The medal was presented by Consul General of Spain in Houston, Enric Panés, during an April 4 ceremony at the consul general’s residence.
“It was quite an honor and very special coming from the consul general and having the ceremony at his home,” Chávez said. “My whole life I’ve been writing about Spain.”
The Order of Isabel la Católica was created in 1815 to highlight the outstanding achievements of people whose works and actions have contributed to cultivating a closer relationship between the people of Spain and the world.
Chávez has published 10 history books, two of them translated and published in Spain. Among his books are “Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift” and “Manuel Alvarez, 1794-1856: A Southwestern Biography.”
He is working on a project to collect and publish all correspondences and other documents related to Benjamin Franklin that are in the archives of Spain. The first product of that work is his latest book, “Doctor Franklin & Spain: The Unknown History.”
As an associate research professor for the Latin American Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico, Chávez has taught courses on the history of New Mexico and the Southwest, and has led students and adults, including Native American artists, on tours of Spain.
Born in Las Vegas, N.M., Chávez earned his doctorate in Southwest history from UNM.
He is not the first person in his family to receive the Spanish Order of Isabel the Catholic.
“My uncle, a Franciscan priest, Fray Angelico Chávez, received the same award in mid-1980s,” he said. “He published 25 books on poetry, and fiction and nonfiction works about New Mexico history, Spanish Colonial history and the heritage of Hispanic New Mexico.”
A love of history clearly runs in the family. Chávez is married to Celia López-Chávez, who recently retired as a teacher of Latin American history at UNM. She has written books on the history of New Mexico and the history of Argentina.
Their daughter, Nicolasa Chávez, is curator of Spanish Colonial collections at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.
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