Fray Angelico Chavez: New Mexico’s Renaissance Man

Book on New Mexican’s Spanish families.

Fray Angelico Chavez was born in 1910 and died in 1996. A member of one of Santa Fe’s founding families, he is considered the preimminent Hispanic historian of New Mexico. The Catholic priest was also an artist and the author of several books. His book, Origins of New Mexico Families, is indispensable for genealogists researching their Spanish roots.

A Spiritual Quest

Fray Angelico was on a spiritual quest when he decided to join the Franciscan Order at age 14. He was ordained in 1937. Early in his career, Fray Angelico discovered that his talents were also of great service in the military as chaplain. Prior to World War ll Chavez was chaplain in Fort Bliss, Texas. He served with the Fighting 200th Division in the Philippines. The young priest was fluent in several languages, including English, Spanish, French, German and Italian.

Broader Horizons

After the war Chavez pursued his education in Rome at the Vatican. Later he studied at Oxford in England. When he returned to New Mexico he opted to become a missionary at several rural villages throughout New Mexico. He wrote 22 books, including a novel titled, Our Lady of Toledo. The books he wrote flowed from his heart. Today, there is a museum that bears the name of New Mexico’s most prolific Hispanic author and historian. Researching history and archival photos can be done at the Fray Angelico Chavez museum in Santa Fe.

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