Sunday, June 24, 2012

First Communion

I’ve gone through more sacramental records that I can count in my ongoing effort to figure out my genealogy. Too often, as I’m searching for a nugget of information that helps my search, I become desensitized to the meaning of those records. I’m always amazed when I see an ancestor’s baptism or marriage record, and I wonder about the ceremony. But I don’t spend enough time thinking about what was really happening at that time in their lives.

Isabella Lucia Gallegos
But today, the meaning became crystal clear. My youngest daughter, Isabella Lucia Gallegos, received her First Eucharist, or First Communion, at Risen Savior Catholic Community in Albuquerque. It was a big day for her, and she did a wonderful job. She is so curious and inquisitive. It warmed my heart and I know Yvette was touched as well to watch our little Bella learn about God, and to go on that journey with her. And of course she looked beautiful in her white dress, which she could hardly wait to wear.
Gil, Yvette and Isabella Gallegos
Gil, Yvette, Carin and Isabella Gallegos

Father Tim Martinez is new to our parish, and he did a great job communicating with the kids and making them feel loved.
Isabella with Father Martinez
Father Martinez blessing the children's rosaries and other gifts

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Mexican" Vote

I’ve been involved in politics for nearly 20 years now. I covered many political races as a reporter and attempted to explore ethnicity in politics in a comprehensive way. In 2000, when Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush working hard to attract Hispanic voters, I remember being a little amused when he sent his Spanish-speaking, Hispanic nephew from Florida to New Mexico to make his pitch to Hispanics in Valencia County. During that same election, I drove to Mora County to write a story from the perspective of a Hispanic Republican sheriff who was successful in heavily Democratic Northern New Mexico. A few years later, I went to work for one of the most prominent Hispanic politicians in the country, Bill Richardson, who was twice elected governor of New Mexico and was the first Hispanic Democrat to run for President. I wrote dozens of speeches for Richardson about the role of Hispanics in national politics, during the 2004 election when John Kerry ran on the Democratic ticket; and in 2008 when Richardson came in fourth place in the Democratic primary that Barack Obama eventually won. More recently, I worked for Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is a 12th-generation New Mexican, as she beat out two other Hispanic candidates in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District.

Needless to say, I thought I had a pretty good appreciation for Hispanic politics in New Mexico, even if I arrived on the scene long after many trailblazing, Hispanic politicians like U.S. Senators Dennis Chavez and Joseph Montoya. But what I didn’t realize was the role that ethnic, or “Mexican” politics played more than a century ago, and involving one of my ancestors.

The only Great-Grandfather I knew as a child was my Grandpa Tony, Antonio DeTevis, who was born in Las Gallinas and lived most of his life in Las Vegas. He was named after his own grandfather, Antonio DeTevis, who came to New Mexico from the Azore Islands, part of Portugal, in the early 1800s. The elder Antonio DeTevis apparently came here with his brother, Pedro Jose DeTevis, who became a well-known merchant in Taos. One of his claims to fame is the fact that he was good friends with Kit Carson and is buried next to Carson in Taos. But if you go to the cemetery there, you won’t find Pedro Jose. You’ll find a prominent grave marker for Peter Joseph DeTevis. For most of his life, Pedro went simply by Peter Joseph. He and his younger brother Antonio reportedly arrived from the Azores in New Orleans, moved up the Mississippi to St. Louis, and ended up in Taos. At some point in the 1830s or 40s, Pedro started going by the name Peter Joseph, an Anglicized version of Pedro Jose.
Peter Joseph (1814-1862) as shown in "Portuguese in the Old West"

It’s not clear why Peter Joseph Anglicized his name, but apparently it was not uncommon for Portuguese immigrants to do so. What has always been puzzling to me is the fact that Peter Joseph became such a successful merchant and land owner in Taos and associated with other non-natives like Carson, Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain; while his younger brother, Antonio, kept the DeTevis name and was otherwise anonymous in the history of Taos County and New Mexico.

Peter Joseph’s son, Antonio Joseph, was even more prominent in Northern New Mexico – in real estate and in politics. And the Anglicized Joseph name sometimes played a role in Antonio’s political career.

Antonio Joseph
Antonio Joseph served as a judge in Taos County and eventually moved to Ojo Caliente sometime after his father died in 1863. He inherited much of his father’s vast fortune and land holdings in Taos (including buildings on the Taos Plaza) and Rio Arriba counties, and eventually purchased most of the land that was part of the original Ojo Caliente land grant. He was elected to the territorial Legislature in the early 1880s. Then, he served 10 years as New Mexico’s delegate to Congress, from 1884-1894, apparently the first person of Portuguese descent to serve in Congress. After losing a re-election bid in 1894, Joseph served in the territorial Council, the predecessor of the state Senate, and served as President of the Council in 1898.

Antonio Joseph had many friends, but also made political enemies. One such adversary was L. Bradford Prince, who in 1884 was a former state Supreme Court justice and would later serve as Governor of the territory. But in that year, he was the Republican opponent to Antonio Joseph a Democrat, in a three-way race for delegate to Congress.

Apparently, Prince tried to use Antonio Joseph’s ethnicity against him in that congressional race, according to former Governor and former Congressional Delegate Miguel Antonio Otero, who wrote about the encounter in his book “My Life on the Frontier.” Otero said in his book that he obtained an original letter that Prince sent to a political ally, Judge Shaw, in Socorro County. In that letter, marked confidential, Prince writes about the importance of the “Mexican” vote in the upcoming election.

“The Mexican vote, under the circumstances, is very important,” Prince writes to Shaw. “I think much can be done by printing tickets with my name at the head.” Prince goes on to suggest that if he is elected, “…our fellows will be on top for a good while, and you can be sure that anything in the way of patronage will go where there are obligations. I believe in standing by one’s friends. You can do an enormous amount by the display of the tact you have in such things.”

What exactly was Prince suggesting? He spells it out in an enclosed note, marked “strictly confidential.”

“There has been so much said as to Joseph’s name that every one understands that his real name is DeTevis and many newspapers have suggested that probably a ticket to be legal should be printed Antonio Joseph DeTevis. The Democratic tickets are printed simply Antonio Joseph. Now, if Democratic tickets are printed, say in Socorro, quietly, with the name Antonio Joseph DeTevis at the head, and sent out in proper packages addressed to the Democratic committeeman in precincts (not in Socorro or where any leader lives) so as to arrive shortly before the election, it would appear to be the revised and corrected ticket, and certainly would be used in some places. This would divide the vote. Of course places having telegraphs should be avoided.”

Former Governor Otero minced no words in his book about Prince’s tactics.

“I have this original letter and suggestion in my possession, written in the handwriting of L. Bradford Prince, and it was my opinion that any man who resorted to such methods was absolutely unfit to hold any position within the gift of the people. Prince’s tactics were well known to everybody in New Mexico. He would run down anyone whom he thought was in his way and had no hesitancy in telling a deliberate lie, if by so doing he might benefit.”

It’s not clear what, if anything, happened as a result of Prince’s suggestion. There were tickets printed with the DeTevis surname in San Miguel County, although they were Spanish-language tickets. I supposed it’s possible that Antonio Joseph benefited from those tickets because of his Iberian ancestry. Ironically, the so-called “Mexican vote” in 1884 probably similar to the “Hispanic” or “Latino” vote in 2012 – is not so easily defined. In fact, there was nothing “Mexican” about Antonio Joseph, who was born in St. Louis to a Portuguese father and a mother who was at least part Black and was Peter Joseph’s servant, and possibly slave, before the family moved to New Mexico where they were married and Antonio was baptized.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Letters from the Battlefront

Like many small-town newspapers around the country during World War II, the Las Vegas Optic published letters that local soldiers sent home from the battles raging in Europe and the Pacific. I came across some of those letters recently as I looked through microfilm images of the Optic from the 1940s. I was looking for a birth announcement for my father in 1944 (which I did not find because those editions of the newspaper were missing), when I stumbled across the letters from the battlefront. Then it occurred to me that maybe my Grandpa Carlos Gallegos was at war when my Dad, Gilbert Gallegos, Sr., was born in Las Vegas. I asked my Grandma Rise about it, and she said my Grandpa was indeed away when my Dad was born, but he wasn’t in Europe. He was in the States in officer training school. She said my Grandpa returned to Las Vegas two days after my Dad was born, and had to return to his base soon afterward.

Carlos Gallegos
I told my Grandma that I found a reference in the Optic to a letter that my Grandpa sent to her. According to the newspaper, “Lt. Carlos Gallegos has arrived safely in England, according to a letter received by his wife here. He wrote that he was surprised to meet his brother, Cpl. Clem Gallegos, on the ship and they were together for the voyage. They had not seen each other in three years.”

I didn’t find any other letters from my Grandpa while he was in Europe, although several months were missing from the archived copies of the Optic. My Grandma said she used to have a stack of letters that they wrote to each other. She specifically remembered my Grandpa telling her that he was reading one of her letters as he lay in a bed inside a home in the countryside of France when artillery started exploding around him. “He said that one time he was laying on the bed in a house that they found, reading a letter, then bomp, bomp, bomp, they started shooting and they nearly killed him,” she told me.

I did find a note in the Optic from Jan. 30, 1945 that read: “Mrs. Carlos L. Gallegos has returned from Leesville, Louisiana where she visited her husband Lt. Carlos Gallegos, the past two months.” I asked my Grandma about all of her traveling during the first few years of her marriage, as my Grandpa trained to be a Lieutenant in the Army. She said the train travel made her sick as she criss-crossed the country, going to Texas, Washington State and Louisiana and back to her beloved Las Vegas.

Clemente Gallegos
I came across a few letters from, and updates about, my Grandpa’s brother Clemente. One letter informed his wife and parents that Clemente was recovering from being shot by German forces in Italy in December 1943, just five months after his brother, Eloy, was killed during Operation Husky.

The Optic on Jan. 13, 1944, reported:
“Mr. and Mrs. Louis (sic) Gallegos, 1424 10th Street, have received word that their son, Cpl. Clemente Gallegos, who was wounded in action in Italy on December 20 is getting along well. Corporal Gallegos is a brother of Sgt. Eloy Gallegos, who was killed in action in the Sicilian campaign on July 10, 1943. Another brother, Lt. Carlos Gallegos, is stationed at Seattle, Washington. Two letters were received from Corporal Gallegos yesterday, one to his wife and one to his parents. In the letter to his parents, he wrote: ‘One more Christmas season has fallen back to the pages of history and me so far away from home. But if God is willing on the next one I will be back home with you to help you celebrate it. I can’t say that I did not appreciate this Christmas, for I did. With presents from back home plus those of the Red Cross the spirit of Christmas was high among all of us. I thank you all for your thoughtfulness in sending me what you did. My only regret is not sending any to you. I have prayed that you all enjoyed a happy Christmas and also a happy New Year. Do not worry about me for I am doing well. Give my best regards to all my friends.’”

April 4, 1944
“Mrs. Clemente Gallegos, 1016 Tilden, has received the Purple Heart which was awarded to her husband, Cpl. Clemente Gallegos, who is a former member of the 120th Engineers, National Guard. Corporal Gallegos was wounded in action in Italy December 20, 1943.”

April 1, 1945
“Corporal Clemente Gallegos is reported to have been wounded a second time in combat according to official notice to his wife who resides at 1016 Tilden. Cpl. Gallegos suffered his first combat injury in Italy in 1943. He returned home for a brief furlough during December 1944 and returned to active duty in Germany where he was wounded in action on March 26.”

June 1945
“Cpl. Clemente Gallegos, son of Mr. and Mrs. Louis (sic) Gallegos of Las Vegas has arrived home on a 30 day convalescence furlough. Gallegos served for 18 months in the European theater before coming home in December on a rotation furlough. He returned to Germany and was wounded while crossing the Rhine. He wears the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf cluster, the ETO ribbon with five campaign stars, pre-Pearl Harbor ribbon and the Good Conduct medal. At the end of his furlough he will return to Brooks General Hospital, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.”

Tony DeTevis Jr.
I also found news reports of other relatives in the Optic. The paper reported that “Tony De Tevis, Jr., (my Grandma Rise’s oldest brother) was honorably discharged from the Army June 10, 1945, under the point system.”

The Optic also reported a fascinating story about my Grandma’s cousin, Hilario LeDoux who was serving in the Pacific.

April 11, 1945
“With the 24th Infantry (Victory) Division in the Philippines – (Special) – A nightmare of Jap rule by robbery and murder died by the sword when Pfc. Hilario LeDoux of Las Vegas, N.M. and his buddies assault on Romblon Island in the Philippines wiped out a band of Jap gangsters. Life on Romblon had been peaceful and prosperous until Jap fugitives from the American advance selected this picturesque isle as a hideout. The invaders forced the native population to feed them with death decree for those who refused to surrender rice. Then came relief. As a member of a task force, LeDoux landed on Romblin in the pitch black of a torrential night rain, then marched across miles of rough jungle country to surround the town of Romblon. At dawn, sudden machinegun and mortar fire from palm-studded slopes drove the enemy out of stolen houses. Japs dashed for the cover of hillsides, where the advancing riflemen welcomed them with blasts of hot lead. Dead Nips littered the edge of the town sa LeDoux and his buddies pushed into the streets in a house-to-house routing of snipers. The people greeted their liberators with unrestrained jubilation.”