Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Amalia Sanchez

Amalia Sanchez


Honored November, 1985

Amalia Sanchez

Much of Santa Fe's colorful history is reflected in the life of Amalia Sanchez. Forever known as the first Fiesta Queen, in 1927, the year she was crowned, she was thirty-five years old, married to lawyer Manuel Sanchez, and the mother of two daughters. Dana Johnson, then the editor of the New Mexican, originated the idea of a queen to reign over the Fiesta Parade, then known as Pasatiempo. When she learned she had been chosen, Amalia said, "Oh, you're out of your mind. I have two little children." Johnson replied, "So did Queen Victoria."

Born in 1892, Amalia grew up in the Palace Avenue home now known as Sena Plaza, a member of the seventh generation of her family to occupy that site. The historic residence we know today was built by her grandfather, Major Jose Sena, in 1861. "It was like a placita," she recalls. "My grandmother lived on the east side; we lived on the west. But there were no children to play with. We had to make our own good times."

Amalia has warm memories of childhood summers spent in her grandfather's summer home in Tesuque, where the foundry Shidoni is now located. "They were some of the happiest days of my life," she says. "There was a chapel there but no priest in Tesuque. The trees are still there. Our friends were all from the pueblos."

When the influenza epidemic of 1918 struck, Amalia was teaching elementary school. She organized a soup kitchen so those who were well could cook and bring food to those who were sick. After teaching at Manderfield School for two years, she married Manuel Sanchez at Immaculate Conception in Albuquerque and traveled with her new husband, an engineer, to the Guggenheim mines outside Chihuahua. There she became bored with only her needlework to occupy her and went to work as a teacher's aide in the village school. The activities of Pancho Villa drove the Sanchezes home to Santa Fe, where Manuel studied law and opened his practice in 1924. They built a home on Garcia Street in 1922, where Amalia lived the rest of her life.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes