Friday, April 7, 2017

San Viche Was Not A Saint, The Dangers Of Literal Translations

Reminds me of an article in the old La Herencia Magazine , a few years back they had a column there dealing with "Spanglish" and translated the old Spanish New Mexican saying "tu no saves que tantos trabajos he pasado" to "you don't know how many works I have passed". While literally I find nothing to disagree with the translation, it is way off the mark and way too funny.

My grand mother, who could speak no English, used to use the term "san viche" as an "epithet" or derogatory term, but in reality I think that was the extent of her knowledge of the real English (S.O.B.) term or what it really meant. But she was well aware that it was not a term designating a nice person or a saint.

There were so many ways to misunderstand and some of them were funny, there was always someone we knew who said something stupid because they could not "translate" and the process of learning English was difficult. I personally remember asking to "borrow the restroom" and some guy telling me that "sure you can borrow it, just make sure to bring it back." He thought it was funny and it took me months to figure it out why he did so.

Another friend of mine translated "esta caindo agua" to "it is falling water" when it was raining.

I remember a friend, Manuel Lucero, getting stopped in Pueblo, Colorado by the police and being asked for his drivers licence. He told the officer to "forget it" meaning that he had forgotten it. He was asked several times and he told them to "forget it" several times. It got him a trip to the station for some concocted offence. And in the early 1960's you did not want to get stopped by the police in Pueblo if you were a Mexican.

There were many and sometimes it caused me to remain quiet when I had something to say but was afraid I did not know how to say it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Family Lore, Oral Family History And Genealogy

It is almost worthless for genealogical purposes. There is too much embellishment by individuals who want to aggrandize one individual or another. The lure of wanting to be in the same group as one hero or another is too great to take oral histories into account as true history. It does have a way of working itself into it, but it decreases the value of the history. The truth is sometimes, no, not sometimes, almost always hard to live with.

Mediocre or nondescript lives do not make good for family histories. It is easy to add to, to embellish. It is almost too easy as other relatives chime also wishing to be in the glow of a heroic ancestor. it is equally easy to ignore faults, regardless of their magnitude.

It reminds me of obituaries.... They are interesting reading but not very accurate historical narratives of those being memorialized. They all went to heaven, all were taken by their lord, are now in the arms of other relatives and tip toeing through the proverbial tulips in heaven with their deity whom they served in a wonderful manner while on earth.

Here is previous post on this:

You hardly ever hear anyone speaking bad of a departed relative... The Latin phrase "De mortuis nihil nisi bonum", it is best not to speak ill of the dead, seems to apply at these events. It seems no one wants to hear anything bad once a person dies, no matter what he or she actually was.

A personal story is appropriate here. In my youth, Don Ramon Roybal from Las Colonias, New Mexico was a great speaker, he was always called on to say a few words on behalf of the mourners at funerals. I recall a story that he once blamed the drunken habits of the husband and son for the untimely death of the mother and wife who lay in the coffin. Supposedly he said it in such a way that the true meaning came out only after discussions on the eulogy took place over a period of days.

There was another story in an amusing article from a funeral up in Rio Arriba County where the priest supposedly indicated that there was no way that the deceased was on his way to visit with St. Peter. The priest actually got sued and requested to retract his statement and apologize to the family.

By the same token, there are some extremely beautiful rememberances of some truely great people. The one below brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Worthless New Mexican History!

The "southern" United States culture has always had a tradition of embellishment which goes beyond the ordinary.  They love the art of the "yarn" and never let a few facts get in the way of a good story. This goes to their historical observations and writings.

Early visitors from the United States to New Mexico were almost exclusively from the United States South, especially the "Show Me State" of Missouri. This has had a very detrimental effect on New Mexican history written by the first folks from the United States who wrote about New Mexico and New Mexicans. Documents contemporary to the period are at fault as are documents and narratives written later about someone by other than the persons being depicted in the narrative.

Reference the book "Uncle Dick Wooten" written by Howard L Conrad published originally by W.E. Dibble & CO. of Chicago, IL in 1890. The quotes attributed to Uncle Dick below are from there;

"I have observed in reading our frontier literature, that the tendency has been to exegerate and overdraw everything, and the effect of this has been, to give the Eastern public a wrong idea of the conditions which existed in this country (New Mexico and the early West), and the character of the men who found their way into these savage wilds in search of wealth and adventure."

Uncle Dick, as he was called, was to be later discredited by several other authors for some of the statements he made in the book referenced above.

Another reference to this embellishment comes from the book "When the Texans Came, Missing Records from The Civil War in the Southwest 1861 - 1862" written by John P. Wilson and published  in 2001 by the University of New Mexico press. Here it quotes from:

The Civil War history published as "War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies" is also known as Official Records or OR. 

Lt. Colonel Robert Scott who supervised the historical project until his death in 1887 commented that "The experience of this office has demonstrated the utter unreliability of recollections of the war."

What are we to think of the historical narratives written about New Mexico and New Mexicans by some of the first folks who arrived here from the Unites States that were so unkind with their assessments of New Mexicans or what was happening in New Mexico in the period in question?

The prejudice and outright racist views that most of the early  visitors to New Mexico from the United States held is well known and well documented. This does not change the fact that this is where most folks get their information and where most folks establish their "first impressions".

That my friends is the problem......

The history books that have been written post 1970's are different and closer to the truth. I am talking here of legitimate history books, not the cowboy history some folks are still cranking out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Curious New Mexican Habits in the pre American period.

New Mexicans had religious habits in the pre American period that were completely alien to Americans who arrived here early on. Not only were the Americans protestant but they had an innate hatred of Catholics, their priests and their religion. The best New Mexican historian of the period, Fray Angelico Chavez, alludes to this in one of this books , But Time and Chance, The Story of Padre Martinez of Taos, 1793 - 1867 published by Sunstone Press in 1981.

That being said, it is understandable that the historians made so many mistakes in their efforts to document the history of New Mexicans. I see these mistakes continually as I read even books written in the current period.

Some of the habits were unique and some were common to Hispanics, some common to Mexicans and some common only to New Mexicans. There was, or is, no real reason to expect or have expected protestants who were new to the area and who came with all of their hatred of New Mexicans and their ways to know these nuances that our ancestors had.

Only now, as documents are translated by New Mexican scholars can the real history be written. The book mentioned above written by Angelico Chavez is a perfect case in point. The picture that emerges of Padre Martinez is totally different than even modern "historians" like Paul Horgan painted. In reality and from a historical point New Mexicans writing their own history expose the inadequate efforts of previous persons.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Gabriel Chavez and Gabriel Chavez, What is up in the Chavez Household?

While looking at some genealogical information on an individual(s) we were having problems with, we had to dig deeper than normal to ascertain some facts that at first were confusing. 

The person we were having problems with was Gabriel Chavez the son of Jesus Chavez and his wife Ramona Garduno. At first glance we were confused because we could find children of Gabriel Chavez with what appeared to be two separate women. That in itself is not that unusual but things did not match up with Gabriel, his wives and children. 

Specifically, the marriage dates we found with the birth dates of the children of Gabriel Chavez and either of the women he was listed as having been married to. One was Cecilia Madrid whom Gabriel married May 17, 1874 in Anton Chico, New Mexico, the other was Porfiria Lucero whom Gabriel married on September 3, 1877 at Las Colonias, New Mexico.

At first look it appeared that the first wife, Cecilia Madrid, had died and Gabriel remarried to Porfiria Lucero and continued having children with Porfiria Lucero. But looking forward there appears a birth entry for December 25, 1890 for an Ignacia Chavez, the legitimate daughter of Gabriel Chavez and Cecilia Madrid. Now Christmas presents being what they are, a daughter with a former wife while the current wife is still alive does not fit into a proper Roman Catholic household of the period we were looking at. 

Looking still more we found an entry for the woman whom we thought had passed away, Cecilia Madrid, marrying an individual by the name of Elizario Crespin on October 29, 1896 in Anton Chico, New Mexico. This entry does not indicate that she was  a widow, it is a simple entry listing the groom his parents and her name as well as her parents. But divorce and remarriage by the Catholic Church was not an option open to believers, So we had to believe that Gabriel Chavez had passed away sometime before.

So what was the situation with Cecilia Madrid, it could not have been a divorce as the church does not remarry divorced individuals. And she was remarrying and Gabriel was already married to Porfiria Lucero. Could Gabriel be seeing his ex, now remarried, and continuing to have children with her?

The solution came when we started scouring the U.S. Federal Census.

The screen grab below is from the 1870 U.S. Federal Census for "Las Colonias de San Jose in San Miguel County, New Mexico. It lists the household of Jesus Chavez and his wife Ramona Garduno de Chavez. You will need to click on the image to make it larger.
Click on the image to make it larger

Mr. Jesus Chavez and Mrs. Ramona Garduno de Chavez had at least five (5) different children and for whatever reason the second child was named Gabriel and the fourth Jesus Gabriel. Again, this giving the same name to different children was not really unusual in New Mexican history  It was used frequently when the first child passed away. The next child born might be named in the honor of the recently deceased child.

But this was not the case here, both children survived well into adulthood and both married and both had children. The problem came when they were both listed simply as Gabriel Chavez in the church records. it would be my guess that in the village one was known as Gabriel and the other as Jesus.

The church records made a mystery where none really existed. But to the individual following the individuals a over a century later the situation required looking around to figure it out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Mexican Patriots or Horse Thieves and Murderers in August of 1847

This post is about the drumhead court martial incident that came to be known as The Las Vegas Affair or the Battle of Las Vegas, which  was a battle associated with the Taos Revolt and fought in July of 1847 in and around Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was initiated by American troops against New Mexican insurgents at the town of Las Vegas during the Mexican-American War.

Some information can be found at the web links below:


and at this one below. At this last location scroll down to page 60 otherwise you have to go through the whole magazine.

Several men were hung as a result, the ones hung in Santa Fe on the 3rd of August of 1847 are listed below. Note: The three (3) Martín brothers executed were my relatives.

Jose Tomas Duran also known as Tomas Duran Y Chavez who was married to Maria Donicia Blea. Tomas was the son of Juan Jose Duran and Juana Francisca Montoya and left one small child as well as one on the way that his wife would give birth to on the 8th of November of 1847.

Note that Maria Donicia Blea and the three Martín brothers noted below were first cousins, all four grandchildren of Juan de Jesus Blea and Maria Matiana (Mariana) Moya.

George Rodriguez, I have not bumped into any information on George.

Manuel Saens, some information on Manuel, but nothing that I can substantiate at this time.

Pedro Esquipula Martín was baptized on the  16th of  December 1817 in San Miguel del Bado, New Mexico by his padrinos Jose Maria Romero and Antonia Corina de los Angles. His parents were Santiago Martín and Paula Blea. Pedro married Maria Getrudis Trujillo on 02 October 1842. Her parents were Juan Antonio Trujillo and Rafaela Ocana.

Pedro Esquipula Martín left a very young widow. He himself was just shy of his 29th birth date when he was tried, found guilty and executed by the Americans.

Jose Policarpio (Carpio) Martín was born and baptized on the same day, 26 November 1818 in San Miguel del Bado, New Mexico. His padrinos were Jose Rafael Baca and Maria Guadalupe Gallego. His parents are identified as Santiago Martín and Paula Blea.

Carpio, as he was known, was either single as I have found no marriage record nor other records that would indicate that he was married. He was just shy of his 28th birth date on the fatefull day of his hanging.

Jose Dionicio Martín was baptized on 11 April of 1845, his padrinos were Jose Duran and a woman named Gertrudes, last name unknown. His parents are identified as Santiago Martín and Paula Blea, He was not married that I know of and was just past his 22nd birth date when he was executed along with his two brothers and Tomas Duran who was married to his first cousin.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Old New Mexico And Our Ancestors, Caught In A Time Warp

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Baca. Andres Dorantes de Carranza, Alonzo del Castillo and Esteban de Dorantes started the journey through time in New Mexico in the late 1530's. They were the futuristic Spanish explorers in the vanguard of the new world exploration.

They were soon followed by Fray Marcos de Niza and once again Esteban de Dorantes in 1539. In 1540 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado followed de Niza north into New Mexico and beyond.

Vasquez de Coronado came to New Mexico and points north, east and west into what is now the American states of Texas, Kansas, and Arizona. A whirlwind of activity, exploration, battles and disappointment until he left in 1542.

A few other Spaniards and Spanish expeditions in the following years penetrated into New Mexico for various reasons. But the settlement and the end of the futuristic expeditions was initiated by don Juan de Onate in 1598. New Mexico was entering the time warp without even knowing it. 
In the he Onate era and the following 212 years, through 1810 or so, New Mexico and New Mexicans slipped further and further back in time to the point that they adapted to and adopted much of the Pueblo Indian way of life. Abandoned by Spain in the northern most province of the Spanish Empire. 

In the 1810 to 1846 era the future started arriving in the form of traders and fur trappers trappers first from France then from the new nation of the United States. It was slow at first and exploded into the open with the expulsion of Spain from the New World and especially New Spain which included New Mexico.

In the late 1820's the Mexican Republic was born and its northern most province, New Mexico, opened its borders to the future in the form of traders and trappers from the United States. The future came rushing in.  By ones and twos at first and soon whole trains of Americans. It was not good or bad, but it was the future and the rush was on.

Then 248 years after the entrance into the time warp by don Juan de Onate came August of 1846 and the future in the form of the American Army of the West was here. General  Stephen Watts Kearny took possession of New Mexico in the name of the United States.
The rest, as they say, is history. The struggle of the Onate Colonists and their descendants to adapt, this time to the future. Mind you, there are a few more details and individuals in the interim. But for all intents and purposes, this is it.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

¿Quiten se las como puedan?

¿Quiten se las como puedan? The true meaning lies somewhere between "tough, you figure it out" or "that is the way it is". It means you are alone to figure out your problem. There is no help to be had. It was an old New Mexican saying from antiquity.

People are looking for meaning in their lives, looking for assistance from someone, anyone. Or so it seems. They look to religion, they look to government, they look to religious or governmental institutions to alleviate their search for meaning in their lives. They look anywhere and everywhere and seem to find other like minded individuals to form some kind of a group. Looking for fellowship or some other synonym.

Being alone or having idea(s) that only you seem to have is uncomfortable for most. So we look for others who seem to share our joyous or miserable condition(s).

The quest will never end......

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Adios Fidel

Friday, October 7, 2016

Buying into New Mexican History

You want to buy into New Mexican history, marry a New Mexican or someone with New Mexican roots. That is all it takes. New Mexicans are intricately tied to the history of the area by the blood relationships that developed with living in near isolation from 1598 to 1846. That is 248 years folks, by comparison New Mexico and what was then new Mexico has only been part of the United States since the occupation by the Americans in 1846, that is only 168 years. A small population isolated for that long a period of time become tied together in all sort of ways.

Every hero and every crook of the pre American period is related to us. Related by blood, a bit distant maybe, but all related. Even the "old" Anglos, the trappers, early soldiers and traders as they all married into the New Mexican families. We all know who they are. Their names are salted through New Mexico like pepper on an egg white.
Some folks may not want to be a part our history, some may want to deny it. But in all reality it is there, like it or not. And, this is a big AND.... It is interesting.