Santa Fe’s Literary Legacy

Lew Wallace New Mexico Governor 1878 -1881.

Lew Wallace became governor of New Mexico in 1878. He wrote the epic Ben Hur in 1880 while he oversaw business in the state. Ben Hur is considered the most influential Christian book of the 19th century. The movie won several Academy Awards. The Lew Wallace building on Old Santa Fe Trail is named for New Mexico’s governor and famous author.

Historic Fiction

During the early part of the 20th century Willa Cather wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop. She wrote the book while living at La Fonda Hotel in 1927. The book centered around the life of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. During New Mexico’s Territorial Period the bishop encountered opposition from from the Spanish-Mexican clergy. Cather’s book became one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp of Willa Cather.  

Pulitzer Prize

Oliver La Farge won the Pulitzer Prize in 1929 for his book Laughing Boy. A descendant of Benjamin Franklin, he spent many years in Santa Fe where he championed the culture of Native Americans. As an anthropologist, his books depict an accurate representation of Native life.

Museum Named for Author

Fray Angélico Chávez was a Catholic priest, artist and the author of several books. He wrote Origins of New Mexico Families, New Mexico’s guide for genealogists researching their Spanish roots. The Fray Angelico Chavez Library at the Palace of the Governors is named for the author.

Native Author

Joe S. Sando arrived in Santa Fe at the age of 13 to attend the Santa Fe Indian School. Although he didn’t speak a word of English, he could sing all of his Native American songs from Jemez Pueblo in Spanish. Sando was the first Native American in New Mexico to document the culture of the Pueblo Indians through his many books that have become invaluable documentation for historians.

Mystery Writer

The Southwest’s most renowned mystery writer, Tony Hillerman, began his career as an editor at the Santa Fe New Mexican. His award-winning detective novels introduced the world to the region’s Native American culture, which he so eloquently described in his books. His daughter,  Anne Hillerman, has followed in her father’s footsteps and is also a mystery writer.

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