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The story of America's Oldest Devotion to the Virgin Mary
By Fray Angélico Chávez

The story of a statue called "La Conquistadora" used in Catholic religious celebrations in Santa Fe, New Mexico. New foreword by Marc Simmons.


As the Spaniards were preparing to reconquer Santa Fe from the Pueblo Indians in 1692, Captain-General Don Diego de Vargas solemnly vowed to build a special chapel for his own favorite statue of Our Lady of the Rosary should he gain a quick victory, and also to hold a yearly procession in her honor. The image was carried into battle and the Spaniards gained an effective conquista, and thereafter this particular image came to be known as "La Conquistadora." Other legends and practices grew around these bare essentials of the story. Many people have tried, in all sincerity, to evaluate the historic aspects of the tradition and to draw the best plausible conclusions therefrom, but Fray Angélico Chávez seemed best suited to detail the origins and development of America’s oldest devotion to the Virgin Mary in a scholarly yet devout manner.

Fray Angélico Chávez, in the decades following his ordination as a Franciscan priest in 1937, performed the difficult duties of an isolated backcountry pastor. His assignments included Hispanic villages and Indian pueblos. As an army chaplain in World War II, he accompanied troops in bloody landings on Pacific islands, claiming afterwards that because of his small stature, Japanese bullets always missed him. In time, despite heavy clerical duties, Fray Angélico managed to become an author of note, as well as something of an artist and muralist. Upon all of his endeavors, one finds, understandably, the imprint of his religious perspective. During nearly seventy years of writing, he published almost two dozen books. Among them were novels, essays, poetry, biographies, and histories, some of which are published by Sunstone Press.

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