Friday, September 28, 2018

My Valdez Family of New Mexico from Oviedo, Asturias, Spain

Five years ago, in the early days of my ancestry research, I discovered that the Fajardo family originated in Andalucía, Spain. Simultaneously, I saw my favorite chef and world traveler, Anthony Bourdain, on an episode of "Parts Unknown" in Andalucía. I was moved by this episode more than any other. I pondered the word "duende," used by the Spanish Flamenco musicians and dancers. It is said to be the hardest Spanish word to translate to English. It’s meaning is akin to spirit, passion, inspiration – a spontaneous feeling arising in creativity. It's particularly relevant to the arts that are born and die perpetually, like the performance of a dance or song or even cooking.

I was listening to "El Duende Flamenco de Paco de Lucia" to see if I could gain insight into what the word "duende" meant to Paco, the most famous of Flamenco guitarists. It excited me because it was something I had always felt but didn't have a word for. There are many words that don't translate from Spanish to English. I have known from a very young age that words don't translate from Spanish to English, neither do customs and traditions. Most importantly, neither does the passion. There was always a passion that my mother had when she spoke that I didn't see in my friend's parents in Amarillo, when I was growing up. I've been told on more than one occasion by ex-boyfriends that I was too sensitive. They didn't comprehend the fire in my soul and it was scary to them.

In my research I found that Paco was from Algeciras, Andalucia, Spain. In my research, I traced my beginnings back to a castle in Andalucia originally called "Castillo de los Fajardo" now called "Castillo de Velez-Blanco built by Pedro Fajardo.

Much of the information was in Spanish but I felt like I was being guided by a spirit much larger than myself to dig deeper. I stayed up late and woke up early to read about Andalucia, the Fajardo castle, Paco de Lucia and the word "duende." I took a break to get more coffee and rest my brain. I opened the CNN website to read a little morning news and discovered that Paco de Lucia had died of a heart attack that morning. What are the chances that I would be listening to his music and researching the region of Spain where he was born on the morning of his death? I was really blown away by the synchronicity. As I read on, I realized Flamenco originated in Andalucia, as was bull fighting.

For the past five years I have been overwhelmed and humbled by my family history and the information that seems to just appear out of nowhere. Because of this phenomenon, ancestry research has become somewhat of an obsession. I feel that it's my duty to record my family history. The information seems to fall in my lap from time to time and I don't think it is my chance.

So... fast forward five years... I took a trip to New Mexico this month. The airbnb we stayed in was north of Taos, a couple of miles from Valdez, NM. That was a sign to me that it's time to dig deeper into my Valdez lineage. My maternal grandmother was a Valdez and my mom was extremely proud of her Valdez family heritage. But the stories only went back to the late 1800's when Billy the kid worked on my great-great uncle's ranches on the banks of the Pecos River in Puerto de Luna. My favorite story about Billy the Kid was that after the ranch work was done in the evenings, he taught my 7 year old Great Uncle Hilario Valdez to read and write in English. This tells me that Billy the Kid was not the cold blooded killer that you read about in the western novels, but someone with a kind heart who was a protector of the Hispanic families that had taken him in when he arrived in New Mexico as an orphan. When the cattle rustlers came to steal from his adopted family, he acted as a protector.

My research took me off into a hundred directions and it has taken me almost 5 years piece together the back story on the Valdez family. After my recent trip to New Mexico, took me within a couple of miles from Valdez, New Mexico, I discovered that my 7th great-grandfather, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the first Valdez to come to New Mexico from Spain. He was born in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain in 1664. I started writing this blog earlier this week and just like clockwork, tonight "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" 2nd episode of his final season was in Asturias, Spain. I was glued to my TV. His co-host is Chef Jose Andres. As it turns out the people of Asturias are sheep herders and musicians. Go figure.

Anthony mentioned that Chef Jose was sued by Trump in 2015 after he canceled plans for a restaurant in Trump’s hotel in Washington DC after Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. In this episode, Chef Jose Andres was wearing a T-Shirt that says "We Are All Dreamers." 

Thanks Anthony and Jose. ❤️

I don't know why it surprises me but it's somewhat overwhelming to think I am a direct descendant of just about every Spanish settler of New Mexico.

I found a "Taos News" newspaper clipping written by Jerry A Padilla about the original Valdez family on It was attached to Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez. I downloaded it, read it and was blown away. 

It states that "Among the oldest and most respected families in Springer, NM is the Valdez family. Springer is about 80 east of Taos. It's kind of sad that I never met the Valdez family of Springer or Taos and barely knew the Valdez family of Puerto de Luna. I really wish I had lived in New Mexico way more of my lifetime. There are so many unanswered questions. 

According to the Taos newspaper article, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the son of Francisco Ruiz de Valdez and Maria de Caso Valdez both born in Asturias, Spain. Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the first Valdez to arrive in New Mexico. He of course had to make the trek across the ocean and through Mexico. He met the woman he would marry in Mexico City, Maria Medina de Cabrera. She was of Spanish decent but had been born in Mexico City. They moved to New Mexico in the colony of 1693, the reconquest after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 with their two children. Jose was 4 and Ana 1 1/2. After arriving in New Mexico, they had 4 more children, Ignacio Luis, Catalina, Juan Lorenzo and Domingo, my 6th great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was killed by the Zuni Indians in the Mission church of Zuni while he and two other Spanish soldiers were singing an alabado after Mass, on Sunday, March 4, 1703. Jose was only 39 and his wife, Maria only 30. A sad end for a promising soldier and family.

Of the Valdez girls, Ana married Lazaro Antonio Cordoba in 1710.
Catalina, nicknamed " La Prieta " was murdered by her husband, Miguel Lujan in 1713. Her mother was still living in this year and gave her age as forty. Maria Hernandez de Medina Cabrerra died in Santa Cruz de la Canada in 1731.

I decided to look up the writer, Jerry Padilla, who I figure is more than likely a distant cousin since I have Padilla's on both sides of my family. What I found, unfortunately was Jerry's obituary from 2012. He was born in 1952 and  a long time resident of Taos. Jerry was an avid historian, and was very involved in preserving and teaching the history and culture of Taos and Northern New Mexico, which earned him recognition from the Taos Country Historical Society. He was an artist who painted in acrylics. Seems like he was a cool guy.

I really appreciate other's research on ancestry because it makes mine easier. I was able to fill in the 7 generations between me and my 7th great-grandfather, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez.

I found this life story of my 7th great-grandfather, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez on Excerpt from Fray Angelico Chaves' book, Origins of New Mexico Families, A Genealogy of the Spanish Colonial Period. Revised Edition, 1962 . Page 301.

Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez a native of Oviedo, Spain, was thirty years old in 1694. Two years later he was a sergeant at Santa Cruz. His wife was Maria Medina de Cabrera, a native of Mexico City, who came with him in the colony of 1693 (The Reconquest) with their two children, Jose who was 4 and Ana, who was 1 1/2. After arriving in New Mexico, they had 4 more children, Ignacio Luis, Catalina, Juan Lorenzo and Domingo. Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was killed by the Zuni Indians in the Mission church of Zuni while he and two other Spanish soldiers were singing an alabado after Mass, on Sunday, March 4, 1703. Jose was only 39 and his wife, Maria just 30. A sad end for a promising soldier and family.

Of the Valdez girls, Ana married Lazaro Antonio Cordoba in 1710.
Catalina, nicknamed " La Prieta " was murdered by her husband, Miguel Lujan in 1713. Her mother was still living in this year and gave her age as forty.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Trip to New Mexico

Sunflower at "Palacio de Milagros"

I just returned from a short trip to New Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I always return a changed person. The connection I feel to the land of enchantment and it's culture is indescribable. I went with my long time friend, Brenda. We flew into Albuquerque and rented a car and drove to Taos for Michael Hearne's Big Barn Dance. The Annual Big Barn Dance is held at the Kit Carson Park in Taos is attended largely by friends of mine from Texas. I could have just stayed home, right? No. It's truly an experience to hang out with my friends in the land of enchantment.

Christina and Brenda at Michael Hearne's Big Barn Dance

So the first night we arrived at the Barn Dance just in time to catch Bill Kirchen close out the show. As we were walking up in the parking lot, I was telling Brenda about my friend, Gary Roller, who now lives Taos who is an artist and musician. We walked in the front gate and there he was with his art on display and he played with Michael Martin Murphy a couple of nights later.

Christina and Gary Roller

After the show, we drove to the airbnb where we were staying with a group of friends. It was a large beautiful adobe house north of Taos called "Palacio de Milagros." Waking up to the cool mountain air was just amazing.

Christina and a Sunflower at "Palacio de Milagros"
My bedroom door at "Palacio de Milagros"

"Palacio de Milagros"

Our days were spent listening to our friends play music at the Big Barn Dance and shopping in the downtown plaza of Taos. But always, in the back of my mine, I am thinking that this is where the Spanish Conquistadors that I am a direct descendant of, came to look for gold. This is where they met with the Native Americans. This is where the mix of 65% Spanish and 30% Native American occurred in my bloodline. It's sacred ground to me. 

On the last day of our trip, while looking on a map to go to the Rio Grande Gorge, I saw that Valdez, NM was just a couple of miles up the road. I would  love to wonder around there for a day since my maternal grandma is a Valdez but we had run out of time. On this trip, the big find was the breathe taking Rio Grande Gorge. 

Rio Grande Gorge From The Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge From The Parking Lot
We parked to walk across the bridge and the most beautiful little Native American woman was sitting up a table to sell her goods. I walked over to take a look. She was selling kachinas made by her husband. I felt like crying when I picked one of them up. It took me back to the time in the mid 80's I used to dream about kachinas and since I grew up in Texas, I had no idea what they were or the significance of a kachina. I had seen a life size kachina in the moonlight, on a nature trail in the middle of Austin, TX one night. It appeared and disappeared just as quickly then I was given a book of original kachina drawings by a Hopi. By this time, I was telling anyone that would listen about them and  Christian and I used to draw kachinas when he was young. Needless to say, I had a connection to them that I couldn't explain.

So Brenda and I walked across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, in awe, we took photos and came back and bought 2 of the adorable hand made kachinas. One for me and one for Christian.

The One on the Left is the Sun Kachina -
Representing Warmth and Shelter for the Old and a Bright Future, and Playfulness for the Young
I bought the Rose Quartz Buffalo to Add to My Buffalo and Cow Collection
The One on the Right is a Hemis Kachina - Representing Happiness of a Successful Harvest
We got back into our rental car to drive to Santa Fe. Brenda programed "Waze" on her iPhone and we were on our way. Suddenly we both realized we were headed down a dirt road. I'm always a little skeptical of "Waze" taking us the best way since the last time I was in New Mexico we ran out of gas in the dessert... so here I am again. Then immediately we both realized we were headed to the bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge and it was breathe taking. We reached the bottom and there was a herd of bighorn sheep crossing the road and climbing some rocks. We pulled over and I took several photos but all the photos I took with my iPhone had this strange aura around the bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep at the bottom of the Rio Grand Gorge
the Bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge

I stood on a small bridge and listened to the Rio Grand water flowing and I felt the spirits of my ancestors lingering in the air. It was magical, emotional and calming and overwhelming all at the same time. I felt like I never wanted to leave. It is almost impossible to wrap my mind around the thought that I am a direct descendant of the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. He is my 11th great-grandfather. Coronado, was born in Salamanca, Spain in 1510. He led one of the most remarkable European explorations of North America. 

My lineage to Coronado
He was my 11th great-grandfather

The first Europeans to see the Taos valley were conquistadors with the Francisco de Coronado expedition. In 1540, he sent his Captain of Artillery, Hernando de Alvarado with twenty soldiers accompanied by Fray Juan de Padilla from the Zuni Indian Reservation, west of Albuquerque to explore to the northeast. Upon reaching the Rio Grand River, they were visited by twelve representatives of pueblos to the north with friendly greetings, so Alvarado, his soldiers and Fray Juan Padilla traveled up to Taos. The explorers returned with glowing accounts of the beauty of the area, but reported that there was no gold—the primary purpose of the expedition.

In my research I always find unexpected treasures. Father Juan de Padilla is one of them. I am assuming he is related to me because he was born in Andalusia, Spain in 1500 and I have many Padillas in my family tree on both sides of the family that go back to Andalusia.  Father Juan de Padilla was a Spanish Roman Catholic Missionary who spent much of his life exploring North American with Coronado. Padilla was one of the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon. Coronado wasn't interested in going that direction because he was really only interested in finding gold.

Padilla was killed in Kansas in 1542 by Native Americans, and is considered to be one of the first Christian martyrs in the U.S. Juan de Padilla is associated with a miracle known as the "Rising of the coffin of Padre Padilla." The story of seeing his coffin rise above the ground was repeated for many years, and was believed by many people in Isleta, where the Padilla is believed to be buried. It has since becoming New Mexico folklore.