Benavides Memorial, The Lady in Blue - Javier Sierra

Benavides's Memorial (1630)

An excerpt from the Memorial written by Fray Alonso de Benavides for Philip IV and published by the Royal Printing House in 1630, in which an account is given of his interrogation of the Lady in Blue. It is the first historical document that recognizes the surprising involvement of an "attractive young woman" in the evangelization of New Mexico.

Miraculous conversion of the Xumana Nation

Leaving, then, all this western part, and going forth from the town of Santa Fe, the center of New Mexico, which is in 37 degrees north latitude, traversing the Apache nation of the Vaqueros for more than a hundred and twelve leagues to the east, one comes to hit upon the Xumana nation; which since its conversion was so miraculous, it is just to tell how it was. Years back, when a religious named Fray Juan de Salas was traveling, occupied in the conversion of the Tompiras and Salineros indians –where are the greatest salines in the world, which on that side border upon these Xumanas-, there was a war between them. And when the Father Fray Juan de Salas went back for the poor were good people; and so they became fond of the Father, and begged him that he would go to live among them. And as he was likewise occupied with the Christminister, and not having enough Religious, I kept putting off the Xumanas, who were asking for him, until God should send more laborers. As He sent them in the past year of 1629; inspiring Your Majesty to order the Viceroy of New Spain that he send us thirty Religious. Whom the Father Fray Esteban de Perea, who was their Custodian, brought. And so we immediately dispatched the said Father Salas, with another, his companion, who is the Father Fray Diego López; whom the selfname Indians went with as guides.


Benavide's memorial (1630)

And before they went, we asked the Indians to tell us the reason why they were with so much concern petitioning us for baptism, and for Religious to go to indoctrinate them. They replied that a woman like that on whom we had there painted –which was a picture of the Mother Luisa de Carrión- used to preach to each one of them in their own tongue, telling them that they should come to summon the Fathers to instruct and baptize them, and that they should not to be slothful about it. And that the woman who preached to them was dressed precisely like her who was painted there; but that the face was not like that one, but that she was young and beautiful. And always whenever Indians came newly from those nations, looking upon the picture and comparing it among themselves, they said that the clothing was the same but the face was not, because the face of the woman who preached to them was that of a young and beautiful girl.

Sierra makes it all entertaining, intermixing history, churchly intrigue, folklore, spycraft, musicology and conspiracy journalism.
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