Stories from the Past
by Dara Jones
In the past year, I have been privileged to meet numerous family members and to hear our family stories. This is especially marvelous for me since I am meeting most everyone for the first time in my 41 years. I was adopted by my other parents (as a baby) and have lived in Texas nearly all my life. Until now, it has never occurred to me to ask about the history of the Sanchez family in much detail. And what a rich history it is!
Since I was adopted, I asked my birth-father, Art Sanchez, to tell me about the family i had missed knowing growing up. I was transported back to my great-grandparent's (Joe and Vera) fig farm. Art and his brother, Charlie, lived there some of the time as children. I can almost envision myself sitting in Vera's kitchen along side them and I strain to get a glimpse of Joe and Vera. It's a time and place I am still trying to understand. Perhaps you, dear reader, knew them personally. Perhaps you ate some of Vera's tasty tamales or helped Joe carefully put figs in paper containers in order to take them to market. If you did, I envy you just a little. What I wouldn't give to be transported back in time to join them in a meal and really get to know them.
Over the past year as I have chatted with various family members, I have heard stories that Joe's father, Juan Matias and his parents were born in Spain. Disappointingly, church record evidence is beginning to point to him being born in New Mexico, however, and his father Juan Cristoval as well, since his grandparents Jose Ygnacio Sanchez and Ysavel Apolonia Fresquis were married in New Mexico. Juan Matias' parent's New Mexico marriage record has also been found. There is still speculation on where his mom, Margarita Silva, was born. There is oral history evidence to suggest her father, Santiago Silva, came to New Mexico from somewhere else, though no one I have spoken with seems to know where that was. He is listed as being born in Trampas, NM on the 1790 census, so assuming the document is correct, she may've well been born there as well.. Many of her younger siblings were born in New Mexico, but no birth record has yet been found for her. She was evidently quite a bit older than some of her brothers according to the baptism records of San Lorenzo de Picuris which have her birthing children in the same time period as her mother, Maria Josefa Ponce de Leon. The story is still rather murky. I feel rather like a detective. And as new clues are discovered, the Silva story may well take on a different look.
These latter stories seem a little less personal and are harder to find since there are no living story tellers who knew Juan Matias and his family to tell the story. Instead, the story is found among the sometimes incomplete pages of legal documents and family tradition. Wouldn't you love to spend a day on the New Mexico rancho with Juan Matias' parents and siblings and really see what life was like back then? Wouldn't you love to ride a horse with him near Taos where he grew up and wouldn't you love to ask him why he came to California with Workman and Rowland? You and I may never fully know the answers to these questions, but we can sure have fun looking for the answers.