by Rose Valdez
My family, including my sister and six brothers lived in California since the early 1940s. The manner in which we lived was a little rough in terms of modern conveniences. We lived a strict life and never quite felt like we were part of any of the existing cultural groups. My father also preferred the outdoors, so we were accustomed to rural areas. In time we learned about the history of my parents and understood why their ideas and way of life didnt fit the modern norms of California life. But, in researching their background we found a history full of hardship and adventure; a history that is an integral part of this country.
My father, Benjamin Valdez was married to Antonia LeRouge, he was born in Mora in 1904, she in Tierra Amarilla in 1916. Both were from Northern New Mexico, far from the more inhabited areas near Santa Fe. My paternal grandmother Rebecca Sanchez lived with us for several years. And, to this day, if I close my eyes I can picture this very petite woman with her small fine porcelain face and her snow-white hair always combed back into a top knot or pun. Her attire was constant; a black dress with a high lace collar and black laced up shoes. She seemed very patrician. She spoke perfect Spanish and always insisted that the familys lineage was from Spain and with her there was no discussion.
Mama Becca , as we called her, was born in La Cueva, New Mexico in 1874 to Juan Jose Sanchez and Maria Eulogia Romero. She had 7 brothers and 4 sisters and the family lived on a ranch with plenty of acreage. In 1890 she married Jose Alcario Valdez. This was an arranged marriage. My grandmother, father and uncles spoke about Spanish land grants in connection with the Sanchez and Valdez families. I assume from what they said that the families may have been the original grantees of the Mora Grant and wanted to hold these lands together with the marriage. The families had trouble keeping the land when they dealt with the U.S. courts. In 1913 his workers killed Jose Alcario, according to Mama Becca. But, the manner of death was in question because of the land disputes that arose when New Mexico became a territory of the U.S. In fact, the Mora area was a hotbed of conflict, so much so that the exchange of land seemed to occur between family members, without U.S. involvement. Mama Becca was given a parcel of land from the Sanchez, Lucero and Romero families after she became a widow and lost all her land. What happened to this land, quien sabe, who knows. She kept the land transfer form dated 1916 all her life and then gave it to her son. In that way she said her family would always know something about the area they once owned.
Mama Beccas father, Juan Jose, named his second son, after his uncle, Juan Matias. This is of great interest to me because I teach 4th grade California history and there is always great enthusiasm concerning the mission period. The class visits a mission each year during the spring. So it is a pleasure for me and also my sister that Juan Matias Sanchez played a significant role in the development of the San Gabriel mission area here in California.
I pulled up Daras query in Herencia and found that we were related. I felt that she had an incorrect birthdate for Juan Matias because some of his children were born much later when he was in his seventies. I was mistaken; longevity and activity must be hereditary because my grandmother Rebecca lived well into her nineties.