Friday, February 18, 2022

Dodge, Madrid, Page, Padilla Families - Puerto de Luna, New Mexico

Just recently I was invited to join a Facebook Group by my cousin Timothy Dodge. The group is called:

Dodge, Madrid, Page, Padilla Families - Puerto de Luna, New Mexico 

I've had a really great time on this Facebook page getting to know my cousins who I never really got to know, on my mom's side of the family because our closest connection, my mom's older sister, Marcelina Padilla Page, died in 1939. Marcelina married Joseph Page and her daughter, Marcelina married Antonio Dodge. 

Marcelina Padilla Page and Joseph Page

However, the families from Puerto de Luna are related sometimes several times over. My Great-Great Aunt Juana de la Trinidad Sandoval was married to Henry Lafayette Dodge, the first Dodge to go to New Mexico from Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

As I was looking at my family tree, I noticed that the Page-Nelson family connected to the same founding  families of Virginia that my children are connected to through their father's lineage. With a little research I discovered that we are all related to William Randolph I, born November 7, 1651. He was a politician in Colonial Virginia who played an important role in the development of the colony. He married Mary Isham, born November 21, 1717. Due to their many progeny and marital alliances, they have been referred to as "the Adam and Eve of Virginia." For instance, President Thomas Jefferson was the great-grandson of William and Mary Randolph. Their  descendants also include other prominent individuals including John MarshallPaschal Beverly RandolphRobert E. Lee, Peyton RandolphEdmund RandolphJohn Randolph of RoanokeGeorge W. Randolph, and Edmund Ruffin. 

In July of 2020, I discovered that my ex-husband, Davis Ethridge and my sister, Nita's ex-husband, Jack Hatley are 5th cousins in that same lineage. I wrote about it in this blog post. The discovery was uncanny because Nita met Jack in Amarillo and I met Davis in Austin. The two of them grew up on opposites ends of Texas and only met once at my wedding in 1977. So it seemed unlikely that they would be related and my children and my sister's son would be related on their dad's side of the family as well as their mother's side. It seemed so miraculous that I created a blog specifically for my extended family including my children Adriane Ethridge and Christian Ethridge, my grandchildren, Dylan Ethridge, Andrew Ethridge and Jacqueline Ethridge. My step-daughter Sarah Ethridge and her daughter Emerson Ethridge. Also for my nephew Derek Hatley, his wife Heather and their two daughters Bianca Hatley and Ava Hatley. And for my ex-husband, Davis Ethridge and my sister's ex-husband, Jack Hatley. Now this blog is dedicated to my extended Dodge, Madrid, Page, Padilla Families of Puerto de Luna, New Mexico. 

As a genealogist, it's extremely exciting when I discover a new lineage that has well documented information. I have been studying our founding families of New Mexico for about 12 years so the new found Virginia and St Louis connections are fun, especially now that I am in St Louis for the winter.

Here's just a couple of samples. The first one is of the lineage back to William Randolph for both the Ethridge and Page families. But just like all our families from Puerto de Luna, the overlap many times over.

William Randolph was my children's 9th great-grandfather and would also be all of my cousins' in New Mexico reading this, 8th great-grandfather.

This shows that Francis Nelson was related to my children's Ethridge side of the family as well.

There are so many connections, I will be adding to this blog. I just wanted to express how much all of my relatives mean to me. We have a huge family that we should all be so proud of and I am sure that our parents, grandparents and all the great great grandparents and beyond are with us in spirit. 

Always. Bless you all.

Monday, January 17, 2022

...and without a single shot

The cold month of January in St Louis, during a pandemic leaves me with a lot of time on my hands so I have been doing a lot of ancestry research and reading. I began my leisure reading about the American artist of the American Old West, Charles Marion Russell,  He created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Native Americans, and landscapes set in the western United States. A Charles M Russell print of "The Wagon Boss" hung in my parents living room most of my childhood. I spent hours gazing at that art, thinking about the cowboy out on the range. 

"The Wagon Boss"
Painted by Charles Marion Russell 

Charles Marion Russell 

This week I discovered that the artist, Charles Marion Russell was a nephew of Charles Bent, the first United States governor of the New Mexico Territory. This is of interest to me because Charles Bent was also the brother-in-law to my cousin, Josepha (Josephine) Jaramillo and her husband Kit Carson. Josepha's older sister, Maria Ignacia Jaramillo was married to Charles Bent. These 2 sisters, descended from one of New Mexico's oldest and most respected families played an important role in the history of New Mexico.

Charles Bent

The Bent family was both powerful and controversial. Charles Bent and his younger brother William Bent were fur traders from St Louis, Missouri. Though the Bent brothers grew up to become the stereotypical traders and mountain men of the West, their father, Silas Bent was a prominent land surveyor and Supreme Court judge for the Missouri Territory. 

Bent's Fort

The brothers established mercantile contacts and began a series of trading trips back and forth on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1830, they formed a partnership with Ceran St. Vrain, another trader from St. Louis and their new endeavor was called "Bent, St. Vrain & Company." In addition to their store in Taos, New Mexico, the trading company established a series of trading posts to facilitate trade with the Native Americans. The largest of them all was the 170 sq. ft. adobe structure called Bent's Fort. Located strategically at the  junction of the Arkansas and Purgatory rivers, this settlement in southeast Colorado served as a major trade center between trappers and Plains tribes. For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the largest American permanent settlement on the Santa Fe Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail

Then, in 1846, the Mexican-American War broke out. This marked the first United States armed conflict chiefly fought on foreign soil. It pitted a politically divided and militarily unprepared Mexico against the expansionist-minded administration of United States under President Polk. The U.S. had annexed Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory. This spurred the long and bloody American-Mexican War. Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary with the United States. What we now consider the Southwest wasn’t part of the United States until 1848. It was the northernmost part of Mexico until then. Mexico ceded 55% of its country to the U.S. without a shot being fired. The governor of New Mexico, Manuel Armijo surrendered to Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny at the Battle of Santa Fe. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in February 2, 1848. It was a triumph for American expansion, to say the least. The conquest of land west of the Rio Grande was called, included the current states of New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and portions of Colorado and Wyoming.

The tan portion on the map was taken
from Mexico in the American-Mexican War

This is why when WE, as a nation, celebrate events from the year 1776 in the United States, I cringe. The Declaration of Independence means nothing to me and my ancestors. I don't know much about the history of the other states but after the American invasion of New Mexico many of its inhabitants were not pleased to have to give allegiance to the United States. This was made worse when a measles outbreak – believed to have been carried to the southwest by US troops. It raged through Santa Fe, killing many New Mexican children.

The volunteer troops from Missouri added to the already building tension once their payroll arrived, causing a wave of drinking and gambling. The rowdiness led to resentment from the Hispanic population. The newly appointed Governor Charles Bent was concerned.
On the surface, peace had been maintained, however below the surface tensions were raging. It was too much change too fast for the locals. On January 19,1847, Bent traveled from Santa Fe to his hometown of Taos without military protection. An angry group of Taos Pueblo natives and local Hispanic residents marched on the governor's house. Bent tried to calm them down but they grabbed him from the house, shot him and scalped him, dragging his body through town. Meanwhile Josepha Carson and her sister Ignacia Bent used a poker and spoons to dig a hole through the adobe wall to escape with the children. They were left in their night clothes and all of their belongings were stolen. The family tragedy did not end with Charles Bent’s assassination. Josepha and Ignacia's brother, Pablo was also killed.

When the federal Government tried to seize Bent’s Fort, William Bent burnt it to the ground. It has been called the "Taos Revolt" however they weren't rebelling against a legitimate government. What happened was more of a beginning of a resistance.

As strange as it seems to me, Kit Carson played a pivotal role in American victory simply because he served as a United States military guide for Captain John Fremont. Carson was dispatched to Washington, D.C. to announce the acquisition of California to the United States. On the way, he intercepted General Stephen Watts Kearney's expedition near Yuma, Arizona and returned with him to California. This kept Carson away from his family for 2 years. Carson and Kearny confronted a Mexican force at the Battle of San Pasqual in December 1846 and with Kearney’s forces surrounded, Carson crept through enemy territory to alert United States forces in San Diego. The combined force drove the Mexican army north where they eventually surrender to John C. Fremont in the Treaty of Cahuenga January 13, 1847.

I can only imagine what home life was like during those trying times. Kit Carson had settled in New Mexico with the intent to live a peaceful life of farming and sheep herding. That didn't happen. I feel like the political climate was much like it is today. They just had to pick a side even if they didn't fully believe in all of the policies. In the long run, the Bent and the Russell families disowned Charles and George Bent. Their nephew, Charles M Russell, was born March 19, 1864, almost 20 yrs after the Mexican-American War. Charles grew up in Missouri and art was always the focus of his life. He drew sketches and made clay figures of animals. He left home at the age of 16 to seek his own adventure in Montana and lived the life of a painter. He also became an advocate for Native Americans in the west, supporting the bid by landless Chippewa to have a reservation established for them in Montana. In 1916, Congress passed legislation to create the Rocky Boy Reservation. And you thought your family had political differences.

Still, as I research this history, I find it disturbing that I have discovered so many men in my family tree who migrated from Missouri and married into our large Hispanic family, who just happened to be extremely rich in land and cattle. 

Today I found a report on the series by ABC News,  "Turning Point," examining the racial reckoning sweeping the United States and exploring whether it can lead to lasting reconciliation.

The agreement between the United States and Mexico was immortalized in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which gave around 100,000 Mexican nationals living in those territories citizenship if they decided to stay. My family stayed. The agreement was supposed to protected the rights of anyone's whose land became a part of the U.S. in the Mexican-American War. That didn't happen. When Mexico negotiated the treaty in good faith, they thought that all of people's rights would be respected. After the treaty, the government systematically disenfranchised Mexican citizens. When the treaty was sent to Congress, the Senate removed the article that laid out the process by which the land grants would be protected. In 1848, there were 154 communities in New Mexico to whom the U.S. government guaranteed land. But most of those land grants, were never honored. Today, only 35 land grants remain. This is more than heartbreaking to me. So just to keep my sanity, I can't think of lost property. I reflect back on the love story of Kit Carson and his wife, my cousin, Josepha (Josephine) Jaramillo.

Josepha (Josephine) Jaramillo
There's no doubt that it was love at first sight for Kit and Josepha. She was only 15 when she married the 33 yr old, well-known frontiersman. Her father, Francisco Jaramillo would not permit them to marry because Carson was illiterate. Francisco was an educated man and very well respected in the community. He was aware that Carson was an accomplished scout, traveling the western territories, but hoped his daughter would marry someone with a scholastic background and a member of the Catholic faith. Kit was determined to make Josefa his wife and decided to convert to Catholicism and they were married. Their padrinos were George Bent and his wife María de la Cruz Padilla.Three months after the wedding, Carson left on the first of many expeditions he would participate in during his married life. During the Mexican-American War he was gone for at least 2 years. Their love remained  unscathed until they died, within a month of each other in 1868. The Carsons welcomed their seventh child into the world on April 13, 1868.  Two weeks after their daughter was born, Josefa died of complications from that birth. Kit was heartbroken over the loss of his wife.. He died of a ruptured abdominal aneurism on May 23, 1868. Kit and Josefa are buried in the Kit Carson Park in downtown Taos, New Mexico. Josepha's sister Ignacia became the Carson children’s guardian. She cared for them until her death in 1883.

Kit Carson

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

My Job at the Newspaper 1992 - 2007

The other day my 4 year old great niece, Junie said she wanted to be an artist and a writer when she grew up. With great pride, I told her that I had been an artist and a writer for a newspaper for 15 years. Then I stopped and wondered if she even knew what a newspaper is.

Christina Fajardo
Working at the Newspaper
View from my corner office of the
Austin American-Statesman

My great niece Juniper Moon,
who will most definitely be an artist and a writer
when she grows up because she is
already a writer and an artist at the age of 4.

Five years ago, the year before Junie was born, the Austin American-Statesman presses at 305 S Congress Ave. ran for the last time. They moved their printing operations to San Antonio and Houston. It was a sad day for me. I had worked at the Austin American-Statesman for 15 yrs and part of my job was to knowing and sharing the history of the newspaper, so watching it die a slow death has been heartbreaking.

My History At The Newspaper

My education was in graphic design and my career at the newspaper began on January 6, 1992. I had moved back to Austin from Los Angeles in 1989, where I had been working at an advertising agency. I wasn't ready to jump back into an office job so I started selling my artwork at the 23rd St Artist Market.

Spring, summer and fall at the open air markets are fun. I met lots of like minded people, when winter falls upon those standing out in the weather all day, it's not so much fun. I spent the bitterly cold winter of 1991 selling art in what is basically a wind tunnel on the dead end street at the corner of 23rd and Guadalupe, across the street from the UT Tower. There were a few days during my kid's Christmas vacation when Christian was bundled up on a cot under my table with a long heavy table cloth on it that served as a tent. I was a volunteer on the board of the artist market and part of my job was to place the ads for the market in the Austin-American Statesman and the Chronicle. The week before Christmas, I went to the Statesman to meet with our advertising sales representative in his office on the 3rd floor, overlooking what was then Town Lake (Now called Lady Bird Lake) My first thought was "I could get used to this heated office job. I'm a graphic designer, I could do this!" So the week after Christmas, I applied for a job at the Statesman, thinking I could work there for a year, until I decided what my next step would be. On January 6, I had the job in the Educational Services/Marketing Dept.

I wore many hats in the marketing department, which was great because anyone that knows me can tell you I get bored easily. So ultimately, my one year office job turned into a 15 year career.

The Educational Service Department
Ginny, Christina, Frida and Mary Ann

When I started working in the Educational Department, I gave tours of the newspaper facility to classrooms of kids. Sometimes I gave tours to people from other businesses and other countries. I designed teaching curriculum for teachers to use in classroom. Occasionally on Saturdays we taught teachers how to use newspapers in their classrooms with our curriculum. Looking back, our curriculum was very cutting edge.

It would be hard to cover everything I did at the Statesman in one blog post but I will start by saying this - I am forever grateful for learning that it doesn't matter how good you are at what you do, whether you're an artist, a musician or if you own a restaurant or a clothing store, if you don't know how to market yourself well, you will not be successful. Why? Because nobody will ever know who you are and what you do. I can't stress how essential effective advertising and marketing is. You would be amazed at how effective our Educational Services Department was at selling newspapers which is why it was located in the Marketing Department.

This 40 page curriculum taught students history,
culture and contributions of diverse culture groups. 

Newspapers in Education awarded
thousands of dollars annually to high school
juniors and seniors winners
of the scholarship writing contests.
I had my son, Christian design this cover
of the flyer when he was a teenager.

Every Wednesday 30 free newspapers were delivered to each teacher who had been sponsored by a local business to use the newspaper in their class to teach. It was a win-win situation because businesses paid for sponsorships in turn the business received advertising. The teachers also received teaching curriculum and tours of the newspaper. After a couple of years, Ginny Garrison left and David Pego became director of the Educational Services Dept. With that change came a little more freedom to do what I was best at.
I created a full page called "Scholar and Scribe" that was published every Wednesday with educational information for teachers, students.

Mary Ann, David and Christina
The Educational Serviced Department

It's Hard To Believe I Had a Full Page
Called "Scholar and Scribe" 
Published Every Wednesday.
Once Monthly "Christina's Craft Corner"
Was Featured.

New Fellow Fellowship

In 1998 I won a New Fellow Fellowship from the Newspaper Association of America. I would have to say that this was one of the few times in my life when being a minority woman was beneficial because it was a huge factor in winning the fellowship. There were 14 of us from news sources around the country who traveled around the country for a year brainstorming. Trying to collectively decided how to integrate the internet into the newspaper business. We spent our days brainstorming and our nights out on the town of many major cities around the country. It was one of the best years of my life. Here are a few photos from that year.

One of the most-loved and celebrated bookstores in America,
City Lights, in San Francisco. It closed at the beginning
of the pandemic but has reopened its doors
after teetering on the brink of permanent closure.

Christina Fajardo
New Media Fellow 1998
San Francisco

New Media Fellows having dinner 
In China Town, San Francisco

Ivan Martinez and Christina Fajardo
New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998

New Media Fellows 1998
Out on the town in St Petersburg, Florida
After a long day at the Poynter Institute

At the end of the fellowship year I was to come up with an online project that would make the NEW Austin American- Statesman online project interesting to the public. I came up with a blog idea (before anyone even had blogs) I asked my friend Lana, Willie Nelson's daughter write an online diary with photos of being on the road with Willie, her dad, specifically in Europe. It was so successful that Random House offered them a million dollar book deal. When they finished their tour, I had Jimmy LaFave's drummer, Herb Belofsky write a blog on their tour. Not fully understanding the concept of a blog, Jimmy wasn't entirely happy with the idea. But later he did like performing at the noon time concerts at the newspaper. Once a month on Friday, I would hire musician friends to play a concert on the patio in front of the Statesman for the employees. We had it catered by local restaurants and the bands were paid well. When I look back now, it makes me smile to think of all the "marketing strategies" I came up with. 

I could go on and on with the service that the newspaper provided to the community. I'm extremely grateful for my fellowship and the knowledge I gain from the experience. Just being able to go to the Poynter Institute in Florida was priceless.The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a non-profit journalism school and research organization in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is a global leader in journalism. The school is owned by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and the International Fact-Checking Network and operates PolitiFact. 

I am heartbroken daily at what has happened to honest, informed journalism of daily newspapers. Those of us in the newspaper business took so much pride in our jobs in the 15 years that I was a part of that industry. I think back on the days when we all had our Associated Press Style Book on our desk when I see the way people spell and punctuate now. 

I worked at the newspaper until 2007 and I have taken you through the first 7 years. There may be a follow up blog soon about the next years spent working as a graphic designer in Marketing.

I will end with this... Please, when you read something on the internet, don't assume the information is correct. Check and recheck the sources. I love the internet. I was on the cutting edge of using it to provide information at a major newspaper and that is why it is so important to me to say it is your responsibility to check your sources. Please don't believe everything you see on the internet. 

Here is a link to a great place to check your fact: is an American nonprofit project operated by the Poynter InstituteIts journalists evaluate original statements and publish their findings on the website, where each statement receives a "Truth-O-Meter" rating. The ratings range from "True" for statements the journalists deem as accurate to "Pants on Fire" (from the taunt "Liar, liar, pants on fire") for claims the journalists deem as false or ludicrous. PolitiFact has won the Pulitzer Prize, and has been both praised and criticized by independent observers, conservatives and liberals alike.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month - Sept 15 - Oct 15

You're probably wondering why Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15 instead of at the first of the month. The beginning date is a nod to the anniversaries of national independence for a number of Latin American countries:

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua who all declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821.

Here's where my personal history comes in. On September 16, 1821 Mexico gained its independence from Spain. At that time, Mexico's northern provinces included California, New Mexico and Texas. I can only imagine the celebration when Mexico declared independence from Spain after being ruled by the monarchy for 300 years. It's hard for me to fathom that one of my heroes, my Great Great Uncle Lieutenant Colonel Lorenzo Labadie was born in 1825, just 4 years after New Mexico transformed from a colony of Spain to a territory of Mexico. 

American settlers began arriving in New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail. Then it was ceded to the United States in 1848 through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Then, finally on January 6, 1912, the territory was admitted into the Union as the State of New Mexico. 

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

This is when I start feeling like a gender-neutral trying to explain to someone how to formally address me and my flavor of Hispanic culture. I often feel the need to do so because the country in which I live, hasn't done a very good job educating us. The information handed to us in text books has historically been extremely one sided. The average American thinks all of our ancestors arrived on boats at Ellis Island or maybe if you are Hispanic, your ancestors came with Christopher Columbus on the Niña, the Pinta or the Santa Maria. I have news for you....Columbus didn’t “discover” America and he never set foot on the land of North America.

So once a year during Hispanic Heritage Month, I attempt to educate the readers of my blog of the Hispanic heritage of the very misunderstood southwestern United States. I've realized that the majority of folks who lead our country in Washington DC, are only interested in their history and the majority of them are descendants of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island. I am constantly reminding people that the Spanish settlers in New Mexico began to arrive in 1540. 

So..let me back up and tell you some of previous important dates of my Hispanic heritage: On November 8, 1519, my first cousin 10 generations back, Hernándo Cortés, landed in Tenochtitlán (present day Mexico City) with 500 Spanish conquistadors. They had conquered Mexico for Spain by 1521. Then on July 11, 1598 Juan de Oñate came north from the Valley of Mexico with 500 Spanish settlers and soldiers and 7,000 head of livestock, founding the first Spanish settlement in Villa Nueva de Santa Fe

Then in 1680, there was an uprising of most of the indigenous Pueblo people against Spanish religious, economic and political institutions imposed upon the Pueblos in the province of in Villa Nueva de Santa Fe called "The Pueblo Revolt." 400 Spaniards were killed and the remaining 2,000 Spanish colonizers went to El Paso de Norte (present day El Paso) along the upper Rio Grande River establishing the first Spanish base in 1680. It is easy to see this migration in my family, especially amongst my Padilla ancestors. Twelve years later many of them returned to Villa Nueva de Santa Fe Some remained in El Paso de Norte and just about a year ago I met a 5th cousin with the surname Padilla who lives in El Paso. 

The Hispanic culture of New Mexico historically identified strongly with their Spanish heritage yet have varying levels of Native American heritage as well. (Apache, Comanche, Pueblo, Navajo and Hopi) The majority of us are not Mexicans. On the average, the Hispanic population of New Mexico have approximately 70% Spanish DNA and 30% Native American DNA. I am personally about 62% Spanish, 24% Native American and the rest is a mix of mostly Italian and French.

This map shows where my
Spanish DNA originated

This map shows where my
Native American DNA originated

New Mexico didn't become a part of the United States until January 6, 1912, 3 years before the birth of my father. Needless to say, our history is somewhat different than the majority of the United States. New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, 47% of its population. 29% of the state's population speaks Spanish at home. So you can only imagine what it may have been like for my mother who's first language was Spanish, moved to Texas and was treated like a second rate citizen for speaking her native language. Both of my parents were born in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico, however my father moved to Guymon, OK after his mother died at the age of 3 and was schooled there. He had a Texas accent. 

So this is just a reminder... my ancestors didn't cross the border.... the border crossed us. We have been here for almost 500 years and Spanish is our native language. 

Okay, I am stepping off of my soap box and enjoying the rest of Hispanic Heritage Month in hopes that my readers have learned a little bit of history and will act accordingly.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Fine Spanish Colonial Art - Retablos


A gift from my niece Cayce
and her husband Mario from Santa Fe

Retablos, or in English alter pieces, is a structure or element placed on or above an alter, better known as 'laminas' in Mexico, are small oil paintings on wood and sometimes tin. They are used in home altars in respect of Catholic saints. The literal translation for 'retablo' is 'behind the altar.' This unique genre of art, deeply rooted in European history, was brought to Mexico with the arrival of the Spanish and then ultimately adopted by New World mestizo natives to become what is known today as the Mexican folk retablo.

Retablo was an art form that flourished in post conquest Mexico and reached its pinnacle of popularity in the last quarter of the 19th century. With some exceptions, mostly untrained artists created these sacred images.

Retablos were sold to devout believers who displayed them in home altars to honor their patron saints. There are virtually hundreds of saints, each invoked to remedy a different situation.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Mercado de Coronado - Puerto de Luna, New Mexico

Painting of My Grandma's House
by Christina Fajardo

In 2017 I wrote a blog reflecting back 45 years to 1972, when I was 16 years old. I was born and raised in Amarillo, in fact, I had lived on the same block my whole life up to that point. Life as I knew it, was pretty good on Magnolia Street.

This is the house I grew up in at
1804 Magnolia, Amarillo, Texas

To make a long story short, I didn't want to go to Palo Duro High my junior year, so my parents took me to Puerto de Luna, New Mexico to live with my grandma on her farm. This was simply to make a point to show me how tough things really could be since I was seemly unhappy living in my perfect teenage bedroom with blacklight posters, walk-in closet and my blue princess phone. 

Playing guitar in my bedroom

Next thing I knew, I was, living with my blind, 90 year old, Spanish speaking grandma. My saving grace was that my Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Rita Padilla and their 8 kids lived next door. 

Me with my cousins who lived next door
 to my Grandmas Rosita, in Puerto de Luna, NM
Percy Padilla, Christina Fajardo, Mark Padilla,
Rita Padilla and Michael 

Distributive Education
Santa Rosa High
Bottom Row - Christina Fajardo
Middle Row - Connie Campos
Back Row - Percy Padilla

Needless to say my parents were very surprised when they returned a couple of weeks later to find that I had settled into my new surrounding very well. I didn't mind the 12 mile school bus ride to Santa Rosa High. In fact, I loved being the new girl in school and the teachers thought I was brilliant. Especially my art teacher, Mr Lopez, who once bought me a canvas and paints when everyone else was painting on paper. I loved that the school cafeteria served rice, pinto beans, potatoes and tortillas for lunch. For the first time in my life, I felt I was home, at last. I found a group of friends who have remained lifelong friends, unlike the majority of the kids I had gone to school with for the previous 10 years. And I have since realized a few of them are my cousins.

I didn't miss spending my weekends going out with the party animals of Amarillo. In fact, there was a small co-op grocery store/gas station in Puerto de Luna called "Mercado de Coronado." My first cousin Percy Padilla and I worked there on the weekends. It was located in an old, light green adobe building next to what used to be the Grzelachowski General Store, established 100 years earlier, around 1872. The church where my parents were baptized and married was in walking distance and across the road was our family cemetery where my little brother, Larry was buried.

Photo of the "Mercado de Coronado" It has been closed for many years
Grzelachowski General Store, Puerto de Luna, NM

There were a couple of young men who were VISTA volunteers who helped organize "Mercado de Coronado." The other day I received an email from Sam, one of the VISTA volunteers. He said he had stumbled across my blog a couple of years ago while looking for news of Puerto de Luna. It was so cool to hear from him. I have such fond memories of that little store. The front room had a cash register, shelves of essentials like canned goods, bread, crackers and the not so essential candy and a refrigerator full of generic sodas. Then there was a pool table in the other room. The regulars would come by with money in hand to put their quarter on the pool table to take their turn at pool and another quarter for a soda. We also sold gasoline as you can see by the rusty old Conoco gas sign still standing out in front of the building in the photo.

At the time, I had not a clue what historic events had taken place in that very location a century before. The following year one of my all time favorite movies, "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" was released. I never thought twice about why I felt so emotionally attached to the movie and the sound track. 

Movie poster for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

There were very few remnants left of what a bustling little community Puerto de Luna was 100 years before. It was the county seat, so there was a court house, post office and a beautiful Catholic church. 

Court House in Puerto de Luna, NM

My cousin Juan Patron, a young, up and coming politician had raised the money to build the church. He was murdered in a Puerto de Luna saloon on April 15, 1884, just 
as the church was being finished. His funeral was the first mass to be held in the new church and he is buried in the nave. He was the son-in-law of my Great-Great Uncle Lorenzo Labadie, who was one of the most impressive characters in my family history during the 1800's. He had been a Lieutenant Colonel, a sheriff and when he got older he had orchards and vineyards. He had a license to sell wine and was the he was a very accurate census taker. While doing my ancestry research, I always know that if the census was filled out by Lorenzo Labadie, it is complete and accurate. 

Now, reflecting back, I wish I would have asked a lot more questions of the local farmers who came in to buy gas at "Mercado de Coronado." I wish I had know a little more history of this dusty little ghost town when I lived there. Bobby Gerhardt (my  second cousin) was one of my favorites who often came into the store. He was a tall, blue eyed rancher with the a golden farmer's tan. He always wore a grin and joked with everyone he met. He spent evenings at my grandma's smoking cigarettes and drinking a cold one with my Uncle Jose Padilla out in the screened in porch by the light of the moon. 

This is when a healthy dose of time travel would come in handy. William Bonney AKA "Billy the Kid" spent a lot of time in Puerto de Luna at the Grzelachowski General Store in the late 1800's. I was beyond surprised when I found his name on census 1880 census when I was researching John Gerhardt. Interestingly enough, John Gerhardt was my Great Aunt Doloritas Padilla Gerhardt's father-in-law and he was also my Great Uncle Hilario Valdez's father-in-law. This is where one of the branches of my family tree gets a little tangled. My mom's Aunt Doloritas Padilla, on her dad's side was married to John Gerhardt's son, Henry Gerhardt. AND my mom's Uncle Hilario Valdez, on her mom's side was married to John Gerhardt's daughter, Katie Gerhardt. John was the only practicing doctor in the vicinity. I remembered stories of my Great Uncle Hilario being the Gerhardt Ranch foreman for many years prior to marrying Katie. Later Hilario and Katie had a ranch in Los Ojitos and Grandma Rosita Valdez Padilla and my Grandpa Ascencion Padilla had an adjoining ranch. I'd heard the old folks speak of all of these characters my whole life but didn't pay much attention to the Spanglish (half English and half Spanish) conversations and private jokes that they had shared for years. 

Oddly, when I started doing ancestry research I adopted a cat named Katie and then another named Rosita. It was purely serendipitous. It felt like it was a little private cosmic joke on me from the Universe that they came with the names of my grandma Rosita and her sister-in-law, Katie. Often, as I drank tea engrossed in my late night research, I imagined the sister-in-laws, Kate and Rosita, cooking posole together as they tended to fire in the wood burning stove and the children playing on the dusty wooden floors of their adobe houses while their husbands, Hilario and Ascencion worked the sheep ranches.

So my time in Puerto de Luna was short lived. My parents made me go back to Amarillo for my senior year. When I returned to Amarillo, I went to school half day and worked half day, saving my money to get back to New Mexico the summer after I graduated. I rented a little adobe house in Santa Rosa that summer with Yolanda Smith. I had big plans to attend Highlands University in the fall. My parents had other plans. They snatched me up and took me to Austin where I would remain most of my adult life. 

My house in Santa Rosa
My cousin Barbara Quintana Baca's children,
Timothy and Kris Baca
In front of my macrame and
mural on the living room wall
in my tiny house on the hill, in Santa Rosa

Moving back to New Mexico has always been in the back of my mind...but for now my heart and soul live there and I just go back to visit every couple of years.