By Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Well, this week I began researching our family tree myself, for a memoir I’m working on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Barbarita Marquez (listed as “Marcus” on her death certificate in California, ha!) was not exactly as Spanish as the Conants have wanted us all to believe.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and the amazing site ancestry.com) I have indeed traced her family to Spain, to a wealthy young man who came to Santa Fe and married a woman from the San Ildefonso (San Yldefonso on the marriage license) pueblo. That means his wife was Native American. From that point forward, the family tree merges many times with families from Mexico City, Chiapas, and Zacatecas, as well as with “Spanish” families from Northern New Mexico. In other words, my mother’s father was Mexican, whether he liked it or not. To my great delight, I’ve learned this week that I am descended from the best-known “Spanish” clans in New Mexico; I am a Baca, a Duran, a Roybal, an Aragon, a Griego and a Gallego.
While my original memoir was going to be about my relationship with my troubled mother when I was a teenager, I am shifting focus now. I think I’d rather write about how the Conants erased their Mexican heritage, and link this to a general pattern of families doing this in the Southwest. It is crucial, given the drumbeat of hatred against Mexicans in the US at this time, to remind Americans that most of us with roots in the West are Mexican, whether we admit it or not.
I liken the Conant erasure of our Mexican ancestors to the tendency in white Southern families to erase their African and Native American ancestors.
Below: The author's mother (center) and aunts.
And San Ildefonso, the source of her Indian side.