Our Lady of Sorrows statue stands in the northeastern section of Plaza Park, in Las Vegas. Photograph by Kate Nelson.
IN RETROSPECT, CITY FATHERS SHOULDN’T HAVE planted elms in Plaza Park, the historic square in Las Vegas, New Mexico. But in 2012, when the trees’ deaths were imminent, an idea for salvation took root. Santero Margarito Mondragon volunteered his labor, chose his favorite trunk, and got to work with chainsaws and chisels. He dedicated himself to creating a 12½-foot-tall Our Lady of Sorrows, patron of the neighborhood’s Catholic church. “I’m a self-taught artist,” says the retired highway worker. “I always wanted to do something big.” One day, he stood back, amazed at what appeared to be an image of a man with a beard on the trunk, but stuck to his plan. He finished in five weeks—“working every day.” Residents soon adopted his creation as an emblem of the city. Some people leave candles at her feet. The church says a rosary at it every Monday. A local historian dubbed it Our Lady of the Park. Mondragon and his wife, Gloria, like to ride their bikes over and pray the Our Father. “People will ask us, ‘Did they bring it and just put it there?’ ” he says. “I have to say, ‘No, it’s a tree.’ ”
Margarito Mondragon’s Our Lady of Sorrows statue stands in the northeastern section of Plaza Park, in Las Vegas, New Mexico.