Catholics in New Mexico are fighting to save their iconic adobe churches, humble buildings their ancestors built with bare hands and where, decades or centuries later, the people still gather to worship.

It’s a daunting task.

The churches are living tribute to a faith that endured despite the people living on the edge of empire, often without priests to lead prayers or a place to hold services. Instead, laymen and women came together to build the churches, using the humblest of materials — dirt, water and straw. They decorated them with love, carving statues in wood and painting images of the saints with colors made from nature. They preserved their pieces with a varnish fashioned from pine sap. The spaces remain beautiful in their simplicity, all these years later.

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