Saturday, December 31, 2011

15 Generations of Chavez

Shortly before Christmas, my parents received a Christmas card from my cousin Steve Chavez who lives in Apple Valley, CA. The card included three photos: one of Steve and his wife, Chrissy; one of his daughter Lauren and her husband, Christopher; and another photo of his son, Mike and his wife, Kelsie, and two sons, Micah Andrew, who turns 2 next month and Jack Elias who was born just one month ago.

I told my mom that Steve’s grandsons represent the 15th generation of the original Chavez men who settled in New Mexico. My mom replied: “Your grandpa would have been proud.”

Grandpa Louie was proud of his Chavez surname. Many years ago, he and my Uncle Ralph welded a headstone for his father who is buried at the Cubero cemetery. Underneath his father’s name, Diego Antonio Chavez, my grandpa welded: “El Chavez”

As I’ve written before, Diego Antonio Chavez died at a relatively young age of 55. Tragically, two of his sons, Mike and Benny, died even younger, before they could have families. That left my grandpa Louie, his sister Perla and their youngest brother, Lalo. Because Lalo had a family of girls, my mom said grandpa used to worry that the Chavez name would end with him.

Jose Benito "Benny" Chavez
Melquiades "Mike" Chavez

But Grandpa’s concerns were premature because all three of his sons, Louie, Jr., Mike and Ralph all had sons to carry on the Chavez name. My cousin Steven, the eldest of Louie Jr.’s children, had a son of his own, who he named Michael Steven Chavez. And now, Michael has passed on the Chavez name to two more Chavez boys, Micah Andrew and Jack Elias. As I said, that marks the 15th generation of the Chavez name that first appeared in New Mexico (known then as New Spain) in 1600.
Chavez Men: Mike, Louie, Ralph (holding Javier), Grandpa Louie, Steven and Mike
 There are many branches of the Chavez family, probably too many to count. My Great-Uncle Lalo has told me about huge Chavez family reunions held annually in Arizona, California and New Mexico. I’m sure most of those families can trace their roots back to Don Pedro Gomez Duran y Chaves.

I should point out that there are several 14th generation Chavez boys and girls who descend from Grandpa Louie, including: Giovanna, Andrew and Emma Chavez (children of my cousin Andrew and his wife, Deborah); Phoebe Chavez (daughter of my cousin Mike and his wife, Hedy); and Julian, Derrick (sons of my cousin Eric), and Lynell and Kaitlin Chavez (daughters of Eric and his wife Nadine).

Of course many, many more cousins, including my own daughters, Carin Nicole and Isabella Lucia, carry the Chavez bloodline, even if they don’t carry the name. My brother Jon and his wife, LeeAnn, have three sons, Alek, Derrick and Tanner Gallegos; Cousin Lisa and her husband John have four children -- Justin Ronald, John Wesley, Zachary Alexander and Cassidy Elizabeth Kirk; Cousin Sharon and her husband Anthony have two sons, Nicholas and Vincent Scarinci; Cousin Cindy and her husband Jay have one son, Louie Cabrales; and Cousin Karen has one son, Matthew Whitlock. My youngest first cousin, Javier (son of Ralph and Holly Chavez) is in high school.

I will do my best to tell the origins of the Chavez family in my next blog post. For now, here is a chronology of the Chavez line as it extends down to my Grandpa Louie, and on down to his great-great grandsons.

Don Pedro Gomez Duran y Chaves
Born:               Between 1550-1556 in Valverde de Llerena in Extremadura of southwestern Spain in the Magistracy of the military Order of Santiago
Don Pedro Duran y Chaves II
            Born:               New Spain

Don Fernando Duran y Chaves II
            Born:               About 1650 in New Spain
Nicolas Duran y Chaves
            Born:               1686 in El Paso del Norte, New Spain
            Married:          1714 in Atrisco

Fernando (Bernardo) Chaves
Born:               About 1710 in New Spain

Manuel Chaves
Born:               1745 in New Spain

Jose Chaves
            Born:               About 1795 in New Spain
Married in Belen

Diego Antonio Chaves
Born:               6 Dec 1823 in Laguna
            Married:          La Jolla/Socorro parish

Jose Preciliano Chaves
Born:               3 Jan 1862 in La Jolla
Married:          10 Jun 1882 in Albuquerque
Lived in:          St. Johns, AZ and Cubero
Died:               23 Oct 1928 in Cubero

Juan Diego Antonio Chaves
            Born:               6 Oct 1884 in St. Johns, AZ
            Died:               1939 in Cubero, NM

Louis Telesfor Chavez, Sr.
            Born:               24 Mar 1918 in Cubero
            Died:               19 Aug 2006 in Albuquerque

Louis Telesfor Chavez, Jr.
            Born:               Albuquerque

Steven Chavez          
            Married:          Victorville, CA

Michael Steven Chavez
            Born:               Victorville, CA

Micah Andrew Chavez and Jack Elias Chavez
            Born:               Apple Valley, CA

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Gallegos Christmas

Gallegos Christmas 2011
Yvette, Gil Jr., Beatrice, Gil Sr., Alek, Jon
Isabella, Carin, Derrick, Tanner, LeeAnn

Gallegos Christmas 1970
Gil Jr., Gil Sr., Beatrice, Jon

Chavez-Gallegos Christmas 1970
Gil Jr., Grandpa Louie, Grandma Lola, Uncle Ralph

Gallegos-Bustamante Christmas 1972
Grandma Rise, Jon, Grandpa Carlos, David
Gil Jr., Dale Jr.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grandma Maria and her Tea Towel

Grandson Mike Chavez and Grandma Maria Gallegos
My mom always told me how her mother, my Grandma Lola (Gallegos) Chavez, always used to open her door to relatives who needed a place to stay. My grandparents bought the house where I grew up, at 6804 Fifth Street in Albuquerque’s North Valley, in 1958, I believe. The three-bedroom, one-bathroom house, on about half an acre, was very comfortable. But also a little tight, according to my mom who shared that one bathroom with three brothers and the always-present relatives in need. One uncle, I believe, was a very sick alcoholic, and of course Grandma Lola wouldn’t turn him away. And then there was Grandma Lola’s own mother, my Great-Grandma Maria (Arellanes) Gallegos. My mom adored her, and fondly remembers sharing a bedroom with her “Grandma-ita” or “Mari-ita,” as her grandchildren called her because she was their little grandma.

I never knew those great-grandparents. Grandma Maria died in 1964 – the same year my Uncle Ralph was born. I knew of my Great-Grandpa Pablo Gallegos, who died in 1953, because he was a famous sheriff in Valencia County in 1931-32. My mom, Beatrice (Chavez) Gallegos, was too young to remember much of her grandfather, but she clearly remembers Grandma Maria.
Grandma Lola Chavez, Ralph Chavez, Mike Chavez, Grandma Maria Gallegos and Beatrice Chavez

She recently told me a story that gripped me for so many reasons. She talked about how her Grandma used to make tea towels, which meant nothing to me until she explained that they were small dish towels. The fascinating thing was how she made them. Grandma Maria used to roll and smoke cigarettes. She would send my mom’s brother, Louie, to Green Valley meat market to get her some Bull Durham tobacco. After smoking the tobacco, Grandma would take apart the small tobacco pouch and its draw-string. She would take the stitching, wash it and leave it out in the sun to dry. When she had enough, she used it to make her tea towels with embroidered edges.

My mom said her Grandma insisted that the towels she made should only be for their intended use. In other words, they weren’t keepsakes. But many years later, long after Grandma Maria died, our longtime neighbor, Ann Sealey, gave my mom one of those tea towels, which she saved as a keepsake, anyway. My mom said she still has it packed away.

The other reason I was so fascinated with my mom’s story was the part about Grandma Maria sending my Uncle Louie to Green Valley for the tobacco. I asked her if Sarge owned Green Valley market at the time. She said he did. I never knew if Sarge was short for Sergeant, but I have great memories of my own of my mom sending my brother and me to Green Valley to pick something up for her. We would hop across the chain-link fence in our back yard and walk down the alley to the market. At that time, in the 1970s, Sarge’s son and daughter-in-law ran the small meat market. But I remember Sarge sitting in a chair or bench at the front of the store. While we were on a mission for my mom, it was understood that we would also ask for candy (usually a Butterfinger) or soda (usually a Sunkist.) I was never sure whether his daughter-in-law, Cindy, was limiting our intake of sugar (maybe at my mom’s request), or we just didn’t have enough change, but I remember being dejected when we couldn’t buy our goodies. But Sarge usually came through for us, sneaking the candy and sodas to us as we walked out the door.

With that thought, and as Christmas approaches, I’m tempted to put my diet on hold and cruise by Green Valley market, which I think is still owned by Cindy, and grab some Carne Adovada and some jerkey to take home with me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Carin and Grandma Rise

Carin and Great-Grandma Grucella "Rise" Gallegos
Christmas started a week early for my family. We had a very nice lunch with my Grandma Rise at the rehab center where she is staying in Albuquerque. Before going, I told my 11-year-old daughter, Carin, that I wanted to write a little something about her relationship with her 90-year-old great-grandmother. (Carin reminded me that Grandma turns 91in less than two week.) Carin probably goes at least two or three times a week with her grandfather to the rehab center to see his mother. She loves to go, and never turns down an offer to go.

Isabella Gallegos and Great-Grandma Grucella "Rise" Gallegos
Her seven-year-old sister, Isabella, also enjoys going and loves spending time with Grandma Rise, especially pushing her in her wheelchair. But Bella is also like me – often a homebody and not afraid to say she’d rather stay at home.

But Carin seems particularly attached to Grandma Rise. When I asked her why she likes going, she said (half-jokingly) that she likes to get out of the house. I know that’s part of it. If she had her way, and she usually does, she would spend her entire weekend with her grandparents. I also think she has a special place in her heart for Grandma Rise. I remember her also being attached to my Grandpa Louie before he passed away. But she’s older now, and Carin can sit with Grandma Rise and carry on a conversation about anything and everything. Grandma can’t hear everything Carin says, but she always smiles and enjoys every word. They also love to joke around, usually with my dad leading the way. Their favorite word, at the moment, is “dumbbell.” They have no shame in calling each other, or anyone else, a dumbbell if they act like one.

You hear a lot about children and elderly people sharing a special connection. I’m not really sure I was the same way when I was that age. I have great memories of all of my grandparents, and the little time I knew my great-grandparents. But I was extremely shy, and think I felt a little intimidated by them, at least when I was young. I also never lived in the same city as my grandparents, which may have had something to do with it. I also feel like I’m a late-bloomer in that I tend to appreciate things, people and relationships a little more as I get older. Carin probably gets this more nurturing trait from her mom, Yvette, who has always had a way with patients, especially older patients, at the hospital where she works.

Carin also seems to better appreciate and is taking advantage of her relationship with Grandma Rise and all of her grandparents at a young age. She doesn’t necessarily understand my fascination with family history. But knowing her like I do, I’m sure that someday she is going to look back on these memories and cherish them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grandpa the Bartender

One of the fascinating things about chasing down archived records is to find out what my ancestors did for a living. Anyone who knew Grandpa Louie, knew that he was a proud ironworker. He loved being an ironworker. Two of his sons, my uncles Louie, Jr., and Mike, also worked as ironworkers. My Uncle Ralph also learned the trade. As far as I was concerned, it was a tradition in the Chavez family to work at the power plant near Farmington. When Grandpa Louie spent his late years living with my mom, then at a nursing home in Albuquerque, I remember, hanging alongside pictures and drawings from his great-grandchildren, was a large poster of ironworkers eating lunch on a girder, high up in the skyline.

I never gave any thought to the possibility that Grandpa Louie ever did anything else besides welding – other than his job selling newspapers at Chavez Ravine before Dodgers Stadium was built. My dad found my mom’s birth certificate and high school diploma yesterday, as he looked in the attic for Christmas tree ornaments. My mom passed them along to me because she figured – correctly – that I would want to scan them for my genealogy research. But I didn’t think I would discover anything new in my mom’s own birth certificate. I was wrong.

The birth certificate declared, among other things, that my Grandpa’s occupation in late 1947 was as a bartender. What? It just so happened that I was sipping a martini when I decided to examine the birth certificate. I called my mom, and she said, yes, of course. Grandpa was a bartender back then in a bar in Grants that was owned by a relative whose name she didn’t remember.  I don’t know why it was such a shock. I guess it was a shock that I didn’t know. I remember all of his great stories about working on landmark buildings in Downtown Albuquerque, including the original construction of The Pit. And of course, since I was a news reporter in the 90s, I loved hearing him tell me about selling newspapers in Los Angeles – back when most people actually read newspapers. You’d think, as a bartender, he would have had many more great stories to tell his grandchildren.

Maybe that bartending experience explains my grandpa’s tendency toward saving the good stuff for special occasions, (not sure when that would be – perhaps, his beloved Dodgers winning the World Series), and using the, well, not-so-good stuff for holiday get-togethers. I’ll never forget one holiday as we prepared for other family and friends to arrive at my grandparents’ home in Farmington. For as long as I can remember, my grandpa liked a little glass of whiskey, usually when he was alone or with just one or two of us. He kept his personal stash of liquor in a closet space behind the couch in the den. On that particular day, in what I’m now sure was a tradition of his, he pulled out an empty bottle of Crown Royal whiskey and filled it with some cheap brand of whiskey that he got from Smith’s. Then the imitation Crown Royal was put out for his guests to enjoy before sitting at the table for my grandma’s tamales, pasole and red chile. "They'll never know the difference," he said.

The smile on my Grandpa’s face was priceless. Just doing what any other thrifty bartender might do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

120th Prior to WWII


This is a group photo of Company F, 120th Combat Engineers Battalion, 45th Infantry Division, taken July 2, 1941 at Camp Barkeley, Texas. While at Camp Barkeley, the 120th wsa reorganized and redesignated as the 120th Engineer Battalion (Combat.) Company F was reclassified as Company C. I wish I had a copy of the original, but this version, published in the Daily Optic on July 4, 2008, will have to do.

The Daily Optic published a special section in his 2008 holiday issue that paid tribute to its “Hometown Heroes; The Veterans of World War II.” As I mentioned in my previous post, the story was told by historian Maurilio E. Vigil, a retired professor of Political Science and history at New Mexico Highlands University.
Clemente Gallegos

Eloy Gallegos

Carlos Gallegos
Tony DeTevis, Jr.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Special Flag

I often tell people, when I describe my genealogy research, how incredibly ignorant I feel about my knowledge of history – or lack thereof. World history. New Mexico history. My own family history. But I’ve convinced myself that it’s never too late to learn – and appreciate – that history.

I went with my dad this week to see a special flag. Well, the flag itself isn’t so special because it represented a truly horrific period in our history. This particular flag was special because of the signatures of the soldiers who fought and sacrificed to capture it. Three of those soldiers were my great-uncles, including Eloy Gallegos, my Grandpa Carlos’ brother and whose name was passed on to my father and me – as our middle name. Their oldest brother, Clemente Gallegos, also signed the flag; so did Tony DeTevis, Jr., my Grandma Rise’s older brother.
My Grandpa Carlos was not with his brothers and the rest of the 120th Combat Engineer Battalion, Company C, when they captured the enemy Nazi flag at the end of July 1943, after heavy fighting at Messina, Sicily. Grandpa Carlos, who originally went with his brothers to North Africa, was sent back to Oregon to attend officer training school. He rejoined Company C sometime after the flag was captured and signed by dozens of soldiers.

The story of the Company C of the 120th Combat Engineer Battalion, which was attached to the 45th Division, is compelling. It was beautifully told in 2008 by Maurilio E. Vigil, a retired Highlands University professor, in a special newspaper section of the Las Vegas Optic. That newspaper article led me to my journey with my dad to the Albuquerque Museum, where the Nazi flag captured by Company C nearly 70 years ago, is now stored.

The flag is large. A surprisingly fragile-looking white circle with the black swastika is stitched in the middle of a sea of red fabric. A piece of the white fabric is torn, which was apparently ripped when the soldiers first captured it. Most of the soldiers signed their names and home towns in black ink on the white background. Some, like my Uncle Eloy, signed with white ink on the black swastika.
The fact that members of 45th Division, known as the Thunderbirds, signed their names on and around a swastika is ironic. The Division started as a National Guard unit with members from Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. For the first 15 years of its existence, the 45th used the swastika as its insignia, worn as a patch on each soldier’s left shoulder, according to an account by Brigadier General Ross H. Routh (Ret.) The symbol was considered good luck, because of its significance to Native Americans, particular the Navajo. But the Division abandoned the symbol in the 1930s because of its association with Nazi Germany. After soliciting hundreds of ideas for a new insignia, a Board of Officers settled on the Thunderbird as the replacement for the swastika. The Board kept the original yellow and red colors, which represent the Spanish heritage of many of the soldiers in the 45th. The Board also kept the four-sided patch to represent the four states from which most of the soldiers came. The War Department approved the new Thunderbird insignia, also an American Indian symbol, which signifies a “sacred bearer of happiness unlimited.”

The 45th was activated for federal service in 1940. The Division deployed on June 8, 1943 and arrived in Oran, Algeria, North Africa on July 1, according to the newspaper account by Maurilio E. Vigil. The Company moved to the Arzew area of French Morocco, which was used as a staging area, and on July 10, 1943, the 45th engaged in the first major invasion near Scoglitti, Sicily, as part of Operation Husky.

As a combat engineer battalion, Company C had the dangerous job of clearing mine fields, and repairing and rebuilding bridges that were destroyed by retreating German forces. The 45th Division made four amphibious landings – three in Italy and one in France. Combat engineers from Company C typically went ashore first to clear the beaches for infantry units.

On July 26, the 45th Division reached Motta Hill 26. Following four days of intense fighting, they secured victory at the Battle of Bloody Ridge. Soon after, the troops captured the German flag at Messina, Sicily.

My Great-Uncles Eloy, Clemente and Tony all signed the flag, all proud natives of Las Vegas, New Mexico. As the Thunderbirds pressed forward to conquer Sicily and move to mainland Italy, Sgt. Eloy Gallegos, who joined the National Guard unit at the age of 18, was declared to be missing in action. On Sept. 10, 1943, just two months into the war, my Great-Grandparents, Luis and Victoria Gallegos, were notified by the War Department that their son was killed in action. The Las Vegas Daily Optic reported that the American flag at Las Vegas High School was flying at half-mast in honor of Sgt. Eloy Gallegos, who attended the school and whose father was a longtime custodian at the school.

After Eloy’s death, my Grandpa Carlos Gallegos returned to Company C in Italy, and remained, along with his older brother Clemente, for the remainder of the war as the Thunderbirds drove through Italy, France and ultimately victory in Germany.

My father, Gilbert Eloy Gallegos, Sr., was born less than a year after his Uncle Eloy’s sacrifice. I was born 25 years later, also inheriting Uncle Eloy’s name. I’m proud share the name of a hero, and I am glad I got to share the visit to the Albuquerque Museum with my Dad, to see the special flag.