The Spanish Soldier Who Lost His Head for Love – Santa Fe, New Mexico

“You know that tingly little feeling you get when you like someone? That is your common sense leaving your body.”

This was Bunty’s first time out of Kansas, but she seemed unimpressed!

In the 1600s, when Spain controlled modern-day New Mexico, a soldier in the Spanish Army found himself in that land far away from home. Specifically, he was in the newly established town of La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”) Being low in rank, he was not allowed to bring his family (if he had had one). Yet, the high-ranking officers were allowed to, being quartered in the finer homes around the city.

One of these officers in particular brought his family with him to the city where our unnamed soldier was stationed. Somewhere during his stay in the city, our soldier spotted the officer’s daughter. Upon first gazing upon this maiden, the soldier was immediately enamored, and knew she would be his wife.

Fearing that the woman might fall for another man, the soldier sought the help of three known witches in the area. We can surmise that he went late at night, lurking in the shadows lest anyone should see him during the devilish deed. What came from this wicked meeting was a love potion that would make the woman instantly fall in love with him.

The story does not tell how the potion was administered, but what we do know is that it did not work. In fact, despite the soldier’s best efforts, the daughter married someone else. Enraged not only that she married another man, but also that the love potion (which most likely cost a pretty penny) was useless, he stormed back to the witches’ home.

Upon entering the dwelling, he drew his sword, threatening the witches; but as he unsheathed it, one of the witches flew across the room, knocking him down and sending the sword clanking to the floor. As the soldier clamored to retrieve it, a witch grabbed it and with one fell swoop, lopped of his head, ending his romantic escapades.

Inside the oldest house in the United States where the headless soldier’s ghost is said to roam.

This is the legend as it was told to us at the De Vargas Street House of Santa Fe, which is said to be the oldest house in the United States. Undoubtedly there are variations to it, but it makes you wonder how much is true and how those lives were affected so many years ago.

As for the city itself: Santa Fe is a beautiful and vibrant city nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We learned that it is the oldest capitol city in the United States, having been founded by the Spanish in 1610. It would eventually come into American hands during the Mexican-American War in the middle of the 19th century. Of course, Native American tribes lived here long before Spain’s arrival, which only adds to the history and heritage of this place.

With winding, narrow streets in the Eastside neighborhood, to the layout of the plaza with its arcades and shops, the city reminded us a lot of Spain. Being listed as a “Creative City” by UNESCO for its crafts and folk art, there is so much culture in this city. With its many museums, art galleries, and restaurants, there was a ton that we were unable to see – which only means we will be back!

From a Civil War battle (The Battle of Glorieta Pass) to what might be the oldest church in the United States (San Miguel Mission), Santa Fe is a city oozing with stories to be told, and we were happy to hear some of its tales during our much-too-short visit.

The Cross of the Martyrs overlooking Santa Fe, memorializing the 21 Franciscan Friars killed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

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