The saga of the saintly Rosas Santo Domingo is one of the great folk tales of Latin America. She lived a life of extreme devotion to God, specializing in hard work and self-mortification. Her aversion to the company of men caused her to discourage suitors, and she spent her time caring for children and the sick in her community. She also cultivated a flower garden and sold fine embroidery pieces to support her family and charity works.
Rosa was born Isabel Flores de Oliva in 1586 to a Spanish soldier in the Lima garrison and his Peruvian wife. From her earliest years she displayed extraordinary religious fervor, taking a vow of chastity and mortifying herself with intense physical penances. Her extreme acts of penance and self-torment drew the attention of many, including her father. Her parents wished her to marry, but she refused. She was so devoted to the church that she forbade all contact with men. She moved out of the family home into a small shed on their property and filled her days with prayer, reading and hard work. She ate only bread and water, occasionally adding fresh herbs from her garden or juices made from natural plants. She wore a metal spiked crown hidden with roses. Her self-torment and feigned chastity were so extreme that it was said she was “naked with her soul.”
Custodio Juan de Salas replaced governor Luis de Sierra in 1641, but he soon fell out of favor with Rosas, who reverted to his old ways. The two factions clashed on political and economic issues that split the colony right down the middle. The favored soldier-colonists stood with the governor, and on the other side stood the embattled Franciscans and a growing assortment of apostates who had stripped the friars of their commissions and encomiendas.
During his reign, Rosas consolidated his power in New Mexico by stripping the friars of their commissions and by sacking their villas. He even took on the missionary of Taos and sent the priest to the Holy Office with charges of immorality. The scathing allegations infuriated the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The friars chose two of their number to try to reason with the governor, and he bloodied their heads and locked them up for the day before banishing them from his villa that evening. He also ordered the friars to leave his province by force. The friars were unable to comply, and they fled the colony. The schism was complete. The adobe walls of the cuartel are still standing today, and it is now known as Fort Santa Rosa. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It is now used for events, and tours of the historic site are offered. The fort is open daily from May to September and is free of charge. During the rest of the year it is closed to the public. The site is also home to the annual Santa Rosa Festival of the Arts. Rosas Santo Domingo