La Conquistadora: Fiesta de Santa Fe

Procession of La Conquistadora in front of the Palace of the Governors in 1950.

The Fiesta de Santa Fe began with the re-conquest of the capital city by Diego de Vargas in 1692. This followed the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. That year the Pueblos successfully drove the Spanish colonists out of New Mexico for 12 years. They fled to El Paso del Norte, which today is El Paso, Texas. By 1712 Don Juan Paez Hurtado, who had served as de Vargas’ lieutenant governor, drafted a resolution. The re-conquest and the memory of de Vargas,  who died that year, became the basis of the annual fiesta.

Fiesta de Santa Fe 1712

Diego de De Vargas and La Conquistadora are honored at the opening event called La Misa de Pregon. The religious ceremony takes place at six o’clock on the Friday morning of fiesta at Rosario Chapel. The Fiesta de Santa Fe continued as a religious festival through 1846. It honored La Conquistadora during the Spanish and Mexican rule in Santa Fe.

La Conquistadora and Fray Angelico Chavez in 1953.

Fray Angelico Chavez, the historian, author and Franciscan priest, wrote a book on the history of La Conquistadora in 1956. Brought to Santa Fe in 1625, La Conquistadora is the oldest Marian icon in the United States. Chavez is a member of one of Santa Fe’s founding families. He’s the pre-imminent Hispanic historian of New Mexico. The Catholic priest was also an artist and the author of several books including, Origins of New Mexico Families, New Mexico’s bible for genealogists researching their Spanish roots. The Fray Angelico Chavez Library at the Palace of the Governors is named for him.

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