Lala Chavez is this year’s San Miguel Fiesta Queen.
Jessica Carranza Pino | El Defensor Chieftain

Lazara “Lala” Chavez will be crowned as 2023 Queen at the San Miguel Church Fiesta this weekend in Socorro.

Around town, people affectionately call her Mother Theresa and Sister Lala. Chavez views the nicknames as a sign of respect for the work she has done with the seniors in the community.

“It’s a blessing,” said Chavez. “We are all gifted with a special gift.”

Born in Luis Lopez, she married and moved to Socorro. When she ended up a single mom with young children she took solace in her relationship with God, her Catholic faith and her church community. As her children grew older, she was able to spend more time volunteering at the San Miguel Church, helping wherever it was needed.

Most of her life she has dedicated herself to helping the elderly. In her career she started as a caregiver and worked her way up to manager positions. At one point, she had over 150 cases in multiple counties that she was handling. Over the years, she made home visits with people from all over New Mexico.

“With my seniors I don’t care what nationality, what color they are, what language they speak, if they live in a nice house or in a shack, I don’t care,” Chavez said. “I really enjoyed my work, they are walking history books,” Chavez said.

She especially enjoyed hearing their stories about their childhoods and their secrets to longevity. Her commitment included serving on the bereavement committee at San Miguel Church where she has been helping families who have lost a loved one.

“I have been on the grieving end of it, so I understand how crucial it is to have compassionate person,” Chavez said. “You don’t realize how much detail there is when you lose a family member, you don’t realize how much needs to get done, legally and religiously, its’ a big process.”

“I put myself in God’s hands and ask for the appropriate words to comfort these families, I ask God, please give me the words I need to talk to this family,” Chavez said.

When she received the phone call announcing she was elected Queen, Chavez was surprised at the church’s decision to elect her, as it is usually reserved for a couple.

“When she asked me if I would accept it, well, I thought about it for about two minutes and said sure!” she laughed.

“Like my grandma used to say, Dios que te le pague, it doesn’t sound as good in English,” Chavez said “but God pays me 100 times over.”

“We usually try to choose somebody who is active in the church and different organizations, it doesn’t always have to be a couple.” said Sele Padilla. Padilla and his wife, Margaret, are the Fiesta Coordinators for the event.

The coronation of Lala Chavez will be at 6 p.m. after the 5 p.m. Coronation Mass. After the crowning of the Queen, La Marcha will begin followed by live music.

The church fiestas have been happening for so many years, the Padillas said they estimate that this year will be the 410th annual San Miguel fiesta. This year they will include La Marcha, New Mexico’s official state dance, which is an Hispanic traditional parade of a bride and groom. The fiestas take place in the Pavillion of the San Miguel church. They will feature the youth choir, BINGO, live music, auctions, games, food, and mass services over Saturday and Sunday.

The Padillas said that the fiestas are fundraisers to pay property insurance for all the churches in the area. The cost has risen drastically over the last several years, The San Miguel church alone pays $44,000 dollars. For more information, please call San Miguel Church at 575-835-2891.

San Miguel Church Fiesta Schedule

Saturday Sept. 30

Noon- Food, booths, games, silent auction, white elephant open.

12:30 p.m.  to 1:30 p.m. Ricardo Berry, singer/songwriter

1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. San Miguel Youth Choir

2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Matthew & Madison Lopez, violinists

2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mesa Blue, NM variety

4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  booths and entertainment pause for Mass

5 p.m. Fiesta Mass in the San Miguel Church

6:15 p.m. La Marcha, led by Lorraine & Ruben Archuleta

6:30 p.m. Bingo and booths open

6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m TJ Sanchez & Zia Soul

8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The Murillos

9:00 p.m 2nd Prize Raffle Drawing

Sunday, Oct. 1

10 a.m. Fiesta Mass

11:30 a.m. BBQ, booths and entertainment begin

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Trio de Amigos de Nuevo Mexico, mariachis

12:30 p.m. Bingo

1:30 p.m to 2 p.m. Rising Stars, local dance group

2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tyler Lam, local singer

3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Richard Murillo, DJ

4:30 p.m. 1st prize raffle drawing