A Travelling Tradition

The annual novena to La Conquistadora begins with her procession to Rosario Chapel. My cousin, Bill Garcia, took this photo yesterday after the novena. Santa Fe’s revered Madonna left the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on June 26th. Following the the weeklong novena La Conquistadora will return to the cathedral this week. The Spanish Madonna arrived in Santa Fe in 1625, she is the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States.

Fiesta de Santa Fe

The Fiesta began with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After years of oppression under Spanish rule, the surrounding Pueblos successfully drove the Spanish colonists out of New Mexico. The mastermind of the revolt was Po’pay. A medicine man from Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan) Pueblo, he served the Tewa people. For the next twelve years the colonists lived in El Paso del Norte, which is now a part of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.

Santa Fe’s Only Procession

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. The procession to La Conquistadora is a mainstay for the faithful. The custom of processions in Santa Fe began in 1598 when Don Juan de Oñate arrived. He brought the founding families who settled the region for the Spanish Crown. The settlers practiced the tradition of the processions of both Europe and Mexico. It was an inherited tradition that began with St. James, the patron saint of Spain.

Oldest Celebration

Santa Fe’s revered Madonna arrived in 1625 carried in the arms of Fray de Alonso de Benevides from Mexico City. From that moment on La Conquistadora has represented Santa Fe’s Spanish faith and legacy. The honoring of La Conqistadora, is central to the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, our nation’s oldest-continuous community celebration. In 1973 to the shock of the community, La Conquistadora was stolen as a result of a teenage-prank but quickly recovered.

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