Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Rememberer

During Aztec times, every sizable village had a Rememberer, someone who mentally stored all the history of their village, maintaining an oral history of important things and events so that nothing would ever be forgotten. The person had an aura of spiritual connection and was "gifted" by possessing an expansive memory, used on the spot by village leaders. This position of esteem existed for generations within the elaborate structure of Aztec life---until the time of the Spanish conquest. A Rememberer was chosen early to train the mind and immerse himself in memorizing ideas, lengthy history and spiritual tasks.

Sitting in the 1959 station wagon, I would listen to Dad as he clucked out the names of Aztec gods, blending the "t" and "l", as in chocolatl, and the “t” and “z”, expertly enunciating “Quetzacoatl, Popocateptl, Huitzilipoztl”. I wondered why he wanted me to know these difficult names, and he would just laugh and tell me that speaking Spanish was good, but knowing Nahuatl was revealing about nature and people. He would cite names of Aztec poets like Cuahtemoc and recite a poem in Nahuatl, with me staring at him wondering how he could ever REMEMBER the detail, difficult pronunciations and even poetry.

Over the years I heard so much about the gods, Teotihuacan, la Malinche (the wicked Aztec woman who helped the Spaniards), and why we still used words like “chancla”, “pozole” and “tamal” . At some point, I asked Dad why he felt so strongly about it, thinking it was because of Mama Felipita, but instead of a direct answer he would offer parables on the wrongs of organized religion, i.e. Catholicism, a big negative in his mind. He would also scorn the government on their attitudes against Native Americans in both Mexico and the U.S. Since his passing, thinking about Dad’s history conversations, his extensive knowledge of the indigenous people of Mexico, the Apaches and Comanches, I slowly realized what a great and joyful Rememberer he would have made!

Josie Simons

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yaquis versus the Federales

One day my dad told me that his mother's resemblance to Native Americans was not by chance, as oral tradition in his family had passed down the story that very possibly, her antecedents began with the Yaqui tribe. Now, these native people were considered obstinate, and held down the uppermost western corner of Mexico for themselves through the most savage and entrenched fighting ever seen because this mountainous region was never conquered, since the Spanish Conquest began in 1547 until the early twentieth century. This area is in the state of Sinaloa and the Yaquis inhabited the region stretching past the border into Arizona. The historical data pinpoints seven Yaqui villages at the time of the Conquest, which over time dwindled to fewer than four. Dad related that his father had been told by her people that Mama Felipita's family originally inhabited one of those villages. The story goes that her people were taken away and rescued from death at the hands of the Federales (Mexican government soldiers) who were raiding a village, killing any Yaqui men, women and children over land rights during the early 19th century.

Geographic isolation up high in the mountains of the Sierra Madre offered natural protection for the villages at the time favoring the Yaquis insular way of life, and they honed their vigilance against anyone entering their lands, often amid violent responses towards interlopers, some who barely survived to report back to the Mexican government. By the end of the 19th century, the Mexican government had made it a persistent priority to get at the Yaquis by whatever means in order to claim and parcel out the land.

Dad said that Mama Felipita's family were rescued by a scout in the Mexican army because he couldn't agree with going into the village to kill. He heard what was going on, the screaming, babies crying and old men being shot. The people were running and hiding, but the scout took young people and women out safely through the pines to a safe place. Papa Luis said he was told this by Mama Felipita's family, this was an old story in her family, and that she wasn't born yet when this happened to them. We don't know where Felipita was born, but I know she was 20 years younger than my grandfather Papa Luis, and he knew her people and Mama Felipita when she was a little girl. From Dad's account, all the little kids in the village ran up to him when he would visit because he was very kind and would bring them sweets on his travel to whereever her family lived in the latter 1880's.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mama's Familia, Tepejuanes-Durango, Mexico

They (my Dad and sister Marie) have confirmed that Mom's family were from the Alarcon's and Monarrez families, originally Spaniards, who settled in the Tepejuan bluffs and hills along the Tepejuan River. This is an ancient, barren looking and mountainous region that was the last hold out to the Spanish Conquest, and the area of the Zaca-Chichimecas tribes who fought ferociously against the soldados.  The town Mom was born in has prospered but remains a small town.  She was born in 1924 in El Presidio, and two parts of the town were known as El Presidio de arriba, and El Presidio de abajo, which must be referencing the elevation on the mount.  I plan to write more on my mother's history as she passed away April 20, 2011 and she told me quite a few stories.  It's hard to do since it has been too recent, however, her stories are very interesting and full of mysterious events.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

First Sons

The family waited almost 15 years for his arrival, from 1941 to 1955. During those years, the birth of four daughters were reminders of the loss of Carlitos, who was born on the ranch. The ranch was called "Las Norias" and was owned by our grandfather, Luis Gonsalez. It was located about 20 miles from Francisco Madero, a tiny, charming pueblito, a day's ride from the capital city of Durango. Mom told me that Carlitos (full name: Carlos Hector Ezequiel Gonsalez) was a very beautiful baby, chubby, fair complexion, blue eyes, with reddish-brown hair. He also had very long eyelashes. Our dad affectionately gave him the nickname, "Temujen", the baby name of the heroe-warrior Genghis Kahn. A midwife delivered him on April 9, 1941, but during his short life of 7 months, he contracted pneumonia from a cold. By November 3, with no medicine, or a hospital nearby, my mother prayed and cried for him to improve even though a doctor did see him. But, he was called to be a baby angel and he expired in her arms with a ragged little breath. She was almost 17, but broken, as Dad said he never heard her sing again like she used to. He told me he buried this first, little son in Francisco Madero's cemetary, by himself with the heaviest heart. Anytime I asked about him, a dark cloud would descend his face and sometimes I could feel the pain.

But as time went by, on August 29, 1955, very late at night around one in the morning, the long-awaited son of my father's dreams was born. And what a beautiful, angelic-looking, green-eyed baby he was! Even though the last daughter received the name of Josephine, it was not by accident that Joseph Bernardo Garcia was named after his father and maternal grandfather. This very special boy, the son of a former rancher/cowboy, was living proof of a new generation in a new country. Him being the only boy after so many years, with a more mature mother (who was 31 years old now) was doted on and everyone would listen to what he felt or said. This was because he was the boy, the one who was resurrected and could make life seem right again.
I remember being little and always watching out for him, as he was curious about everything and afraid of nothing. Joe was so very loved, but sometimes the expectations that were put upon him were too unrealistic and he would rebel. I really love and greatly miss my brother Joe as he was truly a gift. He was one of the most generous people, and he had deep feelings about what was important. The fact that he saved a stranger's life, and risked himself to step in and take a pistol away from a criminal who was hurting an old man. This is the kind of thing I knew about him and his character.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Family Origins at the Hacienda

I always knew our family had its roots in Old Mexico, but I never knew until the last two weeks before Dad passed away that our grandfather was born at Hacienda Trancoso, located in Guadalupe, Zacatecas. I found an old baptismal certificate that may be his dated 1870, but from what I gathered in other talks and doing the math, he would have been born in 1868. This place is now a museum, and later I have a story to relate about this place. Just enjoy looking at it, since it's part of the very distant past and the sight of a place where our grandfather or great-great grandfather played in.