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Thursday, July 10th, 2014

New Book on the Hermit of La Cueva

Giovanni Maria de Agostini, Wonder Of The Century — The Astonishing World Traveler Who Was A Hermit

Giovanni Maria de Agostini Book
This book is about a remarkable man, Giovanni Maria de Agostini, born in Italy in 1801, who combined two seemingly contradictory aspirations: a fervent desire to devote his whole life to “perfect solitude” and an astonishing urge to travel incessantly.

As his decisions and actions emerge from the lightless silence – the time-covered past – a unifying purpose becomes evident.

Following extensive travel in Europe, Agostini takes vows revocable only by formal dispensation from the Pope. He immediately leaves forever his “beloved Italy” for South America. Twenty-one years he spends traversing that, at the time, greatly unexplored continent, visiting Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile – and so doing multiple times. During this spectacular solo Odyssey, he survives a trip down the Amazon River by canoe, crosses the Alps by foot several times, walks vast distances, and endures living alone in scalding deserts and subzero mountains. In spite of oppressive and infuriating obstacles, including death threats, unjust arrest, deportation, jail, and forced confinement in a mental asylum, Agostini persists undeterred in the solemn goal he set for himself when he left Europe.

Seeking change and another continent, Agostini leaves South America for Mexico, passing through Panama and Guatemala, and then Mexico for North America, passing through Cuba. In Cuba, he is hailed as an extraordinary adventurer, his photograph is taken, and he is proclaimed “The Wonder of Our Century.” After arrival in New York, he walks to Canada, where he spends almost a year, then “goes west,” eventually reaching, in the midst of the American Civil War, the Territory of New Mexico, where he meets his merciless fate.

Agostini is remembered in many places — in South America as Monge João Maria, in North America as Ermitaño Don Juan Agostini; however his life story is encrusted with myth and false fact. As the veritable events of his life are unveiled, a man of fascinating originality, prodigious endurance, intelligence, self-discipline, and self-sufficiency, infused with an indomitable spirit of adventure, emerges.

Today in Argentina, as many as 15,000 people participate in a yearly festival initiated by Agostini at Cerro Monje, “Monk’s Hill.” In Brazil, at Cerro Campestre, “Campestre Hill,” and Santo Cerro do Botucaraí, “Holy Hill of Botucaraí,” over 10,000 people celebrate annual events founded by Agostini. In Lapa, Brazil, a national park protects the pilgrimage route to Gruta do Monge, “Monk’s Grotto.” At Araçoiaba Hill, near Sorocaba, Brazil, the Trilha da Pedra Santa, “Trail of the Holy Rock,” is climbed annually by thousands of people desiring to pay respect to the memory of the Monge do Ipanema, the “Monk of Ipanema.”

These are just a few examples of Agostini’s cultural legacy, 145 years after his death.

“David G. Thomas has finally pulled back the veil of obscurity that long shrouded one of the most enduring mysteries in New Mexico’s long history to reveal the true story of the Hermit, Giovanni Maria de Agostini. Tracking Agostini from Italy throughout South and North America to his final resting place in Mesilla, Thomas has once again proven himself a master history detective. Of particular interest is the information about the Hermit’s life in Brazil, which closely parallels his remarkable experience in New Mexico, and required extensive research in Portuguese sources. Thomas’s efforts make it possible to understand this deeply religious man.” — Rick Hendricks, New Mexico State Historian

20 maps and 65 photos, including 2 rare photos of Agostini, one taken in 1857 and one taken in 1861.

Table of Contents here.
E-Book here

See also:
La Cueva – Hermit’s Cave

Filed in: Dripping Springs, Hiking, History, Las Cruces, Organ Mountains, Parks | Comments Off on New Book on the Hermit of La Cueva

 

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

La Cueva – Hermit’s Cave

La Cueva (“the cave”) is the name of a rock formation in the foothills of the Organ Mountains in the Dripping Springs Natural Area. You can see it here:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs Las Cruces
At the center of the photo, where you see the two trees, is the cave that gives the formation its name. You can see the entrance here:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs Las Cruces
Once you enter the cave, you see:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs - Hermit's Ca ve
The cave has been used as a shelter by humans for at least 5,000 years. You can easily see the blackened ceiling caused by innumerable fires:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs - Hermit's Cave
Also inside the cave a Parks Service plaque giving information on the most famous occupant of the cave, the Hermit de Agostini. Like almost all the information published about the Hermit, this plaque is full of incorrect facts.
La Cueva - Dripping Springs - Hermit's Cave
His birth name was Giovanni Maria de Agostini and he was born in 1801 at Sizzano, Piedmont, Italy (not Lombardy as other sources say). After he began his travels and on his passport, he called himself Juan Maria d’Augustine. Physically, he was short, had brown eyes and a long face.

He come from a fairly well-off family and received a formal education, learning Latin, French, and studying theology.

In his early-twenties he began his life as a wanderer, visiting religious sites in Italy, France, and Spain. In 1838 he took the rule of Saint Anthony the Abbot – a decision to lead a Monastic life of poverty and the most austere practices of virtue. Shortly thereafter, he departed Europe for the New World, arriving by boat at Caracas, Venezuela. He was 38 years old.

In South and Central America he traveled in Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico.

In 1861 he left Mexico for Cuba, then New York City. He walked from New York City to Montreal, Canada. From Canada he went to St. Louis, Missouri, then Westport, Missouri, then Council Grove, Kansas. Except when he took boats, he always traveled by foot.

The story on the Parks Service plaque is more or less correct about how he got to Mesilla, after spending several years in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The reason for his murder is unclear. The motive was clearly not robbery because his large silver cross, silver rosary, and several other items of silver jewelry were not taken. A local priest was indicted for his murder but never tried.

Related posts:

New Book on the Hermit of La Cueva


Hiking Dripping Springs – Part 3

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Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Organ Mountains Fire

A fire, apparently arson, started today about 5:30 on the Las Cruces side of the Organ Mountains. The origin was evidently just south of Dripping Springs.

By late evening about 400 acres had been burned. Several homes were evacuated. The old sanatorium ruins at Dripping Springs are evidently not at risk.

June 17 — The fire is basically out. Fire fighters from as far away as Lincon and Silver City helped fight it.

 

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Peter Wolf Toth

Las Cruces has one of Peter Wolf Toth’s Whispering Giants, as noted .

Since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the , this is a good time to review his book on his sculptures and life, .

Indian Giver was published in 1980. It begins with his childhood in Hungary. He was born in 1947, the seventh child in a family that eventually numbered 11 kids.

Conditions under the communists were brutally harsh, and got even worse when what little property his father had was taken and given to a party member. They were left with a dirt-floored house in which the only furniture was a table and 13 chairs.

When the people of Hungary revolted against the Russians, it appeared at first they had succeeded. The Russians even agreed to negotiate — but it was a ruse. They returned with a huge force, mercilessly crushing all opposition. Mass arrests and executions followed.

Two of Toth’s brothers escaped to the West, and Toth’s parents decided they would follow. For a short period of time the Yugoslavian border was open because the United States was paying Yugoslavia a bounty for every Hungarian that was permitted to leave Hungary.

After a dangerous escape and two years in refugee camps in Europe, Toth and his family came to the United States as sponsored immigrants.

Following his account of his life, Toth describes how he carved his first sculpture in a rock cliff, motivated by a compelling image he saw in the stone. That was 1972.

After carving a second sculpture in wood, he decided he would carve one for each state in the country, taking nothing for his work.

The difficulties and rewards of the first 27 “Whispering Giants” are described, and pictured. These sculptures are not “works” created in a studio — they are his life, requiring months of travel searching for the appropriate tree and location, and months of carving.

In releasing the image he sees in each unique piece of wood, he satisfies something deep in himself. But he also makes it clear the work itself is a physical pleasure — the outdoors, the textures, the fragrances — even scrubbing pitch out of his hair.

This is a wonderful, exuberant book. It is no longer in print, so see if you can find a used copy.

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Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

The Whispering Giant

Apodaca Park at Solano and Madrid in Las Cruces has one of the 67 remarkable sculptures in “The Trail of the Whispering Giants.”

These monumental sculptures are the life work of Peter Wolf Toth.

Mr. Toth was born in Hungary and escaped to the United States during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

In 1972 at the age of 24, with no prior sculpting experience, he carved an American Indian sculpture at Wind and Sea Beach in La Jolla, California. Shortly thereafter, he decided to dedicate however long it took to create 50 such sculptures, one for each state.

He didn’t stop at 50 and has now created 67, one or more in each state and the rest in other countries, including Canada.

The sculptures honor Native Peoples and are called as a group The Trail of the Whispering Giants.

Each sculpture is a gift to its location. He accepts nothing for them. He supports himself with other work while doing the carving.

The sculpture given to New Mexico is called “Dineh” and was finished and mounted in the park in 1986.

“Dineh” is a native word for “human beings.”

Another view:

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