I always take Santa Fe visitor’s to see La Conquistadora, this nation’s oldest Madonna. While there fond memories of the late Connie Hernandez come to mind. In her lifetime Hernandez participated in more than 350 religious processions. In addition to the procession for La Conquistadora, she has also participated in the Corpus Christi and the Santa Fe Fiesta Candlelight processions. Hernandez began walking in processions when she was five years old. As a little girl she would throw rose petals in front of La Conquistadora as she proceeded down the street.
History of the Procession
The custom of processions began in the Southwest in 1598, when Juan de Oñate brought founding families from Spain with their European traditions. A procession is a religious retinue, solemnly moving from one location to another in spiritual contemplation. Like the return of the swallows to Capistrano each year, many faithful Santa Feans eagerly await the annual procession of La Conquistadora. Every year on the Sunday following Corpus Christi members of La Cofradia de la Conquistadora and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe parishioners carry America’s oldest Madonna from St. Francis Basilica Cathedral to Rosario Chapel. It is believed that La Conquistadora was brought to Santa Fe from Seville, Spain in 1625 by Padre Fray Alonso Benavides.
A Family Tradition
Connie Hernandez had strong ties to the procession venerating La Conquistadora. Her ancestor Amadeo Sena served as the mayordomo (caretaker) for La Conquistaodra 250 years ago. Throughout the years Hernandez kept active in the upkeep of caring for La Conquistadora. She became the Sacristana (caretaker) and later the Secretary and Treasurer working with La Cofradia de la Conquistadora. The upkeep of La Conquistadora has become a tradition for the Hernandez family. Her mother, Miquelita, became an orphan at nine years of age. Later she became the Sacristana and dressmaker to La Conquistadora. She made her a processional cape of light blue brocade lined with blue satin. People gave her their precious filigree and gold jewelry which was sewn on the cape.