona Maes


Honored August, 1988

Elias & Antonia 'Tona' P. Maes

One of Santa Fe's most beloved couples, Tona and Elias Maes lived a traditional way of life that has just about faded from the streets and the plaza into memory. Raising thirteen children—ten girls and three boys—in a small, century-old adobe house inherited from Elias's grandmother, they lived a life close to their Agua Fria community and their church, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Elias was also a prominent member of La Union Protectiva, a burial society. The couple lent spirit to weddings and fiestas around town. Skilful dancers, they were often called on to lead grand marches at wedding celebrations.

A plasterer by trade, Elias, born in 1904, made his own mortar and worked in the old style of lathe and plaster, tending to many of Santa Fe's historic homes and buildings. He remained in this profession over sixty years. "My first trade was a baker," he recalled, "and then I joined the National Guard and cooked there for eight years. That's my life. I did all kinds of work." In 1968, he retired from the Museum of New Mexico, where he worked as a guard. In wartime he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as a carpenter, plasterer, guard, and cook. "I try to do everything," he told us.

In his youth, Elias was a professional boxer. Later he gained quite a reputation as a musician. For thirty years he played bass drum in a brass band that gave regular concerts on the gazebo that once stood at the center of the plaza. "I like to beat," he explained. He also sang for the Conquistadores, a band that played at Fiesta de Santa Fe, in La Fonda Hotel, and he was proud of the fact that his voice could carry great distances. He would use a megaphone, but never a microphone.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes