New Mexico NOTABLE LATINOS
Benavides, Alonso de (c. 1570-c. 1636). Benavides was the founder of the Franciscan mission to New Mexico and, by extension, the founder of the Catholic Church in New Mexico. There had been a few peripatetic friars in New Mexico prior to the arrival of
Benavides, but he was the first permanent leader of the Franciscan mission. He acted as the Inquisition’s representative (comisario) in New Mexico, brought the image of La Virgen Conquistadora to Santa Fe, and wrote the earliest chronicle of missionary activity in New Mexico.
Benavides was born in the Azores in the late sixteenth century (the date is uncertain, though probably in the 1570s), and he was in the Americas as early as 1600, serving as the alguacil (bailiff) of the Inquisition in Hispaniola (today’s Haiti and Dominican Republic). In 1603 he professed his vows as a Franciscan friar in the main Franciscan monastery in Mexico City. In 1623 he was both appointed by his order as the custodian of the mission in New Mexico and commissioned by the Mexican Inquisition as its representative in New Mexico, with authority to investigate and punish heresy, superstition, witchcraft, and blasphemy. Friar Benavides arrived in Santa Fe on January 24, 1626, amid great pomp, being received by the governor, his retainers, and a formal procession in the villa.
During his tenure as custodian of Santa Fe, Benavides oversaw the expansion of the Franciscan mission, the building of new churches and monastic houses, and the preaching of Catholicism as far as the present-day southwest of New Mexico, in the Apaches’ Gila region. In 1629 Benavides left New Mexico and returned to Mexico City with a supply caravan. There, the viceroy and his fellow Franciscans decided that Benavides should go to Spain to provide an account of the missionary efforts in New Mexico. Benavides arrived in Spain in August 1630, and despite his often stated desire to return to New Mexico, he would never achieve that goal. He wrote a chronicle of the New Mexico mission and of the various customs, cultures, languages, Native Americans, and conversion efforts of the Franciscans.
Benavides lived the rest of his life a few more years in Madrid, where he petitioned the Crown for support for the New Mexico mission and for more favorable treatment of the Native Americans, who, he said, were abused by the civil authorities. Benavides advocated the suspension of tribute payments by the Native Americans until after the entirety of New Mexico’s Native American groups were converted to Catholicism. He also requested that New Mexico be elevated to a diocese with a resident bishop a cause which would go unfulfilled until after New Mexico had passed from Spanish to Mexican to U.S. control. Though the date is uncertain, it seems he died in 1636.
Trujillo, Dona Luisa de (1600s). Dona Luisa was an important landowner whose ranch lay on the site where Albuquerque was founded. She personified the Hispanic custom which allowed women to own property. She was married to Francisco de Trujillo, who died sometime in the 1670s, leaving her the family home and ranch. Known thus as the Hacienda de Dona Luisa de Trujillo, the ranch was the site on which the town of Albuquerque would be founded in 1706. We know relatively little about her, except that she was married to one of the early settlers of the Middle Valley in the mid-seventeenth century, when the area was an amalgamation of ranches and Spanish settlements. The property was opposite to that of Alonso Garcia de Noriega, who had been the alcalde (local magistrate) and lieutenant governor of New Mexico. Thus the Trujillos, though not as wealthy, were clearly in good company.
Dona Luisa became the sole owner of the property after her husband’s death. She thus fell within a long tradition of Spanish custom and law that allowed women to own and retain property, administer a household without a male present, and act as mistress of her own domestic realm. The stereotype of submissive and meek Hispanic women has always been at odds with the historical realities, in which women, though still subservient to men, were given a good deal of autonomy in Spanish American economic life. Dona Luisa was no exception to this rule. In fact, in frontier regions where women were more likely to act as heads of household, she fit clearly within acceptable social patterns for female property holding and social status. Dona Luisa was owner of both a house and a hacienda. The honorific dona placed before her name may have been a later addition, or she may have come from the untitled nobility (hidalguia).
Martinez, Padre Antonio Jose (1793-1867). Born in 1793 in Abiquiu, Padre Martinez was one of the most important and influential clerics of his day. Born in New Mexico’s Spanish era, ordained a priest in the Mexican era, excommunicated during the U.S. era, and viciously caricatured by Willa Cather in her novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, Martinez was a complex man who fought unceasingly for his love of New Mexico and its Church. Padre Martinez was born to a wealthy Taos merchant and landowner and later went to Durango (Mexico) to receive training to become a priest. He was ordained in 1822, just after the independence of Mexico, and made parish priest of Taos in 1826. He spent the next decades embroiling himself in several controversies and promoting religious instruction and publication.
The Franciscans had long been virtually the only priests in New Mexico, but as noted above, many parishes were forcibly secularized and placed in the hands of the diocesan clergy. The same occurred in Taos, so Martinez’s charge placed him in the difficult situation of being a parish priest associated not with the friars but with the diocese. He established a printing press and a parish school (the Seminario Menor de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) to prepare young boys to become priests in the diocesan capital in Durango. Padre Martinez also established New Mexico’s first newspaper, El Crepusculo de la Libertad (The Twilight of Liberty).
In 1853 Santa Fe was made a separate diocese from Durango, and for the first time in its history New Mexico was not under the jurisdiction of a bishop from the south (Durango). But this moment would also be a tremendous irony, for the first bishop of Santa Fe was Jean-Baptiste Lamy, a Frenchman. Lamy distrusted Nuevomexicanos, who spent their lives bound up socially and personally with their parishioners. Lamy found various Nuevomexicano customs such as the fandangos and the penitente brotherhood to be scandalous. Padre Martinez would then joust with Bishop Lamy on several occasions over the tithe, the appointment of non-Nuevomexicanos as parish priests, and the penitente tradition. Lamy eventually excommunicated Padre Martinez, who remained a dedicated supporter of Nuevomexicano culture and society to the end. It is rumored that Martinez’s last words Everything is in the hands of God; may his holy will be doneâ were said after one of his former students administered the last rites on his deathbed on July 27, 1867. Another of his students, Pedro Sanchez, would remember him in 1903 with the following words: His life was precious, his deeds beneficial,
passing on in all his worldly matters a public spirit so pronounced that it influenced all his actions for the benefit of others.â12
Chacon, Eusebio. (1869-1948). Born Eusebio Penasco, he was raised partly in southern Colorado and educated at the Jesuit school in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and at Notre Dame University, from which he received a law degree. A talented orator and lawyer, Chacon quickly rose to prominence also as a journalist, amateur historian, and novelist. He lived through a period of complex changes and political-cultural showdowns. On the one hand, Hispanos had a longstanding tradition as citizens, politicians, landowners, and members of the New Mexico community; on the other, after the Mexican-American War, despite their status as the ethnic and cultural minority, Anglos increasingly came to prominence in New Mexico, which was largely due to the racism and paternalism that characterized the Anglo-American politics of the day. Chacon was able to maneuver between the Anglo and Hispano worlds, and he was never afraid to call attention to the issue of ethnic double standards. But these double standards cut both ways, as many Hispanos distrusted Anglos and were determined to keep them out of New Mexico’s upper political and social echelon.
Besides defending Hispano cultural traditions in the public arena, Chacon was an active writer interested in establishing a truly Nuevomexicano literary tradition. His novel El hijo de la tempestad (The Son of the Storm) published in 1892 was an effort at what he called literatura recreativa, or the writing down of oral stories passed down from generation to generation. Chacon also wrote articles on New Mexico history in Las Dos Republicas, reflecting his longtime interest in the state’s past. In addition to these activities, Chacon was an English professor in Durango (Mexico) and an interpreter for New Mexico’s court of land claims. He holds a place in the development of Nuevomexicano literature and the formation of a self-reflective Hispano identity.
Chavez, Fray Angelico (1910-1996). Chavez was the first New Mexico-born Franciscan friar, an important writer, an influential historian, and a tireless champion of Nuevomex-icano cultural heritage. Born in 1910 in Wagon Mound, his given name was Manuel Ezequiel. He took the name Angelico in deference to the Renaissance Florentine artist of the same name. Fray Angelico would have a long career as a poet, historian, artist, and priest. His legacy was one of unceasing interest in Nuevomexicano history and culture. In recent years many have seen his work as instrumental in providing an alternative narrative of U.S. southwestern history that had long privileged the Anglo past and ignored the Hispanic contributions to U.S. culture, literature, and letters.
Chavez enrolled in the Saint Francis Seminary near Cincinnati when he was 14, was admitted to the Franciscan order as a novice in 1929, and graduated from Duns Scotus College in 1933. He was ordained in Santa Fe in 1937, becoming the first New Mexico-born Franciscan priest. Fray Angelico spent the next decades as an active parish priest, researcher of New Mexico’s history, and champion of New Mexico’s culture. He painted murals and saints’ images in several New Mexico churches, such as the Crucifixion triptych and various murals of Franciscans in Pena Blanca, his first parish assignment. He also restored and painted murals in the Chapel of Santa Dorotea. Notable in these efforts was his reverence for the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Franciscans.
It is his literary and historical work, however, that cemented his legacy. He conducted considerable research in New Mexico’s archives, investigating the Spanish ancestry of Nuevomexicanos, which resulted in the 1954 publication of Origins of New Mexico Families. But it was Nuestra Senora del Rosario, La Conquistadora, his 1948 work, that really demonstrated his skill as a historian and his dedication in unearthing the hidden truths of New Mexico’s past. Chavez also produced a notable work of historical fiction and reflection, My Penitente Land, which is a paean for New Mexico culture.
A man of quick wit, deep cultural curiosity, and firm devotion to the notion that Nuevomexicanos had created a culture every bit as worthy as that of the rest of the United States, Chavez would produce a wide body of artistic, historical, and literary work aimed at preserving that culture.
Benavides, Lupe (unknown). Lupe Benavides is the matriarch of the Benavides family of La Mesa and Las Cruces, and she runs the restaurant Chope’s. Named after her late husband, Jose Chopeâ Benavides, the restaurant is famed throughout the Mesilla Valley and in El Paso, Texas, as one of the best examples of Nuevomexicana cuisine and of southern New Mexican cuisine in particular, with its heavy emphasis on Hatch green chiles. Residents of Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley make frequent trips through the pecan groves to sample the food and enjoy the warm atmosphere of this truly family-run establishment.
The restaurant began in 1915, when Chope’s mother, Longina Benavides, began selling enchiladas to the largely migrant farmer population of the valley. After her death the restaurant and building was inherited by Chope and Lupe, who continued the family tradition. The daughters of Chope and Lupe all attended and graduated from the New Mexico State University. In many ways the story of the Benavides family is the story not of longstanding Hispano families who draw their cultural roots and genealogies to the seventeenth-century Spanish colonization of New Mexico but to a newer generation of Mexican American Nuevomexicanos, in an area of southern New Mexico that has one of the most prominent Mexican, as opposed to old Spanish Hispano, presences.
Madrid, Patricia (1947-). Patricia Madrid was attorney general for the state of New Mexico from 1999 to 2007. In November 2006 she ran for U.S. Congress through New Mexico’s First Congressional District, which includes much of Albuquerque as a Democrat and was narrowly defeated by the Republican incumbent, Heather Wilson, by less than 0.5 percent of the vote: 105,921 to 105,046.
Born in 1947 in Las Cruces, Madrid received a BA and a JD (law degree) from the University of New Mexico. She was admitted to the state bar and quickly entered politics. She ran her first campaign in 1978 and was the first woman elected as district court judge in New Mexico a post she held until 1984. In 1998 she was elected attorney general of New Mexico the first woman to hold the post. She was reelected in 2002. Though she lost her most recent political campaign, there can be no doubt that Madrid is a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, in broad historical terms her achievements go a long way toward demonstrating the changing nature of politics, society, and the role of women in New Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. As the highest-ranking elected Latina in New Mexico, she became symbolic of the growing opportunities for Latinas in realms
previously closed to them namely the law, politics, and governance. It would not be a surprise to see her make a run for the governorship in the near future.
Romero Cash, Marie (1942-). Romero Cash is a renowned artist and historian, daughter of Emilio and Senaida Romero, themselves noted tinsmiths whose work was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowships. Romero Cash herself was also honored by the National Endowment for the Arts. Long affiliated with the Spanish Market, an annual art exhibition in Santa Fe, she is the recipient of its Master’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. The Spanish Market has been central in the preservation of traditional Nuevomexicano art forms such as santos, bultos, and gesso.
Romero Cash’s work falls squarely within the santero tradition of northern New Mexico the sculpting and fashioning of saints’ images both in her physical art as well as in her literary production. Among her noted art projects are the Stations of the Cross for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Santa Fe. In addition to her plastic arts, Romero Cash is an accomplished historian and chronicler of Nuevomexicano artistic traditions. She has published widely on the history and physical traditions of santeros and religious art in New Mexico. Among her books are Built of Earth and Song: Churches of Northern New Mexico (1993), Living Shrines: Home Altars of New Mexico (1998), and Santos: Enduring Images of Northern New Mexican Village Churches (1999). Recently she has published a family memoir, Tortilla Chronicles (2006), which tells the story of growing up in the Romero family in Santa Fe. Romero Cash is a living example of the centuries-old santero tradition placed in a new, modern context.
Roybal, Antonio (1976-). Born in Santa Fe in 1976, artist Antonio Roybal, was raised in Southern California. He later returned to New Mexico, where he developed an early interest in art and painting. He studied fine arts at the Colorado Institute of Art, and he was apprenticed with Jean-Claude Gaugy. He lived and worked with Ernst Fuchs, the Austrian artist and founder of linear expressionism. Roybal is an artist straddling three worlds: the art and representations of very old Hispano traditions of northern New Mexico, the modern expressionism of artists such as Max Beckman and Remedios Varo, and the mannerism of El Greco.
Roybal is an excellent example of the emerging creative force of twenty-first century New Mexico. Dynamic and open to multiple influences, Roybal is conscious of and draws on the rich traditions of Chimayo, santeros, and bulto representation. Indeed, it seems fitting that an artist such as Roybal, who openly acknowledges the influence of modernism, comes from a venerable old Nuevomexicano lineage. The Roybals have been in New Mexico since the seventeenth century, and they are connected to the Angelico Chavez family by marriage. Roybal is thus an expression of the new fusion of multiple, international currents in art that have expressed themselves in his work, which is both surreal and visionary, and which he himself sees essentially as an expression of the ineffable and ultimately unknowable mystery of God. A young artist, Roybal is in many ways symbolic of how Nuevomexicano tradition and creativity can blend with innovation in technique and style to produce a harmonious balance that preserves the rich and vital religious iconography of Nuevomexicano Catholicism.
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