Rufina Valenzuela de Escalante – 1868 – 1923

Rufina Escalante had been working to hold her family together during the last four and half years. Her sons had been helping to support her and their younger siblings. They were living in Orange County, near her sister-in-law’s family, as they had been for almost 20 years. And then, something changed. Now, while my tone sounds all ominous, I’ll be honest that I don’t know what “it” was. However, I do know that it happened after the family took a trip into Mexicali, via Calexico.

Rufina, and three youngest, visiting, Dec. 1919.

Rufina, and three youngest, visiting, Dec. 1919.

Thanks to the Border Patrol officer, this little card was difficult to find. Her married name, “Rufina Valenzuela de Escalante,” isn’t on this form. He probably only heard her say the first two names and that was all he wrote. And luckily  for us, they took her picture. She was with her three youngest children, Albert, Lupe and Fernando (although I think the officer heard Vernon).

What would take them back to Mexico? I found a manifest for her oldest daughter, Maria. Maria married Gabriel Morales. She had three children in 1919. Helen, 2 years old, and twins born in 1919, Leonardo and Maria Luisa. I’m pretty sure that would make me take a trip.

Jose Escalante visiting, 1920.

Jose Escalante visiting, 1920.

Jose wandered through in 1920. I verified it was him by his last residence, Delhi, CA. It seems that he’s still married (?). I can’t tell by the officer’s writing.

Charlie Escalante crossing, Dec. 1919.

Charlie Escalante crossing, Dec. 1919.

My mom remembers Carlos as “Uncle Charlie.” He seemed to be going by Charlie already at this point in his life.

Ruben Escalante visiting, Dec. 1919.

Ruben Escalante visiting, Dec. 1919.

And then there is Ruben.

Rufina had to make a very important decision. She had to decide between her husband’s extended family and her grandchildren. She had a sister living in Calexico at the time too. Guadalupe Valenzuela de Garcia had been a resident there for a while. Maybe the Escalante’s could connect to her side of the family for support now.

They moved.

Rumor has it that Rufina has a boarding house in Calexico while she lived there. I can’t find proof of that at all. Their move seems to coincide with the taking of the 1920 Census. I think they miss the documenting in both places. Grrrrr.

Her life in Calexico didn’t last very long. She started getting sick. She developed Bright’s Disease, which is a chronic kidney disease “involving inflammation and deterioration.”

Rufina Valenzuela de Escalante's Death Certificate.

Rufina Valenzuela de Escalante’s Death Certificate.

She died on Oct. 25, 1923. Her sister, Guadalupe, was the contact person for all of her personal information, such as their parents.

The Escalante children had their mother buried at the Mt. View Cemetery, Calexico, CA.

Rufina's tombstone, Mt.View Cemetery, Historical Section.

Rufina’s tombstone, Mt.View Cemetery, Historical Section.

The Escalante offspring were now adults and a few children alone in the world. They only had each other to rely on. The younger kids moved in with older siblings that could care for them. Most transitioned well. One did not.

My mom has often been told that she has her grandmothers’ eyes. My son has my moms’ eyes. It is of great importance for me to see this woman in a crystal clear photograph before I die. There is a $50 reward for anyone who could make that happen. Then I can post the picture. And we can all see the woman who held her family together for another 8 years after her husband died.

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