Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sister Mary Robert Otero

(Courtesy: Loretto Archives)
After a lot of searching, I finally discovered some details of the life of Sister Mary Robert, my Grandpa Louie’s aunt on the Otero side of the family.

I thought it would be easy to at least find an obituary for a Catholic nun. But when I struck out, I turned to a handful of friends – a reporter in Las Cruces, an editor in Santa Fe and an archivist who usually finds things that I can’t find on my own. Still, no luck.

Eventually I went back to read historical information about the Loretto Sisters, knowing that my great-grandmother, also an Otero, and my great-Aunt, got their schooling from the Loretto Sisters in Santa Fe. I finally decided to simply call the Loretto community in El Paso, where I knew she spent much, if not most of her life. Someone in El Paso suggested I contact the archives at the Loretto Mother House in Kentucky. And bingo.

It turns out that Sister Mary Robert devoted 60 years of service to the El Paso Loretto community. The community celebrated her six decades of service in September 1984; a few months later, in April 1985, Sister Mary Robert passed away at the nursing home run by the Loretto Sisters, called Nazareth Hall.
Sister Mary Robert at the Loretto Sisters Community in El Paso, TX (Courtesy: Loretto Archives)
Sister Mary Robert was born Eloisa Otero in Cubero, NM on March 27, 1902. I had previously learned, and the Loretto Sisters records confirm, that Eloisa was the daughter of Miguel Otero and Maria Guadalupe Jaramillo. But her parents died when she was a child, and she was raised for a few years with her Uncle Melquiades Otero (my twice-great grandfather.) So, while she was my great grandmother Eliza’s cousin, they were probably more like sisters.

Eloisa took her first vows on April 26, 1924 when she was 22 years old, and from then on, she went by Sister Mary Robert. According to a feature article about her life in 1986, Sister Mary had prayed to be missioned to some small house. Rather, her first and only assignment was to El Paso.
Sister Mary Robert
My mom had told me she always remembered Sister Mary being with a friend named Sister Casianita when they visited Albuquerque. Sister Casianita Heaton used to joke, according to those who interviewed her, that Sister Mary Robert always waited for her next assignment. “Yes, Robert has been here all these years – waiting for further orders,” sister Casianita said.

Sister Mary Robert described her first impression of El Paso as “a pile of sand,” probably not unlike her home village of Cubero. “We had the academy building, but that was all, and the chapel there wasn’t quite finished when I came. We used the present community room and also a study hall for a chapel.”

Sister Mary Robert spent much of her time in El Paso caring for the boarders’ dining room, according to the article about her. She eventually took over the sisters’ dining room when the academy closed.

Sister Mary Robert recalled in the article how she was “taught the ropes” by Sister Carmen, and she was initiated in the kitchen by Sister Petra. Later, she learned from Sister Felician Goebel how to “make favors, centerpieces, and to create the other special effects for graduation dinners and similar festive events.”

“A group of us once had a party in the cupola of the academy building,” Mary Robert recalled. “I don’t remember much about it except that we took a big pot of coffee all the way up there!”

When asked for an article about the number of girls for whom she provided the touches of home in the boarding school, Sister Mary Robert only smiled, saying that she had just done her job.

For the 1984 ceremony that celebrated her 60 years of service to the El Paso Loretto community, at each table rested a small cardboard shoe, filled with mints. According to the article that described the ceremony, the shoes “symbolized the thousands, perhaps millions, of steps Sister Mary Robert had walked in her six decades of work in the Loretto, El Paso, dining rooms. The sisters surprised her with liturgy and festive dinner – with roses from the garden, special songs, dining room decorations, a scroll of tributes, and Mary Robert’s favorite dishes on the menu.”


My Gallegos cousins from Arizona recently shared some great photos with me. Not only were the photos new to me, they surprised my Dad, as well.

The photos were sent by Barbara Gallegos, my Dad’s cousin, who discovered them with her sister, Mary Sue, or Marissa Curnutte. Barbara and Marissa are the daughters of my Dad’s Uncle Clemente Gallegos.

Barbara and Marissa always refer to my Dad as Butch, as he was known when he was younger. The only other people I’ve ever heard call my Dad by the name “Butch” were my Grandma Rise and my Dad’s cousin Peggy.

The first photo of my Dad and his cousin Mary Sue when they were young children immediately grabbed my attention. I had seen my Dad as an infant and when he was old enough to play Little League. But I had not seen him as a toddler, probably 3 or 4 years old. My wife, Yvette, had a stronger reaction than I did. She thought my Dad, Gil Sr., had the exact same chubby cheeks that our second daughter, Isabella, had at the same age. Everyone has always associated Bella with my Dad’s side of the family – first, because of her dark skin, straight black hair, and a wicked sense of humor she surely inherited from my father and my Grandma Rise.

The second photo was just as surprising, but more so to my Dad. The photo of my grandparents and my Dad and Mary Sue must have been taken shortly after my Grandpa Carlos returned from World War II in Europe. My Dad was taken aback when I showed him the photo. He said he had never seen a photo of his mother at that age, aside from her wedding photo just a few years earlier.

The third photo is a picture of my great-grandparents, Luis and Victoria (Trujillo) Gallegos. They were the parents of my Grandpa Carlos.

The fourth photo shows my great-grandparents with my Dad’s sister, Martha, following her First Holy Communion. This photo also grabbed my Dad’s attention because he recognized the painting of his Dad hanging prominently on the wall over the brick fireplace in his grandparents’ Las Vegas home. He remembered the small portraits tucked into each corner of the framed painting, including a baby picture of himself, just like it was yesterday.

The fifth and sixth photos are images of a newspaper article, surely from the Las Vegas Optic, that highlighted my great-grandparents’ Golden Anniversary.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Catholics in St. John's

When my Chavez ancestors settled in St. John’s, AZ, they took more than their sheep, horses and possessions. They also took their Catholic faith with them.

My great-great Uncle Onofre Chavez boasted in an oral history that Catholic holy mass was celebrated in the adobe Chaves home while they were living in Las Tusas, just outside of St. John’s. Apparently, many of the Hispanic settlers of St. John’s were honored to host Catholic mass in their homes until a church would be built.
San Juan de Baptista Catholic Church in 1881 (Courtesy Barbara Jaramillo, published in Images of America: St. Johns)
In those early years of St. John’s, Las Tusas and surrounding villages, mass was celebrated by Father Pedro Maria Badilla, who was celebrated as the first parish priest when he arrived in St. John’s in 1880.

During my visit to St. John’s, I came across an interesting biography of Father Badilla. The biography, written by Lazaro Acosta in 1910, was featured in La Opinion Publica, which was published in Albuquerque. In addition to the details of Father Badilla’s life, the biography included many details of what life was like in St. John’s when my Chavez family lived there – roughly the late 1870s through about 1901.
Father Pedro Maria Badilla (Courtesy Barbara Jaramillo, published in Images of America: St. Johns)
Father Badilla was born in 1827 in Costa Rica. He eventually made his way to California and then Tucson, AZ, where in 1880 the first settlers of Apache County petitioned Bishop J.B. Salpointe to form a parish in East-Central Arizona. Bishop Salpointe asked Father Badilla to serve as its parish priest.

“He proposed this parish to Fr. Badilla, letting him know how difficult it would be, and the dangers of not having a church available, etc., etc.,” according to the biography. “The worthy Priest welcomed this proposition considering it to be his greatest happiness. It was that he wanted an uncultivated field to nurture, where he could sow the seed of the Gospel, to fertilize it and to reap its fruits.”

Father Badilla traveled north from Tucson to Prescott, the territorial capitol. He headed east to Holbrook with a family “ walking with a car pulled by oxen; they offered to carry him and take his baggage and provisions, but he took to foot as not to bother the family.” Once in Holbrook, he wrote to the people of St. John’s.

After a few days, Father Badilla was greeted by Serafin Apodaca who took the priest the rest of the way to St. John’s. Once there, he stayed at the home of Dolores Gallegos, described in the biography as a “humble man who lived alone and who spontaneously offered his home, as did so many other people also offering accommodations…”
Original Currier & Ives Picture Circa 1860
Used at First St. John’s Mass
Donated to the Catholic Church by Eminda Perez Lopez
After receiving visits from many of the people (of highest character) of St. John’s, Father Badilla celebrated his first Mass at the home of Mrs. Anastacia Gonzales. They improvised a chapel and Father Badilla was presented to the people as the founding Parish Priest of St. John’s.

“He took charge of the parish in very difficult circumstances; with wisdom and prudence of his character, overcoming all the obstacles that could hinder his order, letting nothing stop him in fertilizing the religious faith there.”

Soon after, Father Badilla “toured the area, giving mass and preaching in private houses of the villages and ranches he reached.” Surely, one or more of those homes were the adobe residences of my Chavez ancestors, including my third-great Grandparents Diego Antonio and Juana Chavez and their son, my twice-great Grandfather Preciliano Chavez.

“All residents receiving his sample with utmost joy, is nothing compared to what he gave his full order,” according to the biography.

Father Badilla lived for a year with Dolores Gallegos. During that time, he established a school in a house that belonged to Tomas Perez. He regularly celebrated mass in another house belonging to Guadalupe Salazar.

Eventually, Father Badilla collected enough money to raise a church to the dedication of San Juan Bautista. That first church was built at the same location where the church now stands, and the focal point of the Feast of San Juan that I witnessed this past June.

While I hoped to find a mention of my Chavez ancestors in the biography of Father Badilla, it was still a treasure to read the 1910 writings of someone who was familiar with those early decades of St. John’s.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Direction Concert -- Three Perspectives

Power of Music

By Gilbert Gallegos

Hiking up the hill to the Sun Bowl stadium in El Paso, a woman in front of me had a t-shirt with the phrase, “Power of Music,” on the back. Maybe not the most profound message, but I kept thinking about it throughout the late summer evening concert I attended with my family.

Like them or not, or maybe you’ve never heard of them, the British boy band, One Direction, put on a great performance at the Sun Bowl last weekend. And what I quickly discovered, it doesn’t really matter what I, or anyone else, thinks about their music. Tens of thousands of screaming pre-teens and teen-age girls were basically out-of-their-minds in love with the band, their music and their entertaining performance.

You can’t fathom what the experience is like until you experience it. And I’m not talking about the band; I’m talking about the girls’ reaction to it.
Bella, Carin and Yvette
We bought the tickets nearly a year ago as Christmas presents for our daughters. Carin had a running countdown app on her phone. When the day finally arrived, the girls were besides themselves with excitement. After an early dinner, we hit I-10 for the quick drive to the stadium. The girls both thanked Yvette and me ahead of time for taking them to the concert.

But disaster was about to strike. Traffic was backed up for miles. It soon became obvious that the city of El Paso was not prepared for the influx of some 40,000 – 50,000 concert-goers. We didn’t see a single attempt to control traffic until we were right in front of the stadium. The girls were distraught. As the clock ticked away, they kept getting updates from friends who were already in the stadium. They were getting Instagram updates of the band members backstage. Then, when the opening act, Five Seconds of Summer, started to perform, I knew I was toast. The girls went from being grateful to blaming me for ruining what should have been the best night of their lives. I was helpless.

We eventually got close enough so I could drop them off with Yvette and they could run in and catch the rest of the opening act, buy their concert t-shifts and other souvenirs. I, on the other hand, needed another hour to find a parking spot about two miles from the stadium. The bar across street from where I parked was pretty attractive. But I soldiered on, and made my way in time for the main performance.
Carin, Bella and me

When I got there, I was mesmerized by the packs of girls hunting for merchandise. All of a sudden, someone would scream, and dozens of others would follow suit, sprinting somewhere, or nowhere. I wasn’t sure what was going on.

When I connected with my family, Carin and Bella were two totally different people from the girls who accused me earlier of ruining their lives. The joy on their faces was priceless. They were back to thanking Yvette and me, and they were now convinced they were experiencing the best night of their young lives.

One Direction on Stage at the Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX
Girls are more expressive than boys, and it was amazing to watch so many girls dancing, squealing and screaming for two straight hours. Bella and Carin have different personalities. Bella loves to dance and had no waving her arms throughout the performance, screaming every time her favorite, Louis, would take center stage. She was both hilarious and adorable at the same time. Carin, on the other hand, is more serious and determined to record as much as possible on her phone. (I wonder where she gets those qualities from?) But she was also singing every word and let out screams when her favorite, Niall, performed.

One Direction put on a great show. I thought the music was good, and they know how to satisfy their young fans. In the end, I can’t really say whether it was the power of music, the power of entertainment, the power of celebrity, or something else entirely, that captivated so many young girls at the Sun Bowl. Whatever the case, I know that my daughters were thoroughly happy, and that made their parents feel pretty good.

Best night of my life
By: Isabella J

         The day I got my tickets to go see One Direction, I was so happy! I have never been to a concert before, but since I love One Direction, I think this concert would be the best I have been to over all the concerts I would go to. My favorite member of One Direction is Louis Tomlinson. He is funny, cute, and a really good singer.

       So when we arrived in El Paso, I was so anxious and I could not wait till the concert. We got to El Paso around 12:00 or 1:00. First we went to the big outlet mall. I kept seeing girls with One Direction shirts on and I would say to my parents “I bet those girls are going to the One Direction concert too like us!” I said. So the first store I went to was a store called Hot Topic. They sell T -shirts with logos on them. I thought they would have One Direction shirts there so I asked and they had about 3 left of One Direction shirts! So I had some money and I bought 2 shirts and a lot of stores were sold out of One Direction shirts but I luckily got 2 for the concert. I packed like 2 or 3 shirts for the concert that I never wore over there because one of the shirts I bought had Midnight Memories (their album name) and their faces on it.

     Once we got to the hotel, I thought it was a messy and gross hotel because I saw a little bug in the beds and when I wanted to go swimming, I saw gross, and dead bugs floating in the hot tub and the pool. The pool was also really cold.

        When it was time for the concert, we were on our way to the concert and there was a lot of traffic. I was upset because I didn’t want to miss the concert and also my sister Carin said that it’s already starting because she was looking on her phone and her friends were texting her. When she kept saying that, I got more upset. I really didn’t want to miss it. Finally, we got there like 10 minutes late, but right when we got there, we were running. I even saw Liam and Niall backstage a little bit! I was screaming a little because I couldn’t believe it! So we sat in our seats and we saw 5 Seconds of Summer! I was screaming so much! My favorite member from 5 Seconds of Summer is Calum Hood. When 5 Seconds of Summer ended their part of the show, they put music videos on the big screen while One Direction was getting ready backstage. When they put on the videos for the intro for One Direction, everyone got super crazy and screaming. Including me. Every time Louis would come on and sing his parts of the songs, I would scream Louis so loud! My dad said there was a lady by me and I was screaming so much, he said that she was laughing at me when I was screaming. I gotta say, I think I was pretty funny and crazy. When the concert “was over” everyone was chanting “one more song!’’ and One Direction sang Story Of My Life, What makes you beautiful, and You and I. They tricked us! I was screaming so much!

     At the end of the concert, I said my throat really hurt because I was screaming so much. So I got a warm apple cider from starbucks to help my throat. We didn’t want to stay at our hotel because it was gross. So right after the concert, we left to Albuquerque. I was asleep the whole time and when I woke up, I said that felt so fast by sleeping while driving home. It took around 4 hours to get home. When I got home I said “Can you take me to the next concert next year for their new album?’’ I asked happily to my parents. That was the best night of my life!

Carin is ready for One Direction
My Dream Came True!!!
By Carin Gallegos

So nearly a year ago I got the best Christmas gift I could ever imagine! ONE DIRECTION CONCERT TICKETS! I could not believe it! I finally got to see my role models in action! So since that day I got a countdown app and it told me how many days till the concert. Then finally it was already down to just a couple of days! During school and soccer practice that’s all I could think and talk about! So the day has finally come! Friday September 19th, 2014, El Paso. So we all were hungry so we went to eat dinner right before the concert but after dinner disaster happened. TRAFFIC! My sister and I were so upset it nearly took 2 hours to get to the stadium through the traffic. We were probably 5 minutes late to the opening act (2nd favorite band) 5 seconds of summer. I’m madly in love with Luke Hemmings from the boy band and I could not wait to see them too! Finally we were close enough for my dad to drop off my mom and my sister and me. So we started to run as fast as we could and I could hear music playing and lights going on, I was full of excitement! When we were running through the stadium my sister and I even saw a Niall Horan (my favorite) and a Liam Payne! I was screaming so much I was trying to catch a picture and what do you know I caught the perfect one! Then we found our seats and we had amazing seats! We could see them perfectly! So I got to see 5 Seconds of Summer preform and they were AMAZING! So when it started getting dark One direction time! I got the chills and a big grin on my face and jumping up and down! I could not believe how big and loud and crazy the fans were! So then all these amazing lights and fire works came shooting up and 3..2..1 One Direction popped right out from the bottom of the stage and started singing! And I could not scream any louder I couldn’t stop the whole time! When I saw Niall I scream as loud as I could and started filming and I just fell in love with him even more! Niall and the rest did amazing, also I have to say Niall was pretty hilarious the whole time! I couldn’t be more proud of these 5 boys then I already am! So when the concert was over I was sad cause it was over! But at least I had pictures and videos and tour stuff to remember that amazing night. Right when it ended my sister and I told my parents “We’re getting tickets to there next tour for there newest album!” So I’ll have to check every day when the tickets go on sale (I know what I want for Christmas! And I better start saving my money again) so that was the best night of my entire life!