The churches in Peralta, from the first hacienda chapel to the present church, have always been named in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, who appeared to Mexican peasant Juan Diego at Tepeyac (near Mexico City) in 1531. Our parish currently has two churches -- our primary church in Peralta and a mission church (or chapel) in Valencia. Both the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Peralta and the Sangre de Cristo Church in Valencia are historic. Both churches are now in need of structural renewal. A few historic pictures are shown on a companion page.
Peralta is centered on the site of the original hacienda built in about 1837 by Juan Antonio Otero and his wife Mercedes Chaves, near the site of the present church. The land had originally been part of the land granted to Diego de Padilla in 1718 based on his claim that it had belonged to his ancestor before the Pueblo Revolt.
The first church in Peralta was probably a hacienda chapel at the home of the Otero family. The first official reference to this chapel appears in the first listing of parishes and churches for the newly designated See of Santa Fe in 1851, though the chapel may well have existed years earlier.
Construction of the present church began in 1879. Completion may have been delayed by some of the floods in that era, particularly the disastrous inundation of 1884 that flooded Peralta, Valencia, and Tomé "to the tops of the trees." The church was apparently finished in 1888, but was not officially dedicated until 1892.
Father Ralliere, the parish priest in Tomé from 1858 to 1913, began saying Mass in Peralta on a regular basis in 1872 -- even without a permanent church -- staying with various Peralta families one or two days a month. He noted in 1895 that half the population of his parish lived in Peralta and Valencia, a notation also supported by the 125 wagons and buggies (not counting many on foot) parked outside the church when Mass was celebrated at Peralta.
The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Peralta is distinguished from all the other churches in the state by the beautiful cruciform buttresses, which provide structural support for the main church walls. The walls themselves are adobe with a base thickness of almost four feet. The roof is supported by 33 wooden vigas carried from the Manzano Mountains east of Belen. Atop the vigas was a mat of woven branches covered by a "manta" (a cheesecloth-like material soaked in flour and water and allowed to harden). This, in turn, was covered with a thick layer of soil for insulation. The church was given a new pitched roof of corrugated tin in 1912, but most of the original soil insulation was not removed until the late 1970s.
Since the addition of the current roof in 1912, the church's external configuration has been essentially the same as it is today. The internal configuration, too, has remained essentially unchanged since its original construction, though there have been changes over that time in the altar, railing, paintings, and statues.
The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe nearly became the Mother Church of the Tomé parish in 1909 because of a dispute over the ownership of the Tomé church and cemetery. The dispute was eventually resolved, however, and the Peralta church continued as a mission of the Immaculate Conception parish in Tomé until the present parish was formally established in April of 1971.
The area we now know as Valencia was originally settled by Francisco de Valencia, the son of one of Oñate's soldiers, probably between 1630 and 1640. The family lived there until they were driven out by the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. The area was resettled after the 1692 Reconquest, but the Valencia family never returned.
The first public chapel was built on the present church site in 1800 or 1801. It is said to have been constructed as part of the ending of a bitter feud between two brothers, and was named Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) in commemoration and repentance for the blood each had shed in bitterness and hatred for the other.
Valencia is noted as a mission of Immaculate Conception Parish at Tomé as early as 1821 when that parish was officially created by Bishop Zubiria of Durango, Mexico. During these early years, it was probably a simple, flat-roofed structure, occupying about the same area as the main portion of the church does today.
The chapel was formally deeded to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe by the residents of Valencia in 1893. The two towers, designed by a Peralta storekeeper, were added to the original church in 1902. The early flat roof was apparently replaced by a pitched tin roof in 1912, at the same time similar work was done at our main church.
Despite continual attention, the northeast wall of the chapel collapsed on a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1941. While the Tomé parish priest and a three man commission were considering alternatives for repairs, the remainder of the north wall collapsed under suspicious circumstances. As a result, the structure was completely razed and rebuilt on a concrete foundation, using many of the original materials.
It took more than three years to complete the rebuilding of the chapel, though Mass was being celebrated in the partially rebuilt structure starting in 1942. The renovated structure was rededicated by Archbishop Rudolph Gerken in 1946. The church was assigned to the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe when that parish was formally established in April of 1971.
Information on this page is taken from
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish History Project
Part I -- A History of the Parish and its Local Areas
by John M. Taylor, Peralta, NM, September 1989.