In the late 1960s, after many years spent living and working with Latin American communities in Central and South America, Charles Wood Collier and Nina Perera Collier established the International Institute of Iberian Colonial Art on their private estate, Los Luceros, in Alcalde, New Mexico. In the decades before they founded their institute, the Colliers traveled extensively throughout the Americas when Nina Collier worked for Nelson Rockefeller in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Relations. During World War II, both Colliers served on an American diplomatic mission to Bolivia, relocating in 1942 to La Paz, where they remained until 1944, when they came back to the U.S.
The Colliers lived in Maryland during the rest of the 1940s and ’50s, pursuing a number of scientific, educational, and artistic endeavors that included crossbreeding cattle to improve herds in Caribbean nations. They continued their journeys, traveling in Mexico and the Andean nations and collecting and restoring the examples of Iberian colonial paintings and sculptures that would form the backbone of the Los Luceros collection. Religious themes of course predominate in colonial painting, and inside the Latin American churches and missions the Colliers visited, such precious iconographic works were falling into disrepair from long-term neglect, prompting the couple to preserve this important legacy.