Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ruben Escalante

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to write about Tio Ruben. I saw one of his sons on my recent trip to California. I was able to get bit more of his character through that visit. So, without further ado,…

Ruben Escalante was born May 28, 1898 in Naco, Sonora. He was the fifth child of Leonardo and Rufina. His birth shows us that his parents had not found the right place to settle down. Uncle Charlie and Tia Maria were supposed to be born in El Paso. So up from Sonora, to El Paso, to Naco, to Ventura County, the family trekked across great distances in the late 1800s to find a better life for themselves and their children.

Alberto and Ruben, El Rio, CA, around 1910.

Alberto and Ruben, El Rio, CA, around 1910.

Tio Ruben spent his formative years as a California boy. Between Ventura and Orange Counties, he spent the first 20 years with the Escalante and Romo families. When his mother Rufina chose to move the family to Imperial County, he went as well.

Ruben Escalante

Ruben Escalante

I’m sure his life started well before meeting his lovely young wife, but I’m sure she enhanced it. Maria del Refugio Palacios (Tia Cuca) was the daughter of Francisco Palacios and Herminia Sanchez.

The Palacios family was from Santa Ana, Sonora, Mexico, where Rufina’s family also resided. Ruben was older than she was by a decade. She married him and they moved to Mexicali.

Ruben and Maria's wedding.

Ruben and Maria’s wedding.

The matron of honor was Tia Panchita. The best man was my grandfather, Alberto. The two little girls we have been unable to identify.

In 1930, they lived in Imperial, California. He worked for the Irrigation District as a surveyor. According to the census, they were about 13 years apart.

Ruben and Refugio. Newlywed life in Imperial, California, 1930.

Ruben and Refugio. Newlywed life in Imperial, California, 1930.

Their family started to grow. Their first child was born in 1930. They had 5 children total, two girls and three boys. Family was important to them. When I visited their son in 2009, he shared these pictures.

Son, Tia Cuca, Tia Guadalupe and Tio Ruben, around 1937, Calexico, CA.

Son, Tia Cuca, Tia Guadalupe and Tio Ruben, around 1937, Calexico, CA.

I asked how he had gotten this wonderful picture. Well, he’s in it! So he inherited it. Tia Guadalupe is Rufina’s sister. This is the closest I’ve gotten to seeing what my great-grandmother might have looked like. He also mentioned then that Tia Cuca was related to Guadalupe by marriage somehow, so they were one big happy family.

Tia Cuca, Tio Manuel and Son. Calexico, CA, around 1937.

Tia Cuca, Tio Manuel and Son. Calexico, CA, around 1937.

They were all in a picture-taking mood that day. This is Manuel Garcia, Tia Panchita’s uncle-in-law. (I am very fortunate I can keep all of this straight in my head.)  Here is a nice studio portrait of Tia Cuca and her son. She is just lovely.

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Ruben decided to take his family and settle in Mexicali. He was able to make his money from his job in the US go much farther there. He had a ranch that many people would go and visit. Their son said that he had even met my grandfather’s first wife, Edith, at this ranch. We had never known anyone (besides my grandfather) that had met her.

Tio Ruben at his ranch in Mexicali.

Tio Ruben at his ranch in Mexicali.

His occupation was Hydrographer.

Ruben at work. Dapper moustache.

Ruben at work. Dapper moustache.

Tio Ruben was noted for having a bit of a temper. However, many Escalantes will tell you that they have this trait as well. One famous quarrel he had was with his sister, Maria. Maria had been waiting for their mother Rufina to die. Almost immediately after her death, Maria went and started taking furniture out of Rufina’s house. Tio Ruben was supposed to have gone to her home and taken the items out to the street. He’d rather have strangers take it than let her have his mother’s things. It took many years for them to make amends from this. However, at the end of her life, Maria did come back to Mexicali and they made up.

Tia Cuca, Son Ruben, and Tio Ruben - 1950s.

Tia Cuca, Son Ruben, and Tio Ruben – 1950s.

Tio Ruben passed away on December 27, 1962. My mom’s cousin, who grew up across the border in Calexico, saw him for the first time at the funeral. It seemed like such an odd thing. However, I am noticing more and more how families concentrate on their nuclear family while their extended family drifts away. Even when that family is only 10 miles away.

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Panteon Municipal Dos, Mexicali.

In 2009, my mom and I were escorted to the final resting place of Tio Ruben, Tia Cuca and their son, Ruben, Jr. I’ve been searching for a picture of the dates on her gravestone, but I don’t think I have one. She lived a long time as a widow. She passed at the end of the 1990s.

I had met Tia Cuca several times. She was very welcoming and kind. Her son has that same openness. Together, she and Tio Ruben built a home that was more stable, more constant than that of many of his siblings. And that’s a lovely legacy.