Maria Montoya: The Early Years

Born in either 1881 or 1887 (the exact year remains a mystery), Maria was the second child and eldest daughter of Tomas Montoya and Reyes Pena. Maria was given the Indian name Poveka which translates from Tewa as “Pond Lily.”

Baptismal Record In-filled for Maria Antonia Montoya who was baptized 10 April 1887 Dated 1952 Gift of Anita Da and the estate of Popovi Da 1985.018.002

Baptismal Record
In-filled for Maria Antonia Montoya who was baptized 10 April 1887
Dated 1952
Gift of Anita Da and the estate of Popovi Da
1985.018.002

There have been many questions surrounding the actual year of Maria’s birth. Tribal records do not exist from that period and so church baptismal records become the sole surviving document. In 1957, Maria’s son, Popovi Da, began a process to determine the year of his mother’s birth. Differing sources showed her as having been born in 1881 or 1887. After much research this baptismal record was issued by the church showing her baptism (and presumed birth year) as being 1887.

Little is known of her early years although she was exposed to pottery making at an early age by several of her aunts. In particular, her mother’s sister, Nicolasa Pena Montoya, was a strong influence on and a teacher to Maria. By 1900, Maria was producing pottery for sale.

In 1904, she married Julian Martinez (1884-1943) and thus began a forty-year partnership in the making of pottery. Julian was named “Pocano” which is Tewa for “Coming of the Spirit.”

They would bring together their talents for pottery making, decoration and marketing and would forever change the history of pueblo arts.

Maria and Julian unknown photographer Circa 1930-40 Gift of the Da family 2003.004.031

Maria and Julian
unknown photographer
Circa 1930-40
Gift of the Da family
2003.004.031


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