Tuesday, July 9, 2019


BLESSED is the word I am going to use to describe my little corner of the Universe. Mostly because when my family is happy, I am happy. After a long, grueling, hurtful and unnecessary three year custody battle, my son, Christian is finally able to spend an abundant amount of quality time with his children. The conclusion I've arrived at.... Family law sucks if there are vengeful people on the other side of the aisle. Mostly for the children and fathers but grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles suffer too.  For almost four years my son and his children were only allowed to see each other once a week for a mere four hours. Half of that time was spent driving to and from the courthouse exchange center to pick them up. Most of the family photos on our side of the family were taken in the car or at a restaurant because a meal together and a trip to the park is all they had time for. I have screen shots of 5 minute FaceTime conversations I had with them and they have relatives in Texas that Jackie has never met.

Jackie and Andrew
Weekly four hour visit with their dad

I was awarded one weekend a couple of years ago and Andrew got to come and stay with me for a few days last summer, but we never saw them on holidays so Christian would have "Christmas in July" for them. He put up a blue tree and showered them with gifts and FaceTimed me so I could watch them open gifts.

Jackie - Christmas in July July 2018

Andrew - Christmas in July July 2018

On these four hour visits, Andrew would jump in the car and say "It has been 10080 minutes since the last time I saw you and that is a really long time when you are counting minutes!" Then he wouldn't even have time to be happy to be with his dad before it was time to pack up and leave again.

Making the best of a four hour visitation
Christina, Andrew, Christian and Jackie

Christian had no idea how horrible a divorce could be. This wasn't the experience we or any of our friends and family in Texas had. Our mindset has always been that when you have children together, you become family and families take care of each other. Families may disagree, but it is a civil family affair. You don't take each other to court. Christian was expecting the kind of divorce that had been mirrored to him and told Andrew in the beginning that they would see each other just as much, but his mother and he just wouldn't be living in the same house. That is far from what came to pass. He spent an unbelievable amount of time in court, thousands and thousands of dollars that should have been spent on the children. And for what?

Thank God, there was finally a court ruling, no thanks to Christian's attorney and Christian was granted overnight visitations with the children. The kids now have their own bedrooms in their new house with their dad and they have sleep overs.

Andrew and Jackie at their new house with their dad

When I went to visit them in St Louis last month, I arrived during their weekly piano lessons. The feeling we had when we saw each other and hugged will last a lifetime.
Andrew at piano lessons when we first saw each other. Heaven

Jackie at piano lessons when we first saw each other. Pure Joy

Jackie at piano lessons 

Andrew at piano lessons 

I can see the change in Andrew's face, just enjoying being in the presence of his dad. No longer spending the whole time stressing that the time is going to end soon. They can enjoy the simple pleasures of throwing a ball in the yard, watching a movie or just chillin' on the couch.

Andrew chillin'

Jackie in her princess bed at her daddy's house.

Last week Christian took Jackie swimming and took her to pick out a new pink bike with training wheels. They went bike riding and to dinner. There is really no other way to feel but grateful and blessed about spending quality time with them. Having breakfast, lunch and dinner... play time, rest time and everything in between with the sound of children's laughter in the house. BLESSED and GRATEFUL pretty much sums it up.

Andrew, Christian
At Taco Circus

I started to write a blog about our journey over two years ago and then realized it was just too hard to even write. My heart condition worsened during that time and it stressed me out to think about. Meanwhile, I have been following the horrible stories of the desperate immigrants being held in detention centers at the Texas/Mexico border, separated from their families. My heart just aches for them. When we were separated from Andrew and Jackie, the empathy I felt for these poor immigrants was unbearable. They've experienced hardships on a level that no human should have to endure. Making incomprehensible long treks from some of the most violent countries in Central America. Arriving at the border beyond exhausted, hungry, thirsty, dirty, tired and scared, hoping for solace and their situation only gets worse when they arrive in an unfriendly land where few speak their language. Because I am a genealogist, it takes me back to the long journeys my own family has taken over the centuries from Spain to Mexico then to New Mexico and then to Texas and at last my son landed in Missouri. I recognize on a very deep level how much courage it takes to risk leaving your home to make a better life for yourself and your family. I've experienced the judgement of taking the road less traveled. I admire anyone who is willing to go out on a limb to start new beginnings.

I can't help but think of the words of Willie Nelson “We are all the same. There is no difference anywhere in the world. People are people. They laugh, cry, feel, and love, and music seems to be the common denominator that brings us all together. Music cuts through all boundaries and goes right to the soul.”

So, as for new beginnings, last weekend Christian closed his restaurant, Taco Circus for a day to take food to Willie's crew at The Hollywood Casino Amphi Theatre in St Louis where they were playing at the Outlaw Music Festival.
Christian and Lana Nelson

Christian and Willie
June 2019

To Christian it was more than having backstage passes. It was being of service to the Nelson family. Willie has been his spiritual leader since he was a child and it was important to just feel the blessing as he entered into a new phase of his business. This weekend Taco Circus closed the Bevo Mill location and will be opening at a new location On The Hill in St Louis next month. He is feeling blessed. I am feeling blessed. Excited about the changes in our lives and praying for continued success, happiness and quality time with Andrew and Jackie.

Jackie, Andrew and Christian at Ted Drew, St Louis

I will end this blog with
"I Love My Life!" 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Padilla Family of New Mexico

During my ancestry research, I discovered most often each surname in my family history goes back to one single male progenitor. Below I have traced just one of many branches of my amazing family tree back to Spain. I am starting with my mother's paternal lineage - the surname Padilla. While doing my research, I discovered there were key players on my dad's side of the family that were Padillas as well. In this case the male progenitor is Diego de Padilla I. He is my 7th great-grandfather on both my mother and father's side of the family. My dad's lineage will be another blog.

Spanish immigration to Mexico began in the early 1500s. My 8th great grandfather Juan de Padilla was born in 1558 in Seville, Andalucia, Spain.  He was the first of my Padilla lineage to make the journey from Spain to the Americas. (Not to be confused with another Juan Padilla, also born in Andalucia, Spain in 1500. He was the first Christian missionary martyred within the territory of the present day United States. This Juan Padilla accompanied the Spanish explorer, Coronado in 1540.)

When my 8th great-grandfather, Juan de Padilla arrived in Mexico City, he married Ana Maria Juana deRojas. She was born in Mexico in 1565. They had a son, my 7th great-grandfather, Diego Padilla deRojas, born in Mexico City in 1585. Diego married Ana de Porras, who had been born in Herencia, Spain  in 1583 before her family also migrated to Mexico City. 

Having found wealth in Mexico, the Spanish colonists were looking north to expand their empire. Together my 7th great-grandfather, Diego and my 7th great-grandmother, Ana moved further north to Queretero, Mexico. A political base had been established in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1610, naming it the capital of the Kingdom of New Mexico. It became an outpost of the larger Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain, headquartered in Mexico City.

Templo y Convento de la Santa Cruz,
Querétaro, Mexico
This convent was built between 1654 and about 1815 on the site of a battle in which a miraculous appearance of Santiago (St James) apparently led to the Otomí surrender to the Spanish conquistadors and Christianity

Diego and Ana had a son, my sixth great-grandfather, also named Diego de Padilla, born in Queretero, Mexico in 1616. He married Luisa Agustina de la Serna who had been born in Queretero in 1614 and they were married there and had a son in 1649 named Jose Villasenor de Padilla. He was also born in Queretero. He later earned the title of Captain Jose Villasenor de Padilla. As a Captain of an army, he moved further north with his army to El Paso de Norte, an outpost of the Spanish empire. He married Maria Lopez and together they moved to Santa Fe.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
The oldest house in the United States
Sometimes I wonder what it was like for my ancestors traveling through Mexico as they approached the Rio Grande from the south, viewing two mountain ranges rising out of the desert with a deep chasm between. This is the site that they named El Paso del Norte. The arrival of the first Spanish expedition at the El Paso del Norte in 1581 marked the beginning of more than 400 years of history in this area. Texas didn't even exist at that time but much later it became the location of the two future border cities, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on the south bank of the Rio Grande River and El Paso, Texas, on the north side of the Rio Grande River. It is hard to believe that this border is now in the forefront of our daily news due to the current administration's zero tolerance policy that started being enforced a year ago towards asylum seekers. The land on both sides of the river belonged to Mexico at this time. I wonder how this policy compares to what Fray García de San Francisco had in mind in 1659,  when he founded Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mission, which still stands in downtown Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the oldest structure in this area. 

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,
Ciudad Juarez built in 1652
The oldest structure in the El Paso area
If you are familiar with New Mexico history, you know that 1680 was a pivotal time in history. The Spanish had dedicated themselves to build Catholic missions throughout New Mexico. After three generations of oppression, in the spring of 1680, the Pueblo Indians rose up to overthrow the Spanish in "The Pueblo Revolt." Native Americans had lived and worshiped independently for centuries yet were forced to abandon their religion, adopt Christianity, and pay tribute to Spanish rulers. The Franciscans initially tolerated manifestations of the Native American rituals as long as they attended mass and maintained a public veneer of Catholicism, sort of like the Converso Jews had done in Spain during the previous century. Then later Kachina dances by the Pueblo Indians were outlawed and their masks and prayer sticks were burned. When I read this, I had a visceral reaction and started crying.

In 1985 my five year old son, Christian and I started drawing Kachinas without having any idea what the religious significance was to our Native American ancestors. I had started having dreams about them so I did some research. At the time I thought I was a full blooded Spaniard.

I bought these Kachina dolls at the Rio Grande Gorge
on my last trip to New Mexico
from a woman from the Taos Pueblo.
Her husband makes them.

The kachinas are as important to the Native American culture as saints are to Catholics. The central theme of the kachina is the presence of life in all objects that fill the universe. Everything has an essence or a life force and humans must interact with these or fail to survive.

The Pueblo Shaman were convicted of practicing sorcery. The Franciscan missionaries also forbade the use of hallucinogens in the traditional religious ceremonies of the Pueblo. Several Spanish officials who attempted to curb the power of the Franciscans were charged with heresy and tried before the Inquisition. Systematic destruction of Pueblo kivas and the suppression of ceremonial practices so important to the belief system through which the Pueblos maintain their relationship between man and nature reached a critical point and for nearly a decade. New Mexico had experienced a devastating drought, threatened by famine the Native Americans placed the blame for their plight on the Spanish disruption of their religious practices.

So in 1680 my fifth great grandfather, Captain José Villasenor de Padilla and his wife Maria had been living in Santa Fe for twelve years but when "The Pueblo Revolt" broke out, they had to abandon their home in Santa Fe and were exiled to El Paso de Norte where Maria had my fourth great-grandfather, Diego de Padilla in 1680. They were exiled with more than 2,000 Spanish refugees and 317 Native Americans in El Paso del Norte.

José Villasenor de Padilla and his wife lived out the rest of their lives in El Paso de Norte. In the 1692 Census Jose’s household numbered thirty-two persons of which twenty-one were listed as servants. The fact that his household contained such a large number of servants indicates that Padilla was an enencomendero or a colonial grantees. They were granted the right to Native labor and tribute in exchange for assuming responsibility to protect and Christianize their Native subjects.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Crown was giving land grants to settlers who wanted to move back to New Mexico and start new communities, My fifth great-grandfather Diego de Padilla migrated north, returning to the land his parents had been forced to leave with the De Vargas settlers in 1692. Diego was only  twelve. He became the progenitor of the Padilla family of New Mexico and the patriarch of the most prominent family in the historic of Spanish settlement of Los Padillas, located south of Albuquerque.

This Official Scenic Historical Marker says:
Los Padillas is an extended family settlement which was resettled in 1718 by Diego de Padilla. His grandparents had lived on the site prior to the 1680 Pueblo Revolt at which time they were
forced to abandon it. In the 1790 census the town referred to as San Andres de los Padillas, had a population of 168. This is the site of the old Los Padillas school, originally
built in 1901 and replaced in 1912.

This is when I realized that I do in fact have distant cousins that still live in Mexico. Diego left some of his extended family in El Paso de Norte. The day I came to that realization I was looking at art and photos on Pinterest and discovered a lady named Charlene Padilla from Ascensión, Chihuahua, Mexico. She had a board of family photos and they were all Padillas. I contacted her and sure enough, she is a distant cousin! The synchronicity blows me away. I have to do a little research to figure out exactly how we are related but she has an amazing collection of Padilla photos on Pinterest.

Diego married Maria Vasquez De Lara Y Baca and they had ten children. Now I felt like I was closing in on connecting the dots from my mother's paternal lineage to Diego, the progenitor of the Padilla family. While I was reading, I distinctly remember feeling that the room fill with what felt like the ancient spirits of my ancestors. It didn't feel scary and it wasn't odd. It was magical. I went to bed that night without figuring out which of Diego's son's was the direct link. When I woke up, I made a cup of coffee and with anticipation and started reading again. I discovered that Diego had a son named Esteban de Padilla with a Native American servant. Esteban was my link, my fourth great-grandfather and this explained my 25% Native American DNA. I felt very close to him or maybe it was empathy.

Esteban was born in 1710 in Isleta, New Mexico, just south west of Los Padillas. He was born into the large extended Rio Abajo family of Padillas. Rio Abajo is the region below Santa Fe. Just like Martin Cortes, the son of Hernando Cortes and Malinche, Esteban was a Mestizo or as they are called in New Mexico, a Coyote. A documented child of Diego de Padilla and a Native American servant, and the half brother to the rest of Diego’s legitimate children.

Because his mother was a Native American servant, Esteban was marginalized within the large Padilla family as a child. He didn't inherit land from his father nor did he have the same social or marital standing as his half brothers and sisters. However, as an adult he accomplish the most desired goals of a Colonial New Mexican. He married a woman of his own social and racial class, Jacinta Martina Delgado in 1742 and they had 12 children including my third great-grandfather, Bernardo Padilla. He purchased parcels of land  from his half brothers and sisters. As I read the old records it became obvious that Esteban and Jacinta were respected in Los Padillas and in the Pueblo of Isleta. He and Jacinta became Padrinos or witnesses over thirty times in the baptisms or marriages of their family members or fellow parishioners, Spanish, Mestizo and Indian alike. That was even an honor in my parents generation. He died in 1779 in Los Padillas, at the age of 69. He's a hero of mine and it makes me very proud that my dad's nickname for me as a child was India (little Indian girl) A couple of years ago I made a trip to New Mexico specifically to see where he was born. I was happy to find that it was a beautiful green valley in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.

Christina Fajardo in Isleta

Isleta, New Mexico

My third great-grandfather, Bernardo Padilla was born in 1747 in Los Padillas. He married Francisca Manuela Chaves Sanchez. Their son, Jose Manuel Padilla, was my second great-grandfather and he and his wife,  Maria Antonia Otero were both born in Los Padillas in 1796 and they had 13 children together, one of them was my great-grandfather, Jose Dolores Padilla, born in 1837 in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

It is hard for me to believe that Texas became a state December 29, 1845, eight years after my great-grandfather, Jose Dolores Padilla was born. After gaining independence from Spain in the 1820s, Mexico initially welcomed foreign settlers to sparsely populated Texas. 
North America in Dec 1845
The year Texas became a state

Jose married Marcelina Castillo. They had 17 children, their sixth son was my grandfather, Ascencion Padilla. He was born April 15, 1875 in Conchas, New Mexico and married my grandmother Rosita Valdez in 1898 in Puerto De Luna, New Mexico. Rosita had been born in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico August 31, 1884.

Ascencion and Rosita had eleven children. My mother, Agueda Padilla was the eighth  child. Ascencion died on January 31, 1949, in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico, at the age of 73 and Rosita died August 4, 1976 at the age of 92. They are buried in Puerto de Luna.

So there it is. I don't know what the moral to my story is if there is one but as I wrote it today, I watched a mother mourning dove try to get her baby chick to fly for the first time. Meanwhile there was another bird attacking a plastic owl swinging in the wind and my cat was having a big time watching it all through the window hoping I would open the door so she could eat a bird. They are animals, instinctually doing what animals do. As humans I would like to believe that we can move past believing there isn't enough for everyone. There is, and we can share this Earth. We can share the food and we can share the love. Everyone has a right to their own beliefs and a right to pray in their own language. I refuse to act like something I am not, just to fit in.

Dedicated to my mom and dad who tried so very hard to fit in because they thought they had to be what was acceptable to survive.
I am so happy that you are flying free.

Felipe Montoya Fajardo
Agueda Padilla Fajardo

I love you very much.
La India

Willie Nelson Singing Immigrant Eyes

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Fajardo Family Tree

A few months ago, my son, Christian asked me to create a piece of artwork of our family tree dating back to the 1500's for his restaurant, Taco Circus. I tried to condense our tree into something that would fit in a frame to be hung on the wall. Months passed but I couldn't complete the research without reading about countries being invaded for hundreds of years. There were so many wars, border crossings and even more importantly, religious and racial injustice. I have read and written about all of this numerous times and while researching, I always end up discovering a different slant that I hadn't seen before.

Christian received a piece of artwork as a gift from his tattoo artist friend, Ethan. I was shocked when I saw it because Ethan had no idea that in his 8 X 10 pencil drawing, he summed up my son's ancestral history. At the top it reads "Taco Circus" and has an image of Aztec Emperor Moctezuma carrying a woman that I assume is his daughter, Isabel. Behind him is a street sign that reads "Morganford" which is the street Taco Circus #1 is on in St Louis, MO. Then there's a cactus, a rose and some graffiti as a reference to Texas and at the bottom is the St Louis Arch.

Artwork by Evan Nichols
Saint Louis, MO

When I set out on a journey to discover my past through ancestry research. I didn't have a clue of what a long, complex, emotional trip it would become. My goal was to subscribe to Ancestry.com for three months, do a little research and create an artistic book of my family for my siblings as Christmas presents. I was thinking our ancestors consisted of a few Fajardos and Labadies on my dad's side and a few more Padillas and another hand full of Valdez ancestors on my mom's side.

It never dawned on me that a family tree branches out like a 700 year old oak tree with each limb having hundreds of leaves, representing each ancestor so that by the time one goes back ten generations, each of us has 4,096 tenth great grandparents. In my case that took me back to the 1500's. That doesn't even count the all of the ninth, eight, seventh, sixth great grandparents and so on, plus all of the uncles, aunts, first, second and third cousins, plus nieces, nephews and all of their families. Needless to say, at the end of my three month Ancestry.com subscription I had barely scratched the surface.

This is a very small portion of my chart that represents
five generations of my immediate family
including my children, siblings, parents, grandparents,
great-grandparents and great grandparents.

My goals changed as time passed and my research became more personal. I was going through a rough time in my personal life so I had taken solace in going back in time and reading stories about my ancestors. I wondered how they may have survived their hardships and hoped to draw on their wisdom. We've all been taught about the wars and who was conquered in history books, but what about the women? How had they handled hardships similar to mine? I had, on more than one occasion, fallen victim to very unfair real estate transactions. It felt very much like these were lessons I had brought with me into this lifetime. Most of the traumas stem from a bad experience in our early childhood. This was not the case for me. I had a stable childhood, I lived in the same house until I was 18 in a nice neighborhood with parents who were married for 56 years. I concluded that memories buried deeply in my DNA on a cellular level caused the ongoing family trauma. Something that my ancestors had experienced. Years ago I had read a passage in the Bible that stuck with me as I was processing what I was going through.

I couldn't help but think that my ancestors were playing a hand in my life. Then I found scientific proof of what the Bible said. Psychologist and neuroscientist have studied Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren. It has been scientifically proven that intergenerational transmission of PTSD can occur. Our DNA carries the expression of our ancestors trauma and our biochemistry and neurology have been affected by what they endured. Epigenetic researchers have found that the experiences of starvation, grief and shock are passed forward to descendants. The children of PTSD-stricken parents have been diagnosed with PTSD three times as often and suffered three times as much depression and anxiety and engaged in more substance abuse. There are of course other physical ailments that are inherited as well. Both of my brothers and I have congenital heart issues. After an extreme bout with fatigue and chest pain, my cardiologist prescribed a beta blocker which changed my life. Too much adrenaline was being secreted into my bloodstream causing the fight-or-flight response. The symptoms most often occurred when I woke up in the morning after having a dream. My heart would be racing and my blood pressure was through the roof while I was otherwise living a very calm life with normal blood pressure. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects the stress hormone involved in the fight-or-flight response.

Some psychologists, most famously, Carl Jung, have theorized that we are born with the memories and experiences of our ancestors imprinted on our DNA and our most basic survival instincts might stem from some long ago trauma experienced by an ancestor. I often process most of my trauma in my sleep, yet the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in my brain) determined what emotions I was feeling and forced a physical response. Beta blockers have taken care of the symptoms yet the side effects are that I don't feel as passionately as I used to about anything and I have gained weight.

With all of this in mind, my new goal was to find my way back to Spain in 1478, during the Spanish Inquisition, to become familiar with the lives of my Sephardic Jewish ancestors who had been expelled from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs. Finding all of the surnames in my family on a list of Sephardic Jewish surnames was an emotional process. It was heart wrenching to learn that my Sephardic Jewish ancestors were given only four months to uproot their lives and leave their homeland of Spain. I had an instinctive visceral bodily response when I discovered that they were forced to sell their homes and businesses at very low prices and take only what they could carry on their journey to a foreign land. Vineyards were sold for the price of a handkerchief, a house for a donkey, a workshop for a piece of linen or a loaf of bread.

At this point, I had to take a break from my research. It was painful to process, however it gave me courage to process my own life experiences.

When I began my ancestry research again, I was seeing my world in a whole new light and feeling grateful that I had landed exactly where I needed to be. I was taking notice of interviews with people who had written books about the holocaust. But the Inquisition... that was 500 years ago!

Late one night, while drinking tea, on the couch, my research took me down a rabbit hole of discovery until I traced one blood line back to the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. I sat in a mixed bag of emotions when I discovered they may have been my 12th great grandparents. I didn't even have anyone to share this with at 4 am. It seemed surreal but somehow I wasn't surprised.

Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon
and Isabella I of Castile

Ferdinand and Isabella were second cousins who married each other for the soul purpose of joining forces for the Spanish Crown to order Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave Spain. The realization of being a direct descendant and taking note of what the Bible said about visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children.... I suddenly felt an urgency to clean up generations of iniquities. This wasn't the beginning and by far the end of the ethnocentric evaluations that took place in my bloodline. I talked to my son about it and he was totally on board. I wasn't sure how this iniquity clean up was going to occur since it was caused by disagreements of fundamental religious and political beliefs. I have immediate family that I have those issues with. It's very clear to me that at some point we need to evolve enough to agree to disagree and let others practice their own beliefs.

These are the two charts showing my lineage to the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. This explains why I have such a visceral reaction to the religious intolerance and repression that has resurfaced in our country.

Then just when I thought my family tree couldn't get any crazier, I discovered that Hernando 
Cortés, the Spanish Conquistador who led the expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire, was my first cousin 10 generations back. Great! More iniquity to clean up!

Hernando Cortés and Aztec Emperor Moctezuma

So as the story goes, Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in November of 1519 accompanied by 11 ships, 600 men 200 servants and 13 horses. They were welcomed with open arms by the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma and lived in Moctezuma's palace in Tenochititlan (present day Mexico City) for several months. They were feasted, given lavish gifts including women. Cortés distributed all that was given to him among his men, keeping a beautiful maiden named Malinche. She was educated and could speak several languages. She was later baptized and given the Spanish name Doña Marina and became Cortés’s mistress, a valuable partner and interpreter. By 1521 Cortes had conquered the Aztec Empire with the help of Malinche.  They had a son, Martin 
Cortés in 1522, making Martin the first Mestizo or mixed breed Spaniard/ Mexican to ever be born. Yet another mind boggling discovery in my personal history. The first Mestizo EVER born was my 2nd cousin 10 generations back. 

Hernán Cortés

Malinche - Doña Marina

Martin Cortés

Emperor Moctezuma's daughter, Isabel Tecuichpo de Moctezuma also had a daughter by Cortes in 1528 named Leonor de Tolosa Cortes Moctezuma. This would make the granddaughter of  Emperor Moctezuma and the daughter of Hernando Cortés my 2nd cousin 10 generations back. Again, every time I made one of these mind blowing discoveries, I would see something on TV or read something on the internet that I would otherwise not notice that related to my research. This time it was at the grocery store. I was picking up a case of Topo Chico and noticed a cool piece of artwork on the side of the box. It was Isabel Tecuichpo de Moctezuma.

The legend says that when Moctezuma's daughter Isabel Tecuichpo de Moctezuma fell terribly ill, Tenochtitlan's priests recommended the girl visit a bubbling, warm spring to the north. After drinking the mountain waters of Topo Chico, the girl was cured.

By this time I had changed from drinking herbal tea to Topo Chico while reading about my family in Wikipedia, of all places. I would go to bed with my mind reeling in dismay of how I had lived more than a half a century clueless of richness in my family history. I had set out to discover the women in my history never dreaming that Isabella I of Castile was my 12th great-grandmother or the woman who had helped Cortes conquer Mexico gave birth to Martin Cortes, my 2nd cousin 10 generations ago. Why wasn't this history at least a part of the history I was taught in Texas.

I couldn't help but have mixed emotions about my ancestor's place in history but  my heart was broken by the disservice to all of us Hispanic and Native people in my country. Especially for my parents who had moved away from their home state of New Mexico to raise their children in the more "acceptable" white protestant city of Amarillo, Texas while quietly maintaining  their Hispanic Catholic heritage. They were still maintaining the age old customs but like Converso Jews, hiding who they were to fit in. As a child, I remember my mother hiding the tortillas she was making in the kitchen when someone knocked on the front door. I really never gave them enough credit for trying to give us a better life. But I am giving credit now to my son who moved to St Louis and is doing his best to carry on the traditions, cooking his grandmother's recipes in his Mexican food restaurant, telling his family story, fully aware of the healing that is needed in our family bloodline.

Sign on the wall at
Taco Circus, St Louis, MO
Still I am sad that the history that I was taught in school, the history that is celebrated in the United States has nothing to do with me. My ancestors weren't Pilgrims who crossed the ocean on the Mayflower landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620. My ancestors came on several expeditions from Spain and made their way through Mexico into New Mexico. The first Spanish settlement was in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1598. The map below shows that we weren't even a part of the United States when the Pilgrims landed. I became dedicated to connecting the dots in a direct line from the surnames in my family tree to Spain to make sure that my family and descendants know OUR family history.

North America in 1794
The United State was only east of the Mississippi
Outlining my ancestry back to Spain was way more involved than I dreamed it would be. Since the people in my culture have always been considered the minority, most of my life I mindlessly believed that my ancestors had encroached upon the white man's territory. It was almost as if we had FOX News all along, spoon feeding us a white washed story. I thought we had only been here two, maybe three generations. I was so very wrong.

I will start by saying, I have roughly 70% Iberian Peninsula DNA(Spain) and 30% Native American DNA (New Mexico).  The journey from Spain to New Mexico took my ancestors generations. It was a difficult, brave journey for the Spanish colonists and there are no words to describe how I feel about my Native American ancestors who were invaded and had their homeland and religion taken from them. Again, I have no doubt that I have been deeply scared by the trauma my ancestors endured. It's estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas and along the way, my Spanish colonist ancestors had children with Native American women, some of them were spouses and some were un-named servants. That does not make me a minority of this land and even more importantly, I am less of an immigrant than most.