Category Archives: Escalante Family History

Shameless Plug

Happy almost Fall everyone! I’ve been out of the loop for a while. I had a great summer with my little family.

I have to admit that my family history research was put on the back burner this summer. Gasp! As of right now I do not have anything to report immediately, so I thought I would kick-start my research by putting some names out “there” into cyber space.

I was very fortunate to have a cousin do a random search about her family via a search engine. She found my blog. We are developing a relationship as family. And our respective family branches haven’t chatted since 1919. Almost 100 years ago.

I figured that I would make a shameless plug to get some names “out there.” It’s all about researching smarter, not harder. I would be very interested in hearing from some family members:

It would be neat to hear news about Guadalupe Navarro de Escalante’s  family. She is descendant of Joaquin Navarro and Guadalupe Gurrola de Navarro. They were from Suaqui Grande, Sonora, Mexico. I have chatted with a Navarro granddaughter, but she never remembered Tia Lupe.

I’m looking for Bustamante descendants. My great-great grandmother was: Mariana Bustamante de Escalante (then de Ramirez). Her dad was Antonio Bustamante, son of Juan de D Bustamante. Juan also had a second son named Marcial. They were from Hermosillo, Sonora.

My Tia Maria’s first husband was Hipolito Sepulveda. Two of his children went with him. Elena Sepulveda (born 1917 in Santa Ana, CA) and Maria Luisa Sepulveda (born 1919). Maria Luisa visited her dad’s half-sister, Elpidia Villalovos, and grandmother, Maria de la Jesus Portilla, in the Wilmington area.

There are the Valenzuelas I’m looking to connect with as well. Rufina’s parents were Guadalupe Valenzuela and Francisca Moreno, who apparently had a ranch in Santana, Sonora. Her brother was Jose Maria Valenzuela (married to Armida Palacios). His sister is Guadalupe Valenzuela de Garcia (married to Manuel Garcia). They lived in Calexico and Mexicali. This has been a difficult thing to find out. Escalante’s have lived in Imperial Valley since 1920. These two families drifted apart in a 15 mile radius.

Romo family members from Ures, Sonora, are probably cousins! Any and all can email me.

And then one more family I’m looking into is the Imperial Valley Romo’s. Victoria Romo de Pesqueira (and then de Romo). She was sister to Dolores Romo de Orduño. These ladies were descendant of Ruperto Romo and Dolores Romo de Romo. Cross my heart, these are not typos – they appear to be cousins.

If anyone can give me historical information – preferably with patient file access – about La Rumorosa Mental Hospital, between Tecate and Mexicali, I would be very appreciative.  San Pedro Palominas in Sonora is another deep mystery. Rufina and her son, Jose Maria, were born there. It is supposed to be in the Elias Ranch area. I have only found one reference to it on a map, and that includes maps at the University of Arizona historic maps collection.  I really have been doing this a loooooong time.

That’s about it for now. Maybe I’ll add more to the mix at a later date. Here is too hoping someone gets a bee in their bonnet, searches for something from above and finds out they are stuck with us. Yes. That would be perfect.

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.


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.


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.


Happy Mitochondrial DNA Day

Human mitochondrial DNA was the first significant part of the human genome to be sequenced. In most species, including humans, mtDNA is inherited solely from the mother. – Wikepedia.

I’m going through my pictures from my recent trip and I come across two pictures that make me smile.

We went to Rigo’s Mexican Restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, on my last day. We had finished a yummy breakfast. It was time to take pictures. I had to get a picture of my aunt, whom I call Tia, and my mom. They take a serious picture, and then someone says something very funny, and they laugh.

It’s this laughter that annoys my father to no end. Mom and Tia can sit at a table together and get into very animated conversation, punctuated by giggles and belly laughs. He wants to run home. But when I visit, he has to take it, while I bask in the fun.

When they get like this, I realize that they are channeling their mom, Nela. I research my mom’s paternal branch of the family. It has been my focus for 20+ years. However, it is their fun-loving mom that is present when their mitochondrial DNA get together and feed off of each other.

Manuela Ismael, 1940ish.

Manuela Ismael, 1940ish.

Out of the three daughter’s Nela had, and the five granddaughters she had, there are less than a handful of great-granddaughters. I have a son. I love him dearly, but having no daughters has caused some introspection to know that a DNA chain that has existed for thousands of years dies with me.

I talked with an uncle this week. He reminded me of others I have talked to about family history .”But is that person from the Escalante branch?” Families don’t have one parent at each generation break. They come from so many people. I’ve never been one to poo-poo the various branches that make up my entire tree. If I can find a person who was related waaaay back, on that branch you have to climb out onto to reach, they are family. My gene pool.

My Tia and Mom, Rigo's, Tucson, Arizona.

My Tia and Mom, Rigo’s Restaurant, Tucson, Arizona.

See the nice tranquil pose? Then one of us says something completely inappropriate. One of our Mitochondrial DNA responds. The rest laugh in agreement.

There it is!

There it is!

I can write-up hundreds of posts that involve the struggle to deal with love, best intentions, abandonment, drama, mid-life crises, joy, hate, etc. But the very basic essence of who we are starts with two people. And their two people. And so on. And so on.

I appreciate my grandmother who left me my great mom and her sister. And if you stop for a moment, you can feel her there too. Every time we get together.



The House of David

David Romo Senior and his wife, Anita Escalante de Romo, had 17 children over the course of their marriage. The only child to thrive and have a dynasty of his own was their first son, David Romo Jr.

The Romo family had a small tradition of marrying cousins. I had no idea that Sonora, Mexico was so “Jane Austen” in their customs. This is not limited to the ones we see in these posts either. I’m finding it with many different branches of their family.

That being said, David Jr had a cousin brought up from Mexico to see if they could make a match. The girl who came up was his Tia Juana’s daughter, Carmela. They married in 1910, apparently in Sonora. She came back David’s bride, but escorted by her father.

Carmela Martinez de Romo's travel manifest.

Carmela Martinez de Romo’s travel manifest.

The couple followed their elder Romo and Escalante family members. They all ended up in Orange County by the time the men register for the draft of WWI in 1917.

David Romo Jr and Carmela Martinez de Romo.

David Romo Jr and Carmela Martinez de Romo.

Carmela and David Jr. Photos courtesy of Rose.

Carmela and David Jr. All photos courtesy of their granddaughter, Rosemary.

Carmela had no plan to marry this man who lived so far away from her family in Sonora. However, here she was. These two started their lives and proceded to have their children.

(For reference to my first cousins, David Jr was a first cousin to our grandfather Albert, and David was 22 years his senior.)

David had many jobs. He’d been a barber with his dad and uncle. They had a pool hall in Santa Paula. By the time he was settled with Carmela, he had different jobs. He was a barber in the 1920 US Census. He worked as a mechanic at a creamery in the 1930 US Census.

Their family grew over the years. Here are their children.

Ralph Romo

Ralph Romo – 1911- 1994

Ralph was married twice, having one stepson.

The second child was Elia. She lived only two years. She was such a delightful child that Tia Panchita would name her first daughter after this child. According to Rosemary, the family was so devastated by her death, that David went to the church, laid himself on the floor and prayed for another daughter to bless their home.

Elia Romo's Baptismal Certificate.

Elia Romo’s Baptismal Certificate.

The next child was the answer to that passionate prayer.

Anita Romo. 1920 - 1980

Anita Romo. 1920 – 1980

Anita was just lovely. She married Benito Rubalcaba. They were not married long before he passed away. They had one child. In this picture, Anita had died her hair dark. Her natural hair color was on the blonde side. Apparently she got some grief for being a light-complected Mexican-American. Later, she embraced her blonde, going platinum.

Robert Romo - 1923 - 1980.

Robert Romo – 1923 – 1980.

Robert was next. He worked as an officer for Orange County. He married Charlotte Noriega. They had one daughter and three sons.

Ruben Romo - 1926 - 1982.

Ruben Romo – 1926 – 1982.

Ruben was a Shoeshiner in Santa Ana. While he had no spouse or children, in town he was so popular there was a write up about him in the Orange County Register after his passing.

Carmela and David had another pregnancy in 1927. They had two baby boys, David and Manuel. The babies were born on June 8. Manuel died on August 13, David on August 22. The cause of death was “not thriving.”

I’m sure you can see a theme of the name “David.” A strange thing I had found was all of the boys had the first legal name of David, then their middle name, which was the one they went by.

David Jr really wanted his sons to join him as mechanics in his business. They wanted to do their own things though. He was alone in this venture.

On paper, I had discovered that Carmela divorced David before 1940. When asking Rosemary about this, she explained the situation.

She said it wasn’t so much that Carmela didn’t love David. They were living in the Depression. Many people were unable to pay for the services he provided. They bartered with different things to pay him. When monies did come in, he was extravagant with them. She could not get him to understand her concerns, and she divorced him.

David Romo Jr, late 1930s.

David Romo Jr, late 1930s.

This picture of David was toward the end of his life. Rosemary said that while the doctor put his cause of death as Tuberculosis, which killed many in his family, the real cause of death was a broken heart. He passed away on April 9, 1941.

David should have had a hundreds of nieces and nephews. However, his legacy was to allow his family name to continue. He had healthy children and grandchildren. However, no man has children all by himself.

Carmela went to live with her kids for a while before getting remarried. She lived for a very long time. But that story will need to be something for another day. Carmela’s tale takes more time to tell.


I May Have Failed to Mention Something Big

When I was about a month away my trip to California, I received an email on this blog. It was from a very nice woman who was doing some research and “Googled” the Barbachano family. Lo and behold, my blog came up with Maria Barbachano’s name. It also mentioned the Escalante’s, and this woman’s great-grandmother, Ana.

After whirlwind emails and wonderful phone calls, my sweet new cousin Rosemary did something that no one else in the world could do for me.  She told me their stories. She told me the “why’s” and “how’s” of their lives. And then, she showed me these wonderful people whom I love.

The pictures in this post will be of people you have already read about.  But finally, faces to names!

Ana Escalante de Romo as a young woman.

Ana Escalante de Romo as a young woman.

Rosemary calls her Anita, so I will call her Tia Anita from here on out. This is my great-grandfather Leonardo’s full sister. She was born in 1862, my guess is this picture was from the 1880s.

[Personal shout out here – my mom looks very much like her mom. But people have told her she has the eye shape of the Escalante’s. When I showed my mom the above picture, she said “the eyes!” My son has the same shaped eyes. This was a powerful thing for us to see.]

Anita Romo - early 1900s?

Anita Romo – early 1900s?

Tia Anita started wearing her glasses. It’s amazing how women’s fashions changed.

Anita was married to David Romo, Senior.

David Romo, Sr. (before 1930)

David Romo, Sr. (before 1930)

He still has thick wavy hair. And that moustache!! And since we are here, David Sr had a sister as well. She was named after their mother.

Juana Romo de Martinez, Ures, Sonora.

Juana Romo de Martinez, Ures, Sonora.

Juana is the mother of Carmela Martinez, David Jr’s wife.

[David and Anita were cousins a few times removed. They share a great-grandfather, Juan de D. Bustamante. So I guess this is Anita’s cousin and sister-in-law.]

Tia Anita had 17 pregnancies, but very few children lived into adulthood. Her son, David. Jr, did. (You will see him in another blog entry). She had Manuel, Mercedes and Rudy, the only children that lived a significant amount of time.

Manuel Romo

Manuel Romo

According to Manuel’s Death Certificate, he had a wife that preceded him in death. Rosemary does not know her name, and it is not on that certificate either. His brother, David, had to recover the body from Banning, CA. where he lost his fight with tuberculosis.

Mercedes with her husband, Frank, and son, Frank, Jr.

Mercedes with her husband, Frank, and son, Frank, Jr.

Lovely Mercedes and her movie star handsome husband, Frank Carrillo. Their son was Frank David Carrillo.

Mercedes had a younger brother with whom she took a picture. His name was Rodolfo but he went by Rudy.

Rudy and Mercedes. Ventura County, between 1909-1910.

Rudy and Mercedes. Ventura County, between 1909-1910.

Arent’t they darling?? Now how can I say where and when this was taken? Well, it is because I have a similar picture of my grandfather, Albert, with his brother Ruben.

Alberto and Ruben Escalante. Ventura County.

Alberto and Ruben Escalante. Ventura County.

My grandfather can’t be more than three years old in this picture. Both families still lived in Ventura County in 1910. Also, if you look carefully between the two pictures you will see Alberto and Rudy are sitting on the exact same chair. Coupon day at the photographer? I’ve always thought my grandfather named one of his sons after his cousin Rudy, who would have been a playmate, as they were only about a year difference in age.

Rodolfo "Rudy" Romo.

Rodolfo “Rudy” Romo.

Here is Rudy with his parents, David Sr and Anita.

David Sr, Rudy and Anita.

David Sr, Rudy and Anita.

Rosemary remembers Anita always being in black. Her mourning was probably a permanent state. In fact, they are quite the serious bunch in this picture. But then again, the Depression was going on…..

Rosemary also has pictures of the Barbachano family. She said that Tia Anita was close to her sister’s family. They all met with each other. While the two families differed socio-economically, there was never any prejudice on that score.Just love. Anita died at her sister Maria’s house in San Diego.

The Romos and Escalantes were together for almost 20 years between Ventura and Orange Counties. I asked Rosemary if she had any pictures of my grandfather or his siblings. She couldn’t find any. Rufina took her children to Calexico and a vacuum was created. If Leonardo had lived longer, we might have known our Barbachano cousins too. But that wasn’t our path.

These pictures were of Anita and her children with whom no familial legacy endured. However, there was one person with whom all of the hopes and dreams of the Romo family were realized.

To Be Continued……I love cliff hangers.



Dr. Cuate. Paging, Dr. Cuate.

During our trip to Calexico, we were able to visit with my mom’s first cousin, Leonardo. This Leonardo is Tio Ruben’s son. I had many questions for him. One was to inquire about the cousin, Dr. Leonardo Sepulveda. This doctor was Tia Maria’s son who was supposed to have moved to Mexicali to start his practice.

I have been chatting with Dr. Sepulveda’s cousin from his father’s side. Her name is Sara. She is a delightful woman. She is in her late 80s, but she is full of life. I admire her very much. Her kindess to my familial inquiries has been delightful.

She had mentioned that her mother, Elipidia Villalovos Aguirre, was half-sister to Hipolito. At one time, her mother went to see Dr. Sepulveda, but he was rude and didn’t want to chat with his aunt. That made me sad, so I decided further inquiry was needed.

So sitting in Leonardo’s home in Calexico, I brought up this subject.

“I’ve been told that your cousin Dr. Sepulveda was in Mexicali with a pediatric office. Did you ever see him? Know him?”

Leonardo’s wife looked at me. “Well, of course!”

I stared back at her. “Really? What can you tell me about him?”

“He’s dead.”  She smiled, and I cautiously laughed.

“No, really. Did you see him much?” My mouth had a difficult time speaking these words because it had dropped to the floor.

Apparently, yes. Dr. Sepulveda was a pediatrician in Mexicali. These two took all of their children to see him throughout their childhoods. WHAT???

They called him “Cuate.” I must have looked puzzled. (Again, my deep shame of not knowing Spanish). “You know,” she said “because he was a twin.” I nodded my best confident nod.

According to, Cuate means twin in Mexican and Central American Spanish. Lovely.

She continued that he had been married twice. His first wife, Alicia Vildosola, was quite pretty. He had three daughters by her. Then she died. He remarried his nurse and possibly had two more children with her. With a side glance she mentioned that Dr. Sepulveda was also an “enamorado,”or a “lover.” I think this was a bit of gossip and a bit of truth.

I sat there in silence. All of this information was wonderful. “What’s wrong?” she asked me.

How could I express my shock and dismay and outrage and sadness at that moment? The radius of the Calexico/Mexicali area isn’t very big now. In the 1950s, it had to be smaller. And yet, my mom never met her cousin, Dr. Sepulveda. Or any of his, if they had dropped by to say “hola.” The outrage!

Then I contemplate these days. After my grandfather died, many in the family never got together again for holidays. Familial disputes, moving, simply ‘not enough time’ managed to get in the way of family seeing each other. I am grateful for email and Facebook in that I get to see my cousins again and their children. Here is to hoping we all “friend” those family we’ve lost along the way. Even if they are just in our own backyard.

PS – And while this post sounds so calm, for a week I would outburst “Cuate!” Which sounded more “Kwah-tay!” The whole concept of him being close enough to get to know was SO disturbing. See? I’m wound up all over again!

Paying First and Last Respects

I stole my mom from her house a few weeks ago. I took her with me on a family history research journey into southern California. Bear with me. The next few entries will be about discoveries.

One of the stops on my itinerary was the Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum in San Diego. This is where Leonardo’s half-sister, Maria Ramirez de Barbachano is buried.

As a recap, they shared the same mother, Mariana Bustamante. She is my hero. From the 3 children I have found, she has hundreds of grandchildren who share her DNA. Maria Ramirez was her child from a second marriage to Juan Ramirez. She married Manuel Barbachano.

After working at the San Pedro Customs House for many years, they moved to San Diego. I’ve been wanting to go and connect with this elusive aunt for years.

When I drove into Holy Cross Cemetery, I could see that many had been filling the lawns and newer mausoleums on the grounds. Families were gathered around tombstones, remembering their loved ones. We were there on a weekday and I was surprised they were busy. But sometimes needing to remember is important at that moment.  Right then and there.

We drove up to the main building. I made a huge assumption. After reading all I had about the Barbachanos, I figured they would be right up in the “big place.”

Main Chapel. Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, CA

Main Chapel. Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, CA

I could say that perfect timing put us there on a weekday when the office was open. But I’d by lying. My mom and I were overwhelmed by the number of people laid to rest here. The building space is VERY well utilized. I caved and went to a nice maintenance man for assistance.

He took me to the office and kindly waited for the map. Then he took us just around a few corners.

Main Chapel, after having walked in the front doors.

Main Chapel, after having walked in the front doors.

When we walked in the front door, we entered this main chapel area. Do you see the lovely statue of the Virgin Mary on the right? That is the entrance to the small Immaculata Chapel.

Immaculata Chapel

Immaculata Chapel

We never would have found their vaults but for the map. However, I should have known that they were going to be right up front. Once we went into the chapel, we saw there were two sides. The Barbachanos were on the right side. The bottom two burial vaults were theirs.

Manuel P. Barbachano

Manuel P. Barbachano

The top vault belongs to Manuel and Maria’s son, Manuel P. Barbachano. Feb 1891 – Feb 1954.

Manuel and Maria Barbachano

Manuel and Maria Barbachano

Below their son, were Manuel A. Barbachano, Sept 1858 – Feb 1948, and his wife, Maria Ramirez de Barbachano, Aug 1870 – Nov 1957.

It was a wonderful experience to say hello and goodbye to persons that I had never met but have thought of many times. After a few quiet moments thinking about Maria’s relationship with my great-grandfather, their mom, their home experiences growing up, etc., my mom noticed something very interesting.



Both had recently had visitors. There were two red carnations each flower vase. It was simple. It was touching.

I think I was the first to “rediscover” where my great-grandfather Leonardo was buried over 20 years ago. At that time I thought, “well, if no one comes to see you in 80 years, cremation is the way to go.” But then I went to this gravesite. Even after 60 years, there is someone who still gets comfort from visiting their loved ones. Sharing their love for those they miss. Paying their respects.



The Trouble with Procrastination

This blog post has to be corrected. Thanks to Facebook and updated Ancestry records, the truth is in a more recent post! 🙂


I have been planning a “Family History” trip to California for a while. After a few hiccups, I am finally going in less than two weeks. The word “excitement” cannot even begin to describe me right now. All of my family is finding me increasingly annoying.

I will be leaving the hubby and son behind to guard the homestead. I will fly into Arizona, steal my mom away and then be off to southern California.

I’m not always organized, but with this kind of thing, I’ve needed to be. I’m making lunch dates, sending emails, taking calls and being very grateful for the wonderful people in my life making this adventure possible.

My mom had asked me to do one thing for her. It is to take an old interview and convert it from video tape to a DVD. We went to Mexicali in 1991 to interview her aunt, Tia Cuca (Maria de Refugio Palacios de Escalante). She wants to share it with the aunts’ children and grandchildren, if they are interested.

[Side Note: One of my great shames as a woman of Mexican-American descent is that I cannot speak Spanish. So during this interview I had absolutely no idea what was going on. At all. I trusted those around me to provide me with the “A-ha Moments” they heard. Well, we never really talked about it again.]

My handy husband got the interview converted. I watched it, pretending like I could understand it. And then I heard a few names that I did recognize. I stopped ironing and rewound a few seconds. I had to do it several times to get it.

23 years later, my “A-ha moment” came! Rufina and Lupe were sisters to Cuca’s uncle by marriage, Jose Maria Valenzuela. Shut the front door! I had known that my great-grandmother Rufina had a sister named Lupe. My paper trail helped me figure that out. Then after an interview with Tia Cuca’s son, he mentioned that his mom was related to Lupe via marriage somehow.

The ironing had to stop. I took over the computer that lovely Sunday afternoon to see if Ancestry could help me.

And yes. Yes, they could! Jose Maria Valenzuela married Armida Palacios, Tia Cuca’s aunt. They were from Santana, Sonora. They lived in Mexicali for years. Their children would have been my grandfather’s first cousins. AND there was even a picture on his manifest! Rockin’ the moustache.

Jose Maria Valenzuela's travel manifest, 1927.

Jose Maria Valenzuela’s travel manifest, 1927.

It took me 23 years to sit and watch this video. And about 23 minutes to find him.


In sending out my emails, I’ve asked family for assistance to get us into Mexicali to the cemetery where Tia Cuca is buried. Other family is supposed to be buried there and I thought we might do some hunting. Well, back in my photo archives I found a picture of the cemetery.

Panteon Municipal No. 2, Mexicali, Baja California

Panteon Municipal No. 2, Mexicali, Baja California

My lack of Spanish skills had me internet searching for a “cementario” rather than “panteon.” Again, I had procrastinated in not looking at this picture, which I had taken to help me remember.

[Side Note: When you do an internet search with the correct words, you will probably find what you are looking for.]

There is a searchable site for this cemetery. It includes grave locations and a map!! The Escalante’s I’m searching for are NOT there. But that is good to know before I get there to save me some time. But guess what? My “new-to-me” great-uncle Jose Maria Valenzuela and his lovely wife are there.

When we get there, I’ll be introducing myself. “Hello there. I’m Edwina. I’m your great-niece. I’d have come sooner, but I have a small procrastination problem.”

Jose Maria Escalante

Jose Maria Escalante

Jose Maria Escalante – Courtesy L. Escalante

Leonardo and Rufina’s first child was Jose Maria Escalante. One of the reasons it has taken me so long to write about Jose is that he has been missing all of my life. No one knew where he went, or where his life led.

Jose Maria Escalante was born March 19,1888, in San Pedro Palominas, Sonora, Mexico. He moved with the family to Ventura County at the end of the 19th century. He wasn’t one to do what his father did. That job was left to his younger brother, Leonardo Jr. He was not listed as living at home in the 1910 US Census when he would have been 22 years old.

Jose Escalante - WWI Draft Card.

Jose Escalante – WWI Draft Card.

He was near his family again when World War I broke out. According to his Draft Card he was living in Gloryetta, CA in 1917.  With his wife and child.

When Jose reappears (on paper) it is in 1918. He is on his way to Bisbee, Arizona. The purpose of his visit is to see his cousin, Frank Blackburn. Now this stumped me for quite a while. The Blackburn’s are considered a pioneer family in Bisbee. I have been in contact with a family member who is working on their tree. Judge Blackburn married one Margarita Escalante in 1888. She is later referred to as Margaret Blackburn. Frank was her son. Margarita’s father is Ramon Escalante. No one seems to be investigating Ramon’s family. I can find no relation between Ramon and Leonardo Sr, except for Jose’s say-so on this form.

Jose visiting Frank Blackburn in Bisbee, 1918.

Jose visiting Frank Blackburn in Bisbee, 1918.

On this travel manifest, it also says that Jose is single. No wife. No child. Had they died from the Spanish Influenza epidemic? He also made one pilgrimage across the border in 1920. This was around the time that Rufina went to see her daughter Maria and her children. My guess is that the whole family made a trip to see the expanding family. And luckily, our government took a picture.

Jose traveling through, 1920.

Jose traveling through, 1920.

Jose became a traveling salesman. He seemed to disappear from Imperial Valley. Somewhere along the way he met a woman, 20 years his junior, named Ester Arias. They married.

Ester was born to Juan Arias and Tiburcio Dolores Salas on May 26, 1907 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Juan was a succesful tailor in town. Ester remembered having very fine clothes. Her mother died when she was young, before 1920. She was now the oldest female in the home with three younger sisters. After the death of her father, Ester moved back to where her Arias family was from, El Paso County, Texas. Her family was Texan from the 1790s, calling San Elizario home.

She met Jose and they married. They had their first child in 1927. Her name was Josephina Escalante. Sadly, the baby did not thrive and died within the week.

Josephina's Birth Certificate, 1927.

Josephina’s Birth Certificate, 1927.

Josephina's Death Certificate, 1927.

Josephina’s Death Certificate, 1927.

After that tragedy, the couple was blessed with two more children.  John Joseph Escalante, born 3 Jan 1930, in Bisbee, Arizona. Their second son was Harry Daniel Escalante, born 30 Jan 1932, in El Paso, Texas.

Harry Daniel Escalante's Birth Certificate.

Harry Daniel Escalante’s Birth Certificate.

Ester was a good secret keeper. Her daughter-in-law recalls that Ester never discussed her years with Jose. One time she did let slip that he was a salesman that was on the road often while she was left with the two children.

In 1932, Jose appeared in Calexico. He was traveling across the border to see his brother, Ruben. He was thinking of relocating to the area.  (The form below was how I was able to find his living family with the name of his wife Ester and that they had come from El Paso.)

Jose crossing the border, August, 1932.

Jose crossing the border, August, 1932.

The second half of his manifest.

The second half of his manifest.

He used Victoria Romo de Romo as a witness to living in the country. He also referred to his beloved aunt, Guadalupe Valenzuela de Garcia, Rufina’s sister. An odd thing was that on his travel manifest he stated that he was born in 1898, 10 years after his real birth.

And then something happens. Maybe Ester learned that she was not his first wife. Maybe she learned he was 10 years older than she thought. Maybe it was meeting his extended family that did it. We will probably never know.

Whatever the reason, it affected their relationship. I found Ester. Living in Long Beach. And remarried. Something occurred between the time they visited Calexico to 1933, when Ester decided to leave Jose and never look back.

Ester (27), John (4), and Harry (2).

Ester (27), John (4), and Harry (2). – 1934

Ester remarried Manuel Sais. They had a son together, Manuel Jr., born in 1938.

Ester Arias Sais, Pasadena, 1942-45.

Ester Arias Sais, Pasadena, 1942-45.

Ester volunteered during the war. Her daughter-in-law said that Manuel was a very good step-father. The boys loved him. She also noted that her husband John had kept an eye out for the father he never knew. He had a cigar box with Jose Escalante printed on it.

Recently, I came across this “older man” draft card for WWII. Tio Jose was in Brawley, California, in 1942. He worked at a restaurant called Quatro Luces. He also seemed to live at the business. He still used his Tia Lupe as a reference.

Jose Escalante, Brawley, 1942.

Jose Escalante, Brawley, 1942.

The second half of his WWII Draft Card.

The second half of his WWII Draft Card.

The second half of his card was interesting simply because we can see he was short, dark complected, slim with grey hair. And alone.

Brothers: Manuel Sais, Jr, Harry Escalante, and John Escalante, 1986.

Brothers: Manuel Sais, Jr, Harry Escalante, and John Escalante, 1986.

Whatever reasons that Jose was set apart from his family may never be known. He was there, but on the fringes in Brawley. He missed out on seeing his boys grow up from apparent choices he had made that his wife no longer wanted to deal with as well.

So much of my research could not be done without the kindness of others. I found John’s widow, Jose’s daughter-in-law. She and her family have been so helpful in my getting to know Jose, even though Ester kept her secrets. All of these photos came from her and I am grateful. She didn’t think Ester would like me knowing so much about her life. That made me giggle. Okay, it was more of a “Muahahaha.”

Ester did mention one last thing about Jose. She said he died a blind man. She never said where or when he died. But she did know that much. Had she been contacted upon his death? Receive a will? A last letter of regret? One last thing to find to get the chapter closed….

Ana Escalante de Romo – The Final Chapter

Ana Romo, 1930s.

Ana Romo, 1930s.

I could have written this a while ago, but since 2010, I’ve had a few things to chase down.

In April of that year, we went to Disneyland. Not too far down the road is the Santa Ana Cemetery where a great deal of the family is interred. On this trip, we were finally able to pay our respects to the Romo family. Here at Tia Ana’s headstone was an interesting inscription.

Ana Escalante de Romo's Gravesite, Santa Ana Cemetery, CA

Ana Escalante de Romo’s Gravesite, Santa Ana Cemetery, CA

Loosely translated, it says “In memory of her daughter and her grandchildren.” In 2010, it made me think that Mercedes was still alive at Ana’s death. Unfortunately, she wasn’t.

Mercedes died in 1924. I found Manuel Romo had died in 1927. He died in Banning, California. He was also a widower. I can find no record of his wife’s name, as his brother David was the one to claim the body in Banning. In 1930, Rodolfo, David Sr., and Ana were in Tijuana. My guess is that Rodolfo was looking to work. (Maybe from his Barbachano cousins.) But by Christmas Day, 1930, he died in Orange County. All of these siblings died of complications from Tuberculosis.

Ana’s husband of over 50 years, David Romo Sr., died in 1938. He died of coronary occlusion. Her last living child, David Jr., died 3 years later of Tuberculosis.

So then who is left to be her “daughter?” This would be Carmela Romo, her ex-daughter-in-law. You read “ex” right. But that is for another post. Carmela married David when she was so very young. She had been married to him for almost 30 years. Who else would she call “mother?” But Carmela remarried and Ana needed a place to go. So Ana looked up her half-sister, Maria Lucia Ramirez de Barbachano, in San Diego.

Their mother, Mariana Bustamante, remarried Juan Ramirez. They had a child together in 1870 named Maria Lucia Ramirez. Juan must have been the father-figure to Ana and Leonardo. Maria married Manuel A. Barbachano. He had been in charge of the San Pedro Customs House in Sonora, but moved to Tijuana Customs later. They resided in San Diego. Maria’s children were quite successful. One of her sons, Manuel Jr., started the first electric and phone company in Tijuana.  He also purchased, and made famous, the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

As Elvira Barbachano was witness to Mercedes Romo’s 1920 wedding, the families were obviously in touch with each other. Because Leonardo Escalante died in 1915, his children never made a connection with Maria’s family.

I found several travel manifests. She visited Rosarito in the 1930s and 40s. This is where I have found a picture of her. I do like how the Border Patrolman said she was “very deaf.”

Ana's Travel Manifest.

Ana’s Travel Manifest.

I believe all of the nieces or nephews that had seen her at the house on Canterbury Street in San Diego all those years ago have since passed away. I would love to have heard any stories about her.  I think that she stayed with her younger sister the entire time. Until her death.

Ana’s Obituary

On May 4, 1948, Ana Escalante de Romo died at her sister’s home in San Diego, CA. “The San Diego Union” inaccurately reported that she shared Maria’s father, Juan Ramirez. What made the biggest impact on me was the following sentence. “Mrs. Romo was the mother of  17 sons and daughters, all deceased.” This particular sadness in her life must have been overwhelming.

She was sent back to Santa Ana to be buried near her family. There is one last mystery that involves her Death Certificate.

Ana's Death Certificate with real age.

Ana’s Death Certificate with real age.

Correction to Ana's Death Certificate.

Correction to Ana’s Death Certificate.

In the original Death Certificate, her date of birth is listed as May 2, 1862. But 21 days later, Maria and her son, Ruben, file a revised Death Certificate claiming that Ana was born in 1870. Now, Maria was born August 27, 1870. I really do admire Mariana Bustamante but there is no way she could have two babies, from 2 daddies, 3 months apart. I have no idea what the reason for this was. None.

Ana’s life was full. From losing her own father at a young age, to a long marriage with David in their adopted country, a strong relationship with her brother’s family, and then with her sister’s. And all of the baby heartache in between. Life, location, time and tragedy caused these families to drift apart.

However, all was not lost for Ana. Her legacy lives on in the descendants of one child, David Romo Jr.