Sunday, March 29, 2009

Somos Primos y Primas

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I have been doing some research on the family the last few years and have come to the conclusion, as others have before me, that if you are a descendent of one of the Hispano families that was here when the Army of The West annexed New Mexico to the United States, we are cousins. Somos primos o primas.

Maybe not real close and in many cases separated by many generations, but primos none the less. All these heroic Hispanos we read about in the daily newspapers..... they are primos o primas. All of those idiots we see being lined up on the evening news, a good portion are primos or primas. The reason I say all of the heroic and a good portion of the idiots is that not many of the Hispanic immigrants that have migrated into New Mexico in the last 60 or so years have not yet risen to the position where they can be identified as heros. Well, maybe Bill Richardson, we will see. But the idiots need no such time to rise, they seem to come that way. But I am not here to discuss imigrants, but to discuss primos y primas.

Sometimes when you are researching a certain part of the family you bump into one of these heros and sometimes you bump into the idiots. But, as the all knowing "they" say, you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family. Even that saying is different in New Mexico. Now we can choose our friends that are not family, but our ancestors before 1846 could not. All were related to some degree or another.

I do not think that we understand what this does to the phyche of Hispano New Mexicans much less to the non Hispanic New Mexicans. I know what it does to me! It makes me very protective of Hispano New Mexicans, and this includes a lot of folks in Colorado too, because I know they are family. Maybe distant family, but family. 

And like Danny DeVito as the character Vicent Benidict said in the December 1988 movie, Twins, "you mess with one in my family you mess with all of the family."

Nuevo Mejacanos son raza, son familia, son buena jente. Son mi jente.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Territorio de Nuevo Mexico VS Nicolasa Cortes, Ref. Justice of the Peace Romqn Benavidez

The following are notes my grandfather, Roman Benavidez kept when he was a justice of the peace in the late territorial and early statehood period for precinct No. 12, which was in San Miguel County, Rowe, New Mexico. His papers are in the possession of my sister in Albuquerque. She copied the documents from the original and I am using what she transcribed. The translation from Spanish to English is mine.

The following paragraph (in red), and the following paragraph only, comes from the book titled, True Tales of the American Southwest, Pioneer Recollections of Frontier Adventure, written by Howard Bryan. "Any literate American citizen who was at least 21 years of age and who met certain residency requirements, was eligible for election to the judicial post. Each voting district was entitled to elect one justice of the peace, as well as one constable, for 2 year terms and the justices were limited to trying misdemeanor cases, minor criminal offences where the punishment did not exceed two hundred dollars. In felony cases, the justices could hold preliminary hearings, bind defendants over to a higher court, or dismiss the charges for lack of evidence. Justices of the peace were entitled to issue arrest warrants and subpoenas, summon six member juries, set bonds, assess fines, commit persons to jail, perform marriages and draw up a variety legal documents. They received no salaries, their compensation consisting of collecting and pocketing fees and court costs."


En este dia, 2 de Abril A.D. 1909 compareso ls Senora Juana de la Cruz y Martinez por medio de una declaricon jurada acusando en ella a Nicolasa Cortes del crimen de asalto y golpeo por palabras. Una orden de aresto fue puesto en manos del contestable Cristobal Padia asi mismo para los testigos y el oficial retornando presento ala acusada. Ambas partes conbinieron y entraron en un arreglo retirando el otrs (sp) la causa y pagando la acusada los costos de la corte., 

El oficial lo qual pongo me nombre oficial este dia 3 de Abril 1909.
Roman Benavidez
Jues de Paz 
Prto No. 12


On this day, the 2nd of April, A.D. 1909 Mrs. Juana de La Cruz y Martinez appeared before me with a sworn declaration in which she is accusing Nicolasa Cortes of the crime of verbal assult and battery. An arrest order was placed in the hands of the constable Cristobal Padia, the same for the witnesses and the official returned and was presented to the accused. The parties involved agreed and entered in an arrangement retiring the cause and making payment for the court costs by the accused.

Officially I place my name this 3rd day of April, A.D. 1909
Roman Benavidez
Justice of the Peace
Precinct No. 12

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Quarter Moon OJ Branding Iron

Quarter Moon
Forged Handle
Both Pieces Together
The OJ Part By Itself

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These are the branding irons that belonged to my maternal grandfather Roman Benavidez. Roman was born in El Gusano in 1874 to Juan Andres Benavidez and Maria Espirirona Garcia. I do not know at what time he moved to Rowe, New Mexico but he was married to my grandmother Ignacia Archuleta on October 2, 1895. He was probably there by that time as there are no indications that Ignacia lived anywhere other than Santa Fe, Las Ruedas and Rowe, New Mexico.

I do not know how he came upon the brand (1/4 moon OJ). At least that is what I call it. I am making some assumptions here, one is that the quarter moon fit above the OJ part. I do not know for sure but it seems appropriate. He used these till the early 1950's when he quit having either horses or cows. 

There may be some information on the brand in the historical records of the state dealing with brands. I will have to check and see. You never know when you will find something interesting.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Church(s) in New Mexico, Some Thoughts

This is what New Mexican Catholic Churches used to look like prior to the occupation by the United States in 1846. The picket fence was  probably not there. These came later when the Americans arrived. Click on the image to make it larger. Hope you did not think that the churches then looked like the church in Taos looks like today! because they did not, trust me.

Picture of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Canada.

Most towns of any size are over run by churches, especially in low income or
blighted neighborhoods. There are usually the "mainstream churches" like Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches. Then there is the Baptist/Evangelicals Mega Church and then the slew of small even more "Evangelicals". If I draw a circle 50 miles in diameter from where I live there is probably less than 30,000 people. It is a very rural area, there are over 14 communities in the circle. But there are in excess of 90 churches. This is the state of churches in New Mexico today.

Before the invasion of New Mexico by the United States in 1846 there was only the Catholic Church. Everyone was Catholic, even the few folks who came here from the States. Folks like Kit Carson to name one. He converted to the Catholic faith. He converted out of necessity or convenience. He no more believed in the teachings of the Catholic Church than in being a Mexican subject. He did not convert because he liked it, nosiree Bob!

The Catholic Church was very powerful and ingrained in the political, social and religious life of New Mexicans. There was really no need to ask what church you attended, it was all the same. The Catholic Church, there was no other in the land.

Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Hurricane, WV, click on the image to make it larger.

The Presbyterian Church was probably the first church to arrive in New Mexico after the occupation by the Unites States. That plus the ever present Catholic Church, and a very few others, were the norm from 1846 to about 1880 or so. 

After that, the United States had passified the Indians and folks from all over the south, particularly Texas, flooded the state as ranchers and homesteaders. Thousands upon thousands of them. The Eastern border of the state was crawling with these immigrants. 

The Presbyterian church set out to convert Catholic New Mexicans. Their success was somewhat limited because if you converted, what would happen to your family? Would they go with you? What would those that did not convert do? There were many considerations.

But the big consideration was education, a very big selling point. There were no public schools, not a one. Education for all Presbyterian New Mexicans was available.  The Catholic Church still opposed education for all New Mexicans at this point. Any way, education was a big draw that would add a second component to converting...... Money. People with an education made more money and more folks converted when they saw this. 

Some of the teachers that the Presbyterian's had assigned to New Mexico despised the New Mexicans they were teaching. The New Mexico Historical Review has some excellent articles on this.

This church could be anywhere in any town in New Mexico or any other place.

They  are literally all over the landscape today. Anywhere there is an empty building in a blighted neighborhood. Some "pastor" this or that sets up shop and starts collecting souls and money. These seem to appeal to the less educated amongst us, and not just in New Mexico. These are the "holy Rollers" of old.

The interior of a "mega church".

Usually located in an old shopping center where they took over one of the bigger stores and converted it to a church. If built from scratch they are even more impressive. I have seen a humble looking mega church structure and when you went inside there were 2 stories underground 2-3 times the size of the above ground structure. Sortta like the Pit at UNM. Below the humble above ground structure there were classrooms, auditoriums, nurseries, libraries, kitchens, dining rooms and what seemed like motel rooms. These mega churches seem to have something for everyone, and if one mega church does not have what you want, there is another one around the corner that just might.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nombres y Comprades de Pila

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En America, y especialmente en Nuevo Mejico,  y entre los clases medio y bajo, el compadre significa una clase de amistad indsisoluble, de protecction decidida, manifesta y de substancia.

Tambien hay compadres de confirmacion.

In America, and especially in New Mexico, and amongst the middle and lower classes, compadres signify a type of friendship that cannot be broken, offering decided protection, manafisted in substance.

Compadres were special, compadres de pila even more so.  Growing up I did not realize what pila meant. I heard the term often, used thus; "Fulano de Tal es mi compadre de pila." 

It means the baptismal font and thus compadres de pila are people who baptized our children. The baptismal font, in my eyes, is the birdbath looking thing you hold a baby over while the priest pours holy water over his forehead and the padrinos de pila look on when the baby is being baptized.

The compadres de pila have the obligation of insuring that the baptized child is raised as a Catholic shoud the parents be unable to do so. So they signed up for a big chore should something drastic happen.

And also "nombres de pila" is/are the name given to you at birth. Not the name given to you at confirmation, not the name you took later, not your nick name, maybe not the name you use now, not the name you took when you got married. The name you were given at birth, by your padrinos.