Angélico Chávez

Infobox Writer
name = Angélico Chávez

imagesize =
caption =
pseudonym =
birthname = Manuel Ezequiel Chávez
birthdate = April 10 1910
birthplace = Wagon Mound, New Mexico
deathdate = March 18, 1996
deathplace = Santa Fe, New Mexico
occupation = priest, writer, painter, historian
nationality = USA
period =
genre =
subject = New Mexico history
movement =
notableworks = "The Virgin of Port Lligat" "My Penitente Land"
spouse =
partner =
children =
relatives =
influences =
influenced =
awards =

website =

Reverend Fr. Fray Angélico Chávez (April 10 1910 – March 18, 1996) was an American Franciscan priest, historian, author, poet, and painter.

Early life

Born the first of ten children to Fabián Chávez and María Nicolasa Roybal de Chávez in Wagon Mound, New Mexico, Chávez was baptized with the name Manuel Ezequiel. In 1912, his family moved to San Diego, California, where his father worked for the Panama-California Exposition. The missions he was exposed to in California inspired him to follow in the footsteps of Junípero Serra and the other missionaries to the Native Americans.


Returning to New Mexico, he attended public schools in Mora staffed by members of the teaching order Sisters of Loretto. In 1924, at the age of 14, Chávez was admitted to St. Francis Seminary in Mount Healthy, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.

While at the seminary, Chávez endeavored to improve his English (his second language) through a study of the classic literature of the language. He began writing fiction, essays, and other works at this time, several of which were published in the "Brown and White", the student magazine he later edited.

As a member of the first class to inhabit the seminary's new dormitory, he was allowed to paint murals of Saint Francis and Saint Anthony on its walls.

On August 15, 1929 he officially became a novice and received the order's habit. Due to his promise as a visual artist, was given the religious name Frater Angélico after the Florentine painter Fra Angelico. He continued his studies at Duns Scotus College in Detroit, graduating in 1933. He studied for four more years before being ordained at Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, the first native New Mexican Franciscan.


He was assigned to the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Peña Blanca and its missions in Jémez Pueblo and Los Cerrillos. At Peña Blanca, he undertook a revitalization of the church building, painting frescoes on its walls. He was his own model for the figure of Pontius Pilate, and also used locals and three of his sisters as figure models. He also ministered to the local Indians of San Felipe Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, and the Pueblo of Cochiti.

During World War II, Chávez attended the chaplaincy school at Harvard University and was placed with the 77th Infantry Division. He was present for the beach landings of Guam and Leyte. He continued his military service during the Korean War as chaplain at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Kaiserslautern, Germany.


Upon his return from the battlefield, Chávez was appointed archivist of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and undertook the cataloguing and translation of its Spanish archives. This work provided new primary sources that allowed for a reevaluation of the history of New Mexico. He wrote the definitive work on the families of New Mexico, as well as many other works of history, some of which is considered revisionist.

For example, his view of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, unorthodox in its minimization of the role of Popé and its emphasis on the mestizo element, was based primarily on previously-unconsidered genealogical data. His biography of Father Antonio José Martínez highlighted the priest's previously-unknown role in the Taos Revolt.

Among the general populace he is most known for the book entitled "La Conquistadora, the Autobiography of an Ancient Statue". This work told the story, a first person narrative, of a statue of the Virgin Mary brought from Spain over 400 years ago, through Mexico to New Mexico. The statue resides in St. Francis Cathedral to this day and is an important part of the religious history of the Spanish people of Northern New Mexico.

He also wrote short stories, novels, and poetry. His poem "The Virgin of Port Lligat", based on Salvador Dalí's "The Madonna of Port Lligat", was selected as one of the best books of 1959 by the Catholic Library Association and was praised by T. S. Eliot as a "very commendable achievement." [Genaro M. Padilla, "Introduction," "The Short Stories of Fray Angelico Chavez," U of New Mexico Press, p. viii.] Since his fictional works center on the history and culture of the Hispano people of New Mexico, he is sometimes regarded as "the father of Hispano literature". [ [ U of New Mexico news article] , accessed 18 Feb 2008. ***It should be noted that the phrase "father of Chicano literature" is more often used for Rudolfo Anaya.]

In 1971 he left the priesthood following a "crisis of faith". He returned to the priesthood and the Franciscan Order prior to his death on March 18, 1996 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the age of 85.

Fray Angélico Chávez was buried in Rosario Cemetery, having earlier refused burial in St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. The Museum of New Mexico at the Palace of the Governors named the new history and photographic library in his honor following his death, and a bronze statue of his likeness is displayed at the entrance.

Honorary degrees

* Master of Arts, University of New Mexico, 1947
* Doctor of Letters, College of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande, Albuquerque, 1963
*Doctor of Law, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, 1973
* Doctor of Humane Letters, University of New Mexico, 1974



* "But time and chance: the story of Padre Martinez of Taos, 1793-1867". Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 1981. ISBN 0913270954
* "La Conquistadora: the autobiography of an ancient statue". Paterson, N.J. : St. Anthony Guild Press, 1954. ISBN 0913270431
* "Coronado’s friars". Washington: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1968.
* "My Penitente land: reflections on Spanish New Mexico". Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974. ISBN 082630334X
*. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1992. ISBN 0890132399


* "New Mexico triptych: being three panels and three accounts". Santa Fe: W. Gannon, 1976.
* "From an altar screen; El retable: tales from New Mexico". Freeport, N.Y., Books for Libraries Press, 1969. ISBN 0836130312
* "The Lady from Toledo". Fresno, California: Academy Guild Press, 1960.


* "Eleven Lady-lyrics, and other poems". Paterson, New Jersey: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1945.
* "Cantares: canticles and poems of youth, 1925-1932". Edited and with an introduction by Nasario García. Houston: Arte Público Press, c2000. ISBN 1558853111
* "Selected poems, with an apologia." Santa Fe: Press of the Territorian, 1969

ee also

*List of Mexican American writers


* Chavez,Fray Angelico, "The Virgin of Port Lligat" The Filmer Brothers Press,copyright 1956
* Chavez, Fray Angelico, "My Penitente Land" Museum of New Mexico, copyright, 1974 ISBN 089013-255-0
*cite book
last = McCracken
first = Ellen (editor)
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Fray Angélico Chávez: poet, priest, and artist
publisher = University of New Mexico Press
year = 2000
location = Albuquerque
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-8263-2007-4

External links

* [ Fray Angélico Chávez History Library] at the Palace of the Governors, New Mexico

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