Santa Fe’s First Form of Life Insurance

Members of Union Protectiva in Santa Fe in the 1940s.

A deluge of settlers descended from the east when New Mexico became a U.S. territory in 1850. By the end of the century the culture of the small towns and villages began to change. Old time residents felt that there was a need to preserve their Spanish cultural traditions. One important tradition involved caring for the dead. During this era groups of men in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado founded into tightly linked networks. They promoted culture and helped people suffering from illness, financial hardship and the death of a family member.

When in Need

These societies aided the bereaved with resources. They provided finanacial support for people to bury their loved ones with honor. They proveded the ancestral tradition of praying the rosary while singing alabados in Spanish. In 1916 Marcelino Apodaca founded La Union Protectiva De Santa Fe in Santa Fe. Today, LUPDSF continues with the women’s branch of the organization, La Union Protectiva Feminina. These groups regularly conduct fundraisers and annual meetings to raise money toward a member’s funeral and to pray the rosary at the time of death.

The Business of Death

Once New Mexico became a U.S territory funeral homes began to sprout up. These companies offered the science of embalming as a way of preserving a loved one for a final visit with the family. The tradition of carrying for the dead at home fell out of fashion with these new businesses taking over all aspects of the funeral process. Advertisements in Spanish promoting Undertaker Services began to appear in daily newspapers. By the mid-twentieth century the funeral industry was well established. Through aggressive marketing tactics the idea of caring for the dead became an unseemly task best left to professionals.

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