As I walk to the plaza each morning for my historical walking tour I pass the statue of a man who did so much for New Mexico. Fray Angelico Chavez was born on April 10, 1910. Fray Angelico chose to follow his spiritual quest of special service to the Franciscan Order at the age of 14. He was the first native born New Mexican to become a Franciscan priest. Early in his career, Fray Angelico discovered that his talents were also of great service in the military as chaplain. Prior to World War II, he was chaplain in Fort Bliss, Texas. He served with the Fighting 200th Division in the Philippines.
New Mexico’s Renaissance Man
Chavez spoke several languages including: Spanish, French, German and Italian. After the war Chavez had the opportunity to study in Rome and at Oxford in England. Instead, the young priest chose to become a missionary at several rural villages throughout New Mexico. Chavez wrote 22 books: five books of poetry, five Belles Lettres, a novel titled, Our Lady of Toledo, nine historical books and two biographies. Origins of New Mexico Families is considered New Mexico’s bible for genealogists.
Angelico Chavez History Library
The Angelico Chavez History Library in Santa Fe has become New Mexico’s oldest library featuring material from the Palace of the Governors. The photo archives at the Chavez library contains more than a million images. Some of the photographs date back to 1850. Images of people, places, towns, forts, missions, cultural and ethnic groups, architecture, activities and everyday life in New Mexico are available. The library also has documents from the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration’s translations of New Mexico’s Spanish Archives are but one of the many treasures to be found at the Angelico Chavez History Library.