Category Archives: Escalante Family History

We are Family.

Greetings! I have been working WAY too much recently. My computer has been acting weird too, so my ability to search for family has been disrupted. However, I found that a kind person shared my blog entry regarding the Palacios family on her Facebook page. Many have been visiting and I’m so glad! Connecting with family to share stories is the reason I do this.

As the Palacios’ are my traffic right now, I thought I might share some information with them that they may or may not know. I am surprised how many family circles are in the radius that is Calexico and Mexicali, but they DON’T know it. My mom’s first cousin was Dr. Leonardo Sepulveda, pediatrician. He worked in Mexicali. She never met him. ACK!

I am a notorious Facebook stalker. I see who knows who. Some may know this next batch of information, but many may not.

My connection to the Palacios family is two-fold. My Great-Uncle Ruben Escalante married Maria Del Refugio Palacios. Her sister married my Great-Great-uncle Jose Maria Valenzuela. I have often wondered how Jose Maria’s two sets of children viewed each other.

Jose Maria’s first wife was Maria Luisa Lopez. They had three children that I can find so far. I really love to draw charts. I’m sure one day I’ll get fancy and do it on the computer, but that is no fun for my brain.


Jose Maria’s first marriage and resulting off-spring.

Adela was important to Margarita Valenzuela (Gil Samaniego) because she was a 15 year-old who was at Margarita’s 2nd wedding as padrino. How cute she must have been at her aunt’s side. I could not find leads on the other children of this first marriage.

Maria Luisa died between 1910 – 1913. In 1914, Jose Maria marries his second wife, Armida Palacios.


Wedding Registration for Armida Palacios and Jose Maria Valenzuela, 1914.

Now Armida is a married young woman with a few step-children, one her own age. She gets pregnant quite quickly. While they have a baby girl, Francisca, she only lives 5 months.


Grandfather Francisco Palacios was the one to report the death of the baby to the officials.

This must have been devastating to the new mother. She did move forward and proceeded to have 9 children. [If she had more, please let me know].


This wonderful picture shows Armida with her first three living children. The 10-year old, I can’t find on record.

This post has many images. I thought everyone would like to see photos from waaaay back in the day.


Many years of using his Travel Manifest. Oscar Valenzuela-Palacios.


Armida Valenzuela de Cota.

Armida’s husband was Lauro Cota. He was a local singer in the Mexicali area. His Manifest says he “sings on the radio.” I found an article in this e-magazine. Page 5 discusses Cota quickly, as well as another man who married into the Palacios clan, Armando Toledo.


Juan’s manifest. Noting he was going to Heber to see his brother-in-law Arturo Hernandez.

Let’s see. What else. I found Maria Guadalupe Otilia Valenzuela Palacios too. She shortened it and went by Otilia. She was very pretty.


How does one take such a great picture? Honestly.

She married a Gilberto Castro Millan. A later manifest says she had two children; a boy named Fernando and a girl whose name I couldn’t find.


Mario. One of the last of the children. He looks like L. Escalante.

In my records I have a Cesar Valenzuela listed, but have no idea why. I could find nothing on him.


The Valenzuela-Palacios tree.

So there is what I could find on this family. All of these people are first cousins to my grandfather – Alberto “Tony” Escalante. Also to his brother Ruben. But because Ruben married Armida Palacios’ sister, they are also Rubens’ nieces and nephews. Excellent!!!

I hope that all of the siblings got along. From both marriages. I hope that they all had birthdays, baptisms and weddings together. The age difference might have been an issue. Some of my mom’s best memories were visiting with the Palacios family. She had no idea she was related to them. Twice.

If there is anyone out there who can supply me with corrections, additions, photos, please share whatever you can. I want to report as accurately as possible. Have a wonderful November!

He Once was Lost, but Now, He’s Found….

One thing I have discovered about myself during my family history hunting journey is that I am persistent. Give me some time. I will keep on looking. If you might be related to me, I will hunt you down and I will find you. *insert evil laugh here*

There are still a few people for whom I am looking. My latest “last chance” try was for Tio Jose. If you remember, we last left the eldest of the Escalante children divorced. He had been seen turned out of his siblings’ homes in Calexico in the early 1950s.

Tia Panchita had said my grandfather Albert had sand in his shoes which was why he always kept moving. But he always kept in touch with his family. Tio Jose must have had sand dunes in his shoes. He wandered around all the time. He must not have been good about staying in touch with those who loved him, as they turned on him.

Jose Maria Escalante

Jose Maria Escalante

I had interviewed his daughter-in-law on the phone. She had mentioned that Ester said Jose was blind when he died. Fascinating. What that told me was Ester KNEW when he died. She just never chose to talk about it. That generation should have worked for the CIA. They could keep crazy good secrets!

Not to be deterred, I kept on searching. Ancestry had a hint come up that suggested a Jose Escalante died in 1960. The birth date matched, but they said he had been born in Maine. Um, no. I’m on a budget here, so sending away for Death Certificates can get pricey if it’s not the one you want.

About a year later, I decided to risk it. I saw that California had cashed my check two weeks ago and I waited anxiously for the post office to deliver the certificate. It came today! (I know, I’m a goof. ) AND it’s him!

Jose Escalante's Death Certificate.

Jose Escalante’s Death Certificate.

Bless Tio Jose’s heart! Examining the document gives me all sorts of clues as to the end of his life. He had been a janitor in his later years. He died alone. He had been in the General Hospital of Riverside County. He died of Lobar Pneumonia. He lived at this little house before his death:,-117.363913,3a,75y,207.25h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m4!1sD5aBjIvJrvjM52tbsXFONw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xb6892fb7bdd0d345!6m1!1e1

He stated that he was still married – to Ester Arias Escalante. He died on Christmas Day, 1960. Could that be sadder? He was interred at the Palo Verde Cemetery in Blythe, CA, on January 3, 1961, per the very nice lady who answered the phone.

The reason I called the cemetery is that I searched on and They had pictures and listings for all those buried at Palo Verde, but no listing for Jose.

I gave their office a quick ring. The secretary graciously checked their records. Yes, he’s buried there. His grave is located in Section “M,” 99-8. (Just in case you get there first.) Because his headstone hasn’t been photographed yet, I wonder if he even has one.

Palo Verde Cemetery, Blythe, CA.

Palo Verde Cemetery, Blythe, CA.

Today I get to move Tio Jose to the “Found” column of my ledger. Now he gets to be on that list of those I get to visit at his resting place to appreciate him for being my great-uncle. I might even be his first visitor. He has a wonderful family that I’ve had the privilege to get to know. And for that alone, I am truly grateful.


Fernando Escalante – Part I

It must be difficult to the be the baby sometimes. Either they are doted over and spoiled rotten, or they are forgotten. I have not forgotten about the baby of the Escalante children. I’ve been so wrapped up in telling my grandfather Albert’s story, that I postponed  Fernando. But, I can’t do that! Therefore, he has been bumped to the top of the queue. As his life was pretty full, I thought I would give him several chapters.

Fernando Escalante - May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante – May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante was the last living child born to Leonardo and Rufina. They were living in Los Angeles in 1914. I would love to know what drew them to L.A. The who? what? why? Before they got to Orange County, they had Fernando. This birth certificate is SO very informative. Leonardo didn’t have a business here as he’d had in Ventura County. Rufina is “housewife-ing.” My heart skipped a bit when I read “Number of children born to this mother, including present birth: 12” and “Number of children of this mother now living: 9.” My poor darling Rufina lost 3 babies. BUT! They did get one more chance. Fernando was born and his daddy was 48! Surprise!

The family moved to Santa Ana and started their lives. Fernando didn’t get to know his daddy for very long though. Leonardo died June, 1915, when Fernando was only one. The whole family shifted their center to Calexico. There are several family members who visited the area. This was the first picture I could find for Fernando.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

I love the sweet border agents. They tried so hard to translate names. So Fernando was called Vernon. Once Rufina died in 1923, Fernando became a 9 year-old orphan. Fortunately, the family rallied to care for him.  I would imagine he lived for a while with several of his “already adult” siblings.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

I found this handsome devil’s photograph at the Pioneer Park Museum in Imperial, CA. While my grandfather Albert stopped his education at 16 years old, Fernando made it to graduation in 1934. The next time I find him is in 1937 at the Hotel De Anza.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Fernando was working as a Bellman. This isn’t a phone book. It was an area directory and it gave all sorts of good information. I confirmed that here (by cross-reference) in 1937 Fernando is living with Tia Panchita and Tio Alejandro.

It was in 1936 and 1937 that Fernando’s life started changing. He met his first wife, Elodia Cruz. Elodia’s story is shared with us by her daughter.

Elodia was born to Luz Rembao and Jose Cruz in Mexicali, Baja CA on June 25, 1919. In 1920, they lived for a short time in Hurley, Grant County, New Mexico. Elodia’s uncle and maternal grandmother, Senona lived next door. Soon, there were three Cruz children when Alberto was born right after this census was taken.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Tragedy struck the family early. Their father died Elodia was 3, and their mother died two years later. The Cruz siblings went to live with their maternal grandmother, Senona, back in Mexicali. 5 years later, Senona passed. They went to live with a maternal aunt. They were raised among 16 children.

Elodia met and fell for a handsome Fernando Escalante. They married on June 15, 1937, when he was 23 and she was 18.

Elodia and Fernando’s Wedding Day. Photo courtesy of G. Miller.

This lovely photograph is their wedding portrait. Left to Right: Leonila (? as she looks just like Elodia), unknown, Tia Panchita Escalante de Garcia, Elodia, Fernando, Tio Alejandro Garcia, unknown, unknown.

They had two children, a boy and a girl. I’m kind of quirky about not naming those family members who are alive. I’m happy to report that both are.

Her manifest with her baby boy. She's beaming!

Elodia’s manifest with her and Fernando’s first baby boy. She’s beaming!

This marriage did not last long however. Fernando and Elodia divorced in 1942. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1946. She recovered, moving to San Diego to live with Leonila. In 1955, she found new happiness. She met and married Wallace Gray of Macon, Georgia. Elodia’s son had been living with Fernando and his second wife (next chapter) and their daughter had been living with Tia Panchita. Both went to live with Elodia and Wallace in 1956. That same year, Elodia had another son. Their family was complete. The Gray’s were married for over 50 years.

She was a sales woman at Hartfield’s Department Store for 25 years. I wish I had been able to meet her. Her daughter wrote: “My mother was a selfless, wonderfully forgiving, and unpretentious woman. She didn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She was a very fun-loving woman. She loved to dance and go to parties. She was a devout Catholic, attending Mass faithfully and saying her rosary everyday.”

Elodia Cruz Gray died of breast cancer on July 28, 2006.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Tio Fernando’s story went on after his divorce from Elodia. There was the military, a new wife, bar keeping, hard work and more children. You’ll just have to wait for next time.

My thanks to Elodia’s daughter for sharing the stories and pictures. All my love.

Bits and Nibbles – Various Stories and Previews


I have been fighting a sinus infection the last few weeks. Being here in Oklahoma in May is trying on my poor head. Cottonwood seeds float around like little flying saucers of allergen doom. I love it here, but May does have its downside. That, and the traditional spring storms with their meso-cyclones (tornadoes) is always fun and exciting!

But you are here for other reasons. First of all, I have delayed in sharing this a bit too long. I have been in contact with my Gil Samaniego cousins in Mexicali. If you remember they are Margarita Valenzuela’s descendants. They have been so kind in their friendship to me. One cousin sent me this wonderful photograph.

Mexicali, 1935. Photo Courtesty of T. Gil Samaniego.

Mexicali, 1935. Photo courtesy of T. Gil Samaniego.

This is Jose Florencio “Lencho” Valenzuela and his lovely bride Concepción “Concha” Abril. He was from Margarita’s third marriage. He did not take his father’s last name. They were married in 1935. They lived in Mexicali. Lencho is my grandfather’s first cousin. What a lovely treasure. They had quite a few children, most who live in Mexicali.

Let’s see…what else? Last year I was bored and doodling and testing my memory. I managed to put a family tree together that seemed to get most of the families on it.

Genealogy nerd doodles.

Genealogy nerd doodles.

I think this could be helpful for those that might wander onto this site looking for a more collected framework. These are names I can definitively say have documentation to back up the theory of my branches. There are many other “side” friends and family theories that I have. But until I can prove it, they are all just theories.

I am outlining two new blogs in regards to my grandfather Albert. One will be about his third wife, Sara Higuera. I want to give her familial background a fuller picture for her grandchildren who may or may not know much about their past. The second will be more of Albert’s business and career dealings. I am kind of partial to him, so I want to give him the fullest picture I can. Haha!

I am in touch with another family historian who is working on the HIguera tree. Just when I think I have a good basic idea of Sara’s story, I’m told that Sara was married before my grandfather. WHAT?? So I go looking around and find this:

Fengel - Higuera wedding license announcement. Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jan 3, 1934.

Fengel – Higuera wedding license announcement. Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jan 3, 1934.

Neat! But there is a bit more to the Fengel story, so that will probably add-on a few more weeks of correspondence. It’s a never-ending spiral of information!

I’m off to continue researching. If you find you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Send me a message. I really enjoy reuniting family with family that isn’t even mine. 🙂


Maria Elena Sepulveda – One More Time

Ahhh, the Escalante stories do continue. Just when I think I’ve dug and redug all I can, I find that there are more doors to be open. We each have so many chapters.

I went onto Ancestry a few months ago and found a new entry under the U.S. Social Security Death Index. It was for one Maria Elena Sepulveda – parents listed as Hipolito Sepulveda and Maria Escalante. Our cousin, born in 1917, died in Los Angeles, CA, in 2004. WHAT??


So, being the old-fashioned girl that I am, I filled out an application and sent it to CA Vital Records for an “old school” Death Certificate. Oooh, the waiting is the hardest part!

Before it arrived, I did some research on Maria Elena via updated Ancestry records. After having been born in Gloryetta, Orange County, California, her mother, father and their new spouses all ended up in Mexico City. On November 19, 1943, Maria Elena married one Pablo Velazquez. I cannot tell if they divorced or he passed away. They do not appear to have had any children together either.


Finally, her DC arrived. I had been able to learn quite a bit from this one piece of paper. Maria Elena had a 6th grade-level education. She had been a beautician. She had Alzheimer’s for a long time (down farther on page). I put her last residence into a search engine to find she was in the Brier Oak care facility until her death in 2004.

The best part of this evidence was the name of her informant. *hands clapping!* With that name I was able to discover how Maria Elena’s reappearance in the states unfolded.

Maria Elena was on several flight itineraries during the late 1950s in Texas. And a man, one Donald Ekman, traveled to see her too. They married on March 25, 1960.


Maria’s itinerary after her marriage to Donald Ekman.

A few years later they had two daughters. She was an older mom! She had her girls in 1962 and 1963 – when she was 45 and 46, respectively. Maria Elena and Donald were married until their divorce in 1972.  The informants name on her DC was her eldest daughter. I would normally share names, but I work hard to keep living people’s names anonymous. Her Death Certificate says she was widowed. Had she married a third time?

I have sent letters to the addresses I can find for her two daughters. They aren’t all that much older than I am. I hope that they decide to make contact. You know I have a TON of questions. Do they know about their aunts and uncles (Tia Maria’s other children)? They might find they have hundreds of extra family members they never knew about! I am also a friend of Hipolito Sepulveda’s family in the Wilmington area. These women have double the family.

Maria Elena was buried at sea via the Neptune Society. I will not be able to go to her grave to pay last respects. But, at least now, we now the end of her story.


The Palacios Family Connection

As a family historian, I have been really fortunate to have access to various internet tools to get this job done. It was much harder “back in the day” when you had to guess dates and send away for paper hard copies from state agencies.

Recently, I got connected with several new-to-me family members via Facebook. When I see they have old pictures of their family posted, who also happen to by MY family as well, my heart gets all race-y, like I’ve been doing aerobics, but without all the sweating.

So this week, I have seen on Facebook a few Palacios family members. I know of them because Tio Ruben married into their family. I even have them listed on my tree on Ancestry because I love making branches bigger.

But two things happened that have changed my “oh-so-well-thought-out” theory of family lines. I saw a picture of the Palacios family, and Ancestry released 200 million new documents from Mexico. My theory was shattered. So here is the rewrite.

Francisco Palacios was the son of Jesus Palacios and Consuelo Soltero. He was born around 1873 in Phoenix, AZ.

Francisco Palacios.

Francisco Palacios. Photo Courtesy of L. Escalante.

He married Herminia Sanchez in Santa Ana, Sonora, Mexico. Here is a picture of her on a Travel Manifest from 1927.

Herminia Sanchez de Palacios, 1927.

Herminia Sanchez de Palacios, 1927.

Tia Cuca Palacios-Escalante’s nephew had a great picture of his family on his page. It’s this one. He let me borrow it. (Thank you Ramon)

The Palacios Family.

The Palacios Family. (Back row (L-R)  Chuy Estrada, Victoria Valencia, Dolores Figueroa, Francisco Palacios, Jose Cruz Palacios, Armida Valenzuela, Francisco Fernandez, Maria Montijo, and Cuca Escalante. The lady sitting on left, I could not find a name for. Herminia is sitting on right.

These were Herminia’s children, minus two, not in the picture. I thought it was odd that Armida was in there, as I had always thought she was Francisco Sr’s sister. I HAD thought she was Tia Cuca’s aunt. Thanks to the new documents I could now find, I discovered the truth!

Civil Registration of Jose Maria Valenzuela and Armida Palacios' wedding.

Civil Registration of Jose Maria Valenzuela and Armida Palacios’ wedding. March 2, 1914.

She is Tia Cuca’s sister. AND she was married to Jose Maria Valenzuela (Rufina’s brother). What this means for me is that her children were first cousins to my Grandfather Alberto. WHAT??? According to the above document (and a little help from, Jose Maria was a widower. He was 38 years-old when he married his 16 year-old bride, Armida. She was young when she was married! Here is her dashing older husband.

Jose Maria Valenzuela's travel manifest, 1927.

Jose Maria Valenzuela’s travel manifest, 1927.

This explains how Ruben met his wife in Santa Ana, Sonora. He must have gone to see his uncle. And met the lovely Palacios daughters and brought one home.

Tia Cuca and Tio Ruben's wedding day. Matron of Honor: Panchita Escalante de Garcia. Best Man: Alberto Escalante.

Tia Cuca and Tio Ruben’s wedding day. Matron of Honor: Francisca Escalante de Garcia. Best Man: Alberto Escalante. If anyone knows the little girls names, please tell me.

But this was a difficult new idea to wrap my brain around. I stayed up late a few nights trying to draw the following diagram. It should really be 3-D. But this is the best I could do.

The Valenzuela Family Tree.

The Valenzuela Family Tree.

Now I am hoping that Palacios cousins will look at this and give me some feedback. But, if I have this right, Ruben was first cousin to Armida’s children AND their uncle by marriage. I guess I can now call her Tia Armida, as she is my great-great-aunt. I don’t know if Armida’s family was close to her other sisters-in-law, Guadalupe V de Garcia or Margarita V de Samaniego. Anybody? Anybody?

There was a tradition in the 1940s-1950s in our extended families. When couples were transitioning to new circumstances, such as new marriages or moving, many children were sent to live with other relations. My aunt was sent to live with Tia Chuy Palacios Estrada for a while. The general idea had been Tia Chuy was just sweet to take the girls in. However, if Armida was Alberto’s aunt, then the Palacios family was our family too.

I must take this moment to once again mention that none of these details were known to my mom or aunt. I did go with my parents to interview Tia Cuca in 1991. I trusted that my Spanish-speaking elders would tell me any vital information I might need to know. This information is on the tape. You can even hear acknowledgement from them, but no one mentioned it to me. So, I had to wait 25 years to discover it on my own. Thank you, thank you very much.

Francisco Palacios died in 1940. I found his Death Registration today.

Death Registration of Francsico Palacios, 1940.

Death Registration of Francsico Palacios, 1940.

I have much of this information fleshed out on my Escalante family tree on Ancestry. If I have it wrong (gulp), any help would be so very greatly appreciated. While I work to be annoyingly careful on who gets on the tree, I can obviously make mistakes. It did not occur to me that Tia Armida would have been so young when she married. [My paternal grandmother was 13 when she married. Shaking my head at a rookie mistake.]

BUT, it sure made for a fun week of searching and connecting the dots. All over again.


Albert Charles Escalante IV – Manuela Ismael

After Edith’s death in 1939, Albert moved forward with his life. He had told my mom that he dated Lupe Velez once. She was an actress who had been married to Johnny Weismuller. He said she was crazy, so they didn’t go out again. Being a handsome man, it wouldn’t be long until he could heal his broken heart.

As a matter of fact, it did happen. And quickly. He met a young woman who had come to Hollywood to become famous. Manuela later said she had been encouraged to go because she was pretty. “But, there are many pretty men and women in this world.” So her stay in Los Angeles was brief, but she came home with her first husband. This blog entry will be longer and fuller than others, as Manuela Ismael is my grandmother.

Manuela’s story begins with her mother. Maria de Jesus Corral was the eldest daughter of J. Jesus Corral and Florencia Alvarado. She was called “Mama Chu,” which was to differentiate her from “Mama Florencia.” Mama Chu had been a young woman in love in Hermosillo, Sonora. But when the man she was in love with chose another woman, Maria de Jesus Corral married an older man, Jose Ismael. Jose had been born in Turkey. His parents were Ismael Ale and Maria Juliana de Ale. Jose and Mama Chu had three children: Maria Dolores Ismael, Jose Ismael, Jr., and Manuela Ismael.

Legend has it that Jose Ismael was not Catholic. Some have heard he was Muslim, one heard he was Jewish. It didn’t matter to Mama Chu. Her babies were baptised Catholic. My extensive procrastination in writing this particular piece paid off again as I just recently found the below baptism record. I also found Dolores’ baptism record. In that one, their father isn’t mentioned at all.

Manuela Ismael's Baptism, 1919.

Manuela Ismael’s Baptism, 1919.

My poor grandmother didn’t get the long, Spanish-style name with three or four names. She was simply named Manuela Ismael.

Tia Rita Corral and Manuela on her lap (1920ish). Photo courtesy of Tia Lola.

Tia Rita Corral and Manuela on her lap (1920ish). Photo courtesy of Tia Lola.

You can’t see Manuela’s face, but here she is on the lap of her young aunt, Rita Corral. Life in Hermosillo was fine for a while. But then Mama Chu left her husband. The story was that Jose was shot dead in a card game. Tia Lola said that later she saw her father again but wanted nothing to do with him. Either way, the marriage was over. Mama Chu left her older children at her mother’s house in Hermosillo while she took Manuela (Nela) with her to Arizona to start a new life.

Mama Chu started working as a cook on several ranches. She would visit her mom and children back in Hermosillo. She would get gold and bring it back over the border. It was dangerous travelling at that time so she would hide the money in Nela’s diaper or sew the coins into the hem of her own skirts.

Manuela and Dolores, early 1920s.

Manuela and Dolores, early 1920s.

Writer’s Note: Here in present day, we are encouraged to share our feelings. Social media keeps us abreast of what we ate for lunch with a picture on Instagram. I am truly amazed how much was not shared about the past of those family members before us. But I am getting better at investigating every day.The next few years were bumpy for Mama Chu and her children. While I don’t have the definitive What’s and Why’s, I have the basics.

According to some travel itineraries, Mama Chu met, and married, a man named Vicente Guerrero. They did not have any children together. Vicente was an older relative of Lalo Guerrero, “the Father of Chicano Music.” She worked at a ranch in Patagonia, AZ.

Mama Chu’s life was busy but not quite calm. She wasn’t long with Vicente either. So short was this marriage, that none of her grandchildren knew of it’s existence. Working as a cook on a ranch, she saw, and fell in love with, a cowboy named Teodoro Vega. He fell in love with her too when he saw her after a hair washing day.  She sat on her porch, brushing out her long dark hair. Apparently, that did the trick. By the time the time the 1930 US Census came around, they had married and settled in Tucson; Vega, Mama Chu, and her three children.

Nela was a fun woman. In the pictures we have of her she is always smiling and being dramatic. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She passed this down her female line, if I do say so myself.

Here she is being silly with friends.

Here she is being silly with friends.

More fun that same day.

More fun that same day.

Her future sister-in-law (Oralia is far left) and Nela is third from left. Visiting a local waterfall.

Her future sister-in-law (Oralia is second from left) and Nela is third from left. Visiting a local waterfall.

Speed forward to late 1939 or early 1940. 20 year-old Nela wanders over Los Angeles to become an actress. She goes out with friends, where she meets a handsome older man tending bar. My grandfather Albert, newly widowed, was the man. Whirlwind, whirlwind, whirlwind. They fall in love, get married (in Nogales, Sonora) and move to Tucson. Tia Oralia said that when the family first met Tony, they thought he was a gangster. He was very well manicured, dressed and meticulous in all aspects of his appearance. He had already seen and done so much, the 12-year age difference was noticeable.

1940 US Census. Tony and Nelly are living in Tucson.

1940 US Census. Tony and Nelly are living in Tucson.

This census report was filled out on April 11, 1940. It states that Tony is working as an attendant at a gas station. He really was a jack of all trades. They settled into married life. They had their first of two daughters in late 1940, the second in 1942.

The two still living with the in-laws, 1941 Tuscon Directory.

The two still living with the in-laws, 1941 Tuscon Directory.

Eventually, World War II starts. Due to his busted ear-drums from so many years of fighting, Tony is unable to serve in the military although he did try to register. He worked at Davis-Monthan Army Airfield. I believe he worked on planes, but this photo was taken for a brochure. He could have been a model.

Tony Escalante, Tucson.

Tony Escalante, Tucson.

Tony and Nela saved up money to buy land and build their own home. It’s still standing on S. Grande Ave, Tucson. I’m almost certain that it’s 216. (You can still see it via Google maps.) My Tio Fernando’s wife, Tia Alicia, thought they had dirt floors in this house, but that wasn’t true. Tony colored the cement a red and waxed it. So much so, that my aunt still bears a scar after she slipped and fell on the shiny, slippery surface. He was so ahead of his time as cement staining is big business right now.

Picture day in Tuscon. Back row (L-R): Delia Guerrero and Nela. Front row (L-R): My mom, Lalo Guerrero, and my aunt.

Picture day in Tuscon. Back row (L-R): Delia Guerrero and Nela. Front row (L-R): My mom, Richard Ysmael, and my aunt.

Soon the family had some money saved. This little group would go and visit Tony’s family in Imperial Valley and Mexicali. Tony’s youngest brother, Fernando, returned from his naval service back to Calexico, California, with saved up money also in hand. The two brothers decided to go into business together. Tony and Nela sold their home in Tucson, using its profits to invest in Escalante’s Bar. They lived in Calexico for a short time before great changes developed. Tony re-met a woman named Sara Higuera, with whom he had always been infatuated. The marriage between Tony and Nela slowly fell apart. Nela returned to Tucson to be with her family.

But being as lovely as she was, Nela wasn’t alone for long. She too met someone new. Frank Leon was a musician. The two fell for each other. My mom and aunt went to live with Tony and Sara in Calexico. Nela married Frank in 1946. Their daughter, Natalia Christina Leon, was born in 1947.

Manuela de Leon.

Manuela de Leon.

The above picture is from her travel itinerary. She looks fabulous. My ID pictures never come out that good. They travelled together all the time going from show to show. However, being on the road was difficult and took a toll on their relationship. Nela and Frank divorced before his early death in 1956.

She stayed single for a while. My aunt left Calexico to live with Nela and Mama Chu, and got married from that house.  This might be around the time where my grandmother officially changed her name. She and her siblings had already changed the spelling of their last name. They collectively became Ysmael, from Ismael. She never liked the name Manuela so she shortened it to Nela.

Then Nela met a younger man who was in the service. Peter R. Gonzales worked at the air base. She kept telling him to find a younger woman. Get out. Go away. But he was unwaivering in his love for her.

Nela and Pete's Civil Wedding, Nogales, Sonora, 1962.

Nela and Pete’s Civil Wedding, Nogales, Sonora, 1962.

She became the older person in this relationship. He had been born in 1932 or 33. She was 13 years his senior, but it was a good solid marriage.


Nela Ysmael Gonzales, 1960s.

They had a lovely life together. My mom lived with them for a year. She liked Pete and his kindness toward Nela.

The early 1970s were hard on the whole family. Vega died Apr. 9, 1971. Mama Chu died in August, 1974. And then my mom got a call from Pete. Nela was sick. He recommended that we all come as soon as possible. [In the recent good-old-days, husbands were told a diagnosis while the wife was kept out of the loop. Nela had colon cancer.] Our families made the journey to Tucson from California to say good-bye.

Nela never knew, even when she was in the hospital at the end, that she was dying. The whole event came so quickly. On her Death Certificate, the doctor states that he treated her starting Dec. 14, 1974. Nela passed away on February 7, 1975.

Manuela Ismael, 1940ish.

Manuela Ismael, 1940ish.

I’ve not been able to go as far back in this part of my family tree as I would like. My mom and I did our DNA analysis. We found our mitochondrial DNA walked over the Bering Straight somewhere into Mexico to Mama Florencia, Mama Chu, and Nela. I am almost certain I got my good hair from her dad. And we all got our sense of humor from Nela herself. I wish I had been able to know her better. Luckily for me, this little hobby of mine allows me to do just that.

Albert Charles Escalante – Part III – Edith Edwards

Alberto “Tony” Escalante had been boxing for a while, traveling the world. Soon, his personal life started to take shape. He had met a woman. They had an affair and she became pregnant. He didn’t marry her. She instead chose to marry a man who would later become a District Attorney for San Diego. The man adopted the girl as his own.

Tony decided that he didn’t want to have any more children. He had a vasectomy. Now, if you are a first cousin to me, you know this did not work. Our grandfather was truly taken in by someone. I just hope it wasn’t too painful a procedure. But let’s pretend we are with him in the 1930s where he believes that he is now impervious to children.

Tony must have been living in the Los Angeles area around 1935. He was probably doing what work he could being in the depression. It was around this time that he went to a fair. He saw a woman that he was struck with. He asked her to take a ride on the Ferris wheel with him. And that was it. For many years this is all I knew about her, except that her name was Edith Edwards. And she became his first wife.

*The following narrative could not have been accomplished without the kindness of Edith’s granddaughter. I will keep her name anonymous. But her assistance with this story was priceless.*

Edith M. Edwards was born September 1, 1896.  She was married twice before marrying Alberto. The first time to a Mr. Innis Millar, who had been born in Scotland. They were married on June 4, 1914. She had two children by Mr. Millar, William and Allene. Edith divorced him before 1920, when the children were toddlers. Edith’s parents, George and Sarah, took care of the kids while Edith worked as a waitress on a river boat that traveled the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans.

She then remarried a Mr. Whitworth, of whom I can find no additional information. He wasn’t apparently the nicest of men. Allene had no love lost for this step-father, and was glad when her mother divorced him by 1930.

Edith and her whole family decided to make the big move from St. Louis to California. It was quite the expedition. Once the family settled in, they had a photo taking day. The first picture is the whole Edwards clan. They were a Midwest bunch through and through.

The Edwards Family, California, 1930s.

The Edwards Family, California, 1930s.

The only ones I can name are George Edwards (far left), Sarah Isabelle Edwards (next to him), and Edith (first on left in the top back row). George and Sarah are her parents. This picture was courtesy of a family tree owner at

Allene Miller (left) with Edith Whitworth (right). Two friends in background.

Allene Miller (left) with Edith Whitworth (right). Two friends in background.

The above picture came from the photo shoot on the same day. It was sent to me by Edith’s granddaughter.

So, back to Alberto. He decided to marry this lovely woman. This is a picture of him in the 1930s. With the expression on his face, and the fact that this picture was cut in half, I would bet some very serious money (and I’m not much of a gambling person) that Edith was in the other half of the portrait. If you look closely, you can see a person on his left, sitting quite close.

Albert Charles Escalante - 1930s.

Albert Charles Escalante – 1930s.

My grandfather’s name at this time becomes very important. He wasn’t born Albert Charles, but he did choose this name. It is when he married Edith that his name change became official. His Social Security application form, his marriage certificate, and voter registration all show that he became Albert Charles Escalante (ACE). He continued to hold the nickname “Tony.”

The official marriage certificate. May 15, 1936.

The official marriage certificate. May 15, 1936.

So, they got married! Their witness was Albert’s new step-daughter, Allene. He was caught in an interesting situation. He was 9 years younger than his new wife, and 9 years older than his step-daughter. Allene was on her own by the time her mother married. She also appeared to be pleased with the union. “We knew they were happy and that mother liked Albert,” her granddaughter wrote.

She also wrote this “I also think a family ring which mother said was Edith’s engagement ring came from your grandfather.” Allene’s daughters split the ring. The eldest has the original stone in a new setting, and the younger has the ring with a vintage stone put in it. It’s lovely to know that he gave them a something for the girls to treasure.

LA Voter Registration - 1936.

LA Voter Registration – 1936.

The two settled into married life.  The above is a copy of their voter registration. They lived at 4479 1/2 Whittier Blvd, in East Los Angeles. Albert was a nurseryman and a registered Democrat. Edith was a housewife and a registered Republican. I have looked at this sheet many times. But just this last time, I glanced “around” the form. Listed a few people above them, was Mrs. Sarah Edwards, Edith’s mother, who lived next door.

Allene was already older when they got married. Soon she was married and starting a life of her own.

Allene and Paul get married.

Allene and Paul get married.

Edith’s granddaughter said that Albert made sure Edith had whatever she wanted. The granddaughter knew he was a boxer. She had heard he took on small fights to earn extra money.

However, their time together wasn’t going to last long. Edith contracted Tuberculosis. She was admitted into Sunland Sanatorium.

Sunland Sanatorium - 1930s.

Sunland Sanatorium – 1930s.

She passed away there on October 4, 1939. They were married for 3 years, 5 months. She was buried at the Rose Hills Cemetery. My mom and I were able to visit her grave in 2010.

Edith Escalante's Tombstone, Rose Hills Cemetery.

Edith Escalante’s Tombstone, Rose Hills Cemetery.

Up until the visit to her grave, I had NO idea Edith had been mother. Luckily, Allene and William noted “Mother” on Edith’s grave marker. I stared at this. We walked away that day wondering if she and Albert had children together. No, they hadn’t. I did manage to find Allene, but 5 years too late. She did leave behind two lovely granddaughters that were willing to share her story with me. Their kindness in this endeavor overwhelms me.

Albert loved Edith. Even when he married my grandmother, he still wasn’t completely over her. My mom’s middle name is Edith. Albert chose to make it the name they called her every day. Hopefully it ended up being a bittersweet way to remember this woman who made such an impact on his life.

Albert Charles Escalante – Part II – The Boxing Years

In the 1920s, before the Great Depression, Alberto decided to become a boxer. He had been training only a short amount of time before he started taking on fights. He began to be noticed with the small bouts he had around the Imperial Valley region. He was a Featherweight, which tops out at 126 pounds. His frame was always petite.

The opening page of his scrapbook.

The opening page of his scrapbook.

Being between 17 and18 years-old when he started out must have been difficult. He had to put the time in to work himself up the ranks. To get the “better fights.” The articles that were placed in the scrapbook don’t have specific dates, but they must have been early 1925 before his bigger bouts were documented.

Somewhere before this, Alberto started going by the name of Tony. His official boxing name was Tony Escalante. The promoters seemed to have a hard time finding a perfect nickname for him though.

“Young Escalante, a Mexican lad who appeared in the curtain raisers several times under the name of Young Rivers, brought a roar of applause from the crowd…” “Tony Escalante, the Mexicali sheik, whose schoolboy appearance belies his ability as a fighter, will be seen in the four-round preliminary with Young Richards….” He was also called “the Calexico flash fighter,” “the Mexicali flash,” and “Calexico’s speed ball fighter.” Not bad. The name that did end up sticking was “The Mexicali Kid.”

Editorial Commentary: One thing that did pop out at me during this research were the racial slurs that were printed all throughout the newspapers. While the need to delineate between races must have been very necessary at the time, the reporters do give compliments on the athletic abilities of those fighting. Tony had beaten one Dick Gurtia during a semi-final in August, 1925. Here is an excerpt from the paper: “Despite the Latin name, Dick is Chinese and anyone who thinks that the Chinese cannot fight is crazy. They must be the Irish of the Orient.” This appeared to be a round-about compliment to Mr. Gurtia and Irish boxers.

Moving on!

Here are a few promotional pictures of Tony “The Mexicali Kid” Escalante.

The promoter, the Opponent and Tony Escalante.

The promoter, the Opponent and Tony Escalante.

Okay, maybe the man in the middle isn’t an opponent. He looks really tall. This next guy then?

Tony Escalante and Opponent (?)

Tony Escalante and Opponent (?)

More publicity shots. (Tony on left)

More publicity shots. (Tony on left)

I have been a big fan of search engines in my familial searches. Nothing will ever freak you out more though when you type in: Tony Escalante boxer 1920s, only to have information pop up!

This page has his official career from October, 1925 to June, 1932. It gives his stats,  fights, wins, losses. Then I happened to find articles about this boxing matches. Here are some highlighted quotes about him and his boxing:

“Escalante is one of the cleverest little fighters that is being developed today.”

“Anyone who says Tony is not a good fighter is crazy. The boy has never been given any ring instruction, picking up all he knows by watching other fighters. He is a natural-born scrapper and is able to hit from any angle.”

“Near the end of the first round, Tony caught Lee coming in and lifted him off his underpinning with a well-timed left upper cut squarely on the button.”

“Tony keeps on proving each time he appears in the ring that his is a topnotch fighter, and it going to be a mighty good boy that takes his measure.”

Early in his official career, Tony went up against an opponent named Babe Monroy. They fought in El Centro. It made national news.


November 1927 - The Brooklyn Daily picks up the AP wire.

November 1927 – The Brooklyn Daily picks up the AP wire.

There was an autopsy ordered. Tony was cleared of murdering Monroy. The night of the fight the press reported “Tony really won the fight in the fourth when he clipped Monroy a terrific wallop in the body that took all the vitality out of him…Monroy was more badly hurt than the crowd believed and he didn’t deserve the booing that he received.”

I’m sure this turn of events influenced Tony deeply. However, he continued to fight. Tony said he was a regional Pacific Coast champion in 1926. I have been unable to find any articles on this information. His career seemed to go well until he did more traveling around the country, starting in 1928. His very publicized bout with Joe Diaz in El Paso, Texas, was his last big win.

elpasoprefightpromotion4181928 – promotional article

And this great article has a photo! El Paso Herald, 1928.

And this great article has a photo! El Paso Herald, 1928.

Tony won this fight. On a foul. But won nonetheless.

elpasoaftermath4281928 – another pdf.

Once he started to travel to the East (Ohio and Indiana), he started to accumulate more losses. There appeared to be a hole in his career. He fought in San Diego in 1929. He fought again in June of 1932. When I interviewed him in 1981, he told me that he had traveled to Europe, Japan, the Philipines, Australia, Hawaii and Mexico. Maybe he went into the big world during those three missing years. I can find no records of his travels. Anywhere.

His professional career ends in 1932, per However, he does box on the side up into the late 1930s. He claims to have known actor Anthony Quinn when Quinn was a boxer in East Los Angeles. Tony’s home in 1937 is close to where the Anthony Quinn Memorial Library is located. If Tony was still haunting athletic gyms looking for bouts, this is very probable.

Tony told me the only “career” he had was boxing. 10 years of physical and mental training and getting to see the world. Quite amazing.

Tony Escalante. Boxer.

Albert Charles Escalante – Part I

I have to be honest, this is going to be one of the hardest people to write about. Albert Charles Escalante is my grandfather. I love him very much. Notice my verbs are active, not passive. I love him. I don’t work on the Escalante family history for him, but to try to find out the “whys” of his choices, which inadvertently have impacted my life. You can learn much from a persons’ background. As much as we try, we are formed in the experiences of those who lived before us.

Via Facebook, I am friends with so many cousins, aunts, and uncles. Each has their own story about why they love him. But there has never been one to say anything negative about him. His life was simply fascinating. He lived several lives, in various segments. I remember him as the quiet grandfather smoking in his rocking chair during the holidays. When there were too many kids running around the house, he could be found reading in his bedroom.

I will work to provide the facts, those items that I can document. I have a feeling I have found out many more things than he ever wanted me to know. It makes me see him as human. And then there are those times were I want to say, “Papa! You’ve got some explaining to do!” So I guess it’s time to begin.

The 7th child of Leonardo and Rufina, Alberto Bernardo Escalante was born in El Rio, California on August 20, 1907. His middle name was a mystery, as he dropped it later in life. Saint Bernard’s feast day is on that same day. After seven children, it may have been difficult to find new names.

Albert's Baptism Paperwork.

Albert’s Baptism Paperwork.

His Godparents are listed as Mr. and Mrs. Eduardo Gonzalez of Oxnard, CA. The Gonzales family owned a ranch whose frontage road became Gonzales Road. According to US Census Reports, Mr. Gonzalez was a horse trainer. He was also Godfather to Tia Panchita, Albert’s older sister.

The earliest picture I have of Albert is with his brother, Ruben.

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

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

He was in the 3 year-old range at that time. He grew up close to the Romo family. His cousin Rodolfo would have been one of his good friends, being born around the same time and the families being so close.

Leonardo (his father) and his Uncle David owned pool halls. His oldest brother was a barber. This entrepreneurial spirit would be a part of him for a good part of his adult life.

1910 US Census - Santa Paula, CA.

1910 US Census – Santa Paula, CA.

In 1910, the family was living in Santa Paula, CA. Their address was 418 Santa Paula Creek Bottom (no street). He said he remembered taking a wagon with his dad to get supplies for the pool hall.

Both the Escalante’s and Romo’s decided to leave Ventura County. It’s one of those dark mysteries that I haven’t discovered yet. The youngest child was born in Los Angeles in 1914, then they were off to Orange County. This was much upheaval for a boy.

His father died in 1915 when Albert was almost 8. With his older siblings getting married and the need to stay with the Romo family having passed, Rufina took the kids to Calexico, California, by 1919 to be closer to her family.

Rufina with her three youngest children (L to R): Lupe, Fernando and Alberto.

Rufina with her three youngest children (L to R): Lupe, Fernando and Alberto.

You have to squint to see everyone in this picture. This is the only picture I have acquired of Rufina. This is a Border Crossing permit from 1919, when Albert is 12 years-old.

His mother only lives another 4 years in Calexico. According to family “legend,” Rufina has a boarding house during this time. Albert didn’t like school much. He was a perpetual truant, loving to go to a swimming hole on his days off.

He went to Rockwood School and his favorite teacher was a Mrs. Kennedy. “She was strict,” he said. “But she meant right.” He graduated from grammar school and after graduation his academic career ended.

His first job was as a Western Union messenger when he was 15 years old. His mother, Rufina, died while he was at a dance when he was 16. His childhood was over. Tia Panchita would say that he had sand in his shoes. He wasn’t one to just sit still. In some ways he was kind of like his father and brother, Jose.

Soon, Albert realized that he had a gift for fighting. Boxing. It would carry him into the next chapters of his life. Next up: 1925 – 1932. The Boxing Years.

(You can read about his stint in a Mexicali jail and international scandal in the blog post about Guadalupe Escalante in 1927. That happened when he was about 19 years old. There is no need to go into all that again.)