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Fray Angélico Chávez

Poet, Priest, and Artist

Ellen McCracken

Publication Year: 2012

New Mexico's first Franciscan priest, Fray Angélico Cheavez (1910-1996) is known as a prolific historian, a literary and artistic figure, and an intellectual who played a vital role in Santa Fe's community of writers. The original essays collected here explore his wide-ranging cultural production: fiction, poetry, architectural restoration, journalism, genealogy, translation, and painting and drawing. Several essays discuss his approach to history, his archival research, and the way in which he re-centers ethnic identity in the prevalent Anglo-American master historical narrative. Others examine how he used fiction to bring history alive and combined visual and verbal elements to enhance his narratives. Two essays explore Chávez's profession as a friar. The collection ends with recollections by Thomas E. Chávez, historian and Fray Angélico's nephew.

Readers familiar with Chávez's work as well as those learning about it for the first time will find much that surprises and informs in these essays.

Part of the Pasó por Aquí Series on the Nuevomexicano Literary Heritage

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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Note From the Series Editor

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pp. vii-viii

It is indeed fitting that this collection of essays on the lifelong work of Fray Angélico Chávez be included in the Pasó Por Aquí Series, a series dedicated to the recovery of the Nuevomexicano literary tradition and to honoring exceptional Nuevomexicanos...

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pp. ix-xi

I wish to thank the nine other contributors to this volume for their timely response to my request for essays on Fray Angélico Chávez, their innovative and meticulous research, and their enthusiasm for the work of this great New Mexico humanist...

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Introduction: A Rose for Fray Angelico Chavez: Homage to New Mexico's Foremost Twentieth-Century Humanist

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pp. 1-7

In his beautiful and enduring story ‘‘A Rose for Emily,’’ William Faulkner exquisitely crafted words, sentences, and images as the petals of a rose that would offer tribute to a lost stalwart of the Southern antebellum aristocracy. In their own version of this gesture...

Part 1: Historical Recovery

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pp. 9-44

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1: Fray Angelico Chavez: The Making of a Maverick Historian

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pp. 11-23

Of his many contributions to diverse fields of human endeavor, Fray Angélico Chávez probably will be remembered longest for his achievements in the writing of regional history. Like his other creative pursuits, this one bore the stamp of his highly individualistic...

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2: Fray Angelico Chavez, Religiousity, and New Mexican Oppositional Historical Narrative

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pp. 25-36

Since the 1960s the master historical narrative of the United States has been significantly challenged. This history proposes an America largely based on what can be termed the Anglo-American, Eastern-based ethnic experience. From this perspective, predominantly...

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3: La Conquistadora as History and Fictitious Autobiography

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pp. 37-44

Fray Angélico Chávez’s earliest interest as a writer was poetry. However, in the 1940s he began to publish history and historical fiction. In his documented study ‘‘La Conquistadora Is a Paisana,’’ he wrote, ‘‘Three years ago, led by an irresistible fascination...

Part 2: Culture of the Word and Image

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pp. 45-108

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4: Wonders and Truths: The Short Stories of Fray Angelico Chavez

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pp. 47-52

Scientists think in cause-and-effect sequences; and in history, one of the social sciences, Fray Angélico constructed and managed strings of cause and effect with the best of them. But he was also adept—I would say, even more talented and even more adept...

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5: Iconicity and Narrative in the Work of Fray Angelico Chavez: Toward the Harmonious Imagetext

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pp. 53-90

It should come as no surprise that New Mexico’s foremost man of letters in the twentieth century frequently joins visual and verbal culture in his work. When nineteen-year-old Manuel Chávez began his new life as a Franciscan friar on August 15, 1929, he had already published...

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6: Painting the Word/Wording the Painting: Allegory and Intertextuality in The Virgin of Port Lligat by Fray Angelico Chavez

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pp. 91-100

In recent decades, a resurgent interest in the relationship between poetry and painting has revived the traditional debates on the (non)mimetic nature of art, as well as on the relationship between ‘‘natural signs’’ (of iconic nature) and ‘‘arbitrary...

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7: Recovering the Noble Spanish Soul

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pp. 101-108

Spain, and Spanish culture as Fray Angélico understood it, appear frequently in his writings. Both the country and its customs often generate details in his New Mexican settings, but the passing references are elusive, sometimes seemingly contradictory. Yet Chávez’s fascination with Spain was the starting point...

Part 3: The Life of a Franciscan

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8: Fray Angelico Chavez: The Roots of Franciscan Priesthood

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pp. 111-125

I am not a professional historian or artist, nor a professional writer or literary critic. If I have a profession, it is that I am a professed member of the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans, and an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot speak about...

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9: The Saint Francis of Fray Angelico Chavez

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pp. 127-133

He began to write in earnest of Saint Francis of Assisi as a high-school student at Saint Francis Seminary in Cincinnati. The young Manuel E. Chávez—his given name prior to receiving ‘‘Angélico’’ as his religious name—wrote poems and, later, editorials for the...

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10: Memories of Fray Angelico Chavez

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pp. 135-142

It’s humbling to be asked to speak to this audience of important historians, academics, and family members, and even more difficult with the recent passing of Angélico, although we expected it. He’d been sick for a while, was ready to go, wanted to go...


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pp. 143-145

Bibliography: Books by Fray Angelico Chavez

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pp. 147-149


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pp. 150-156

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826328496
E-ISBN-10: 0826328490
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826320087
Print-ISBN-10: 0826320082

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 33 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Chavez, Angelico, 1910- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Christianity and literature -- New Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Christianity and art -- New Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Christian poetry, American -- History and criticism.
  • New Mexico -- Historiography.
  • New Mexico -- In literature.
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