A Century of Remorse in Santa Fe

Doña Maria Sanchez at the cemetery.

When the New Mexico headquarters for the Public Employees Retirement Association opened in 1967 rumors began to circulate. Both office workers and the nightly cleaning crew reported seeing a Spanish woman dressed in attire from a different era wearing a mantilla that disappeared through the walls. Those ghost sightings seemed plausible given the fact that the building was located on the land of the old cemetery near the San Miguel mission. But who was the Spanish woman that roamed the PERA building?

A Bereaved Mother

Most likely it was the ghost of Doña Maria Gertrudis Peña de Sanchez, who arrived in Santa Fe in 1867, one hundred years to the date of the opening of the PERA building. Legend has it that she had travelled from the family’s ranch in northern New Mexico after learning of the death of her young son who was a student at El Colegio de San Miguel.

A Heartbreaking Outcome

When Doña Maria arrived, she was horrified to learn that the graves of the two boys had not been identified. The bereaved mother would never know the exact location of her son’s grave. Broken-hearted but determined, Doña Maria never returned to the ranch and devoted the rest of her life to the memory of her son. Day after day she prayed to St. Michael, the patron saint of the dying, over the two gravesites, in the hope that her prayers would intercede on behalf of the soul of her son.

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