The custom of processions in Santa Fe began in 1598 when Don Juan de Oñate and the founding families settled the region for the Spanish Crown. They were already familiar with the processions of both Europe and Mexico. It was an inherited tradition that began with St. James, the patron saint of Spain. When St. Peter became the first pope, it was the duty of St. James to spread the teachings of Christianity. He was martyred for his efforts by King Herod. Each year on October 12, Spain honors his legacy with an elaborate procession.
The Only Religion
During the first 200 years, when Santa Fe was under Spanish and Mexican rule, Catholicism was the only religion practiced. In fact, the Mexican constitution of October 4, 1824, stated, “The religion of the Mexican nation is and will permanently be the Roman Catholic, Apostolic religion.” Through the mid-20th century many Catholic processions took place in and around the Santa Fe Plaza. Today there are fewer of these public showings of devotion, but the procession to La Conquistadora, this nation’s oldest Madonna, continues to be held each year in June.