HaLapid 1999

My Family History

By Miguel Bedolla

Pedro Gonzalez de Paredes was born in Amusco, Valencia, sometime around 1560. His family was from Paredes (de Nava), which is not far from Amusco. In Paredes there was a thriving Sephardic community which at one time had a rabbi from Germany. (This is reported by Yitzak Baer) The Gonzalez family was a member of this community. Sometime around 1581, Pedro left Spain in the ship Santa Catalina with Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva. (This is reported in the roll of the names of those who sailed with Carvajal as kept in the Archivo de Indias.) The Santa Catalina landed somewhere south of modern day Matamoros-Brownsville. It is believed that Carvajal’s expedition consisted entirely of Sephardim, although some, including Carvajal himself, had accepted Christian baptism. (Among those in the expedition was Luis Carvajal el Mozo, who mined for silver in the mountains that, on a clear day, you can see from Laredo when you look south, itt is called Sierra de Picachos by the locals. El Mozo was a mystic, nicknamed El Iluminado, “The Enlightened.” Descendants of his brother live in Italy with the surname Lombrosso, which means Iluminado. El Mozo was tried as Judaizante “Judaizer” and died in the Auto-Da-Fe of 1596 in Mexico City . Carvajal’s expedition founded what was called the Nuevo Reyno de Leon and established the Villa de San Luis, which was at one time depopulated and founded again by Diego de Montemayor as Ciudad Metropolitana de Nuestra Senora de Monterrey, present day Monterrey, Mexico. Some of Carvajal’s expedition founded Nueva Extremadura, which included the present day Mexican State of Coahuila and the US ‘s Texas . I do not know if Pedro had accepted baptism. Pedro’s children seems to have moved on from San Luis to Saltillo . By the time some of his grandchildren died, not only had they married with the de la Garza, the Treviño and the Abrego (Abrego is the word for “Hebrew” in the Catalonian language) families, but they were considered to be Catholic. One of his grandchildren was killed by the natives. Another of his grandchildren liberated all of her slaves before she died. Toward the middle of the XVIII Century Spain, and New Spain, were forced to recognize the Northern Borderlands of the Empire. It was recommended that a chain of forts (presidios) be established, stretching from California to Texas. One of Pedro’s descendants, Joachin, was named “Capitan” of the Spanish king’s troops stationed in the Presidio de Santa Rosa Maria del Sacramento, around 1750 (this is the present day city of Muzquiz, Coahuila, just southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas .) This Presidio had actually been founded at what is now called La Babia but was moved to where its remnants now stand. Other descendants of Pedro came to what is now Texas and appear in the roll of the founders of the Villa de Revilla, now known as Guerrero Viejo, and of Zapata. Joachin, whose ancestors had been soldiers of the Spanish Crown. His descendants, continued to serve the Crown until the territory became Mexico, and then they served in the Mexican Cavalry, General Lucio Blanco, of the Mexican Revolution, is one of them. Santa Rosa was frequently attacked by the Apaches. When an attack was underway, the men, and especially the women, would remove any jewelry that they were wearing, since the Apaches would cut off their fingers and ears in order to steal it. All of these possessions and the family’s gold would be buried, again, to keep the natives from stealing it. After the Apaches left, the men would mount their horses and pursue them.

The women stayed behind, armed and ready to defend themselves. However, it was frequent that an Apache would feign to be dead and remain. If he was not discovered he would still kill whomever he could, but if he was discovered he would be killed by the women. Because of events like this, Joachin’s descendants and others established a pact with the Kickapoo Otawatomi nation sometime around the 1820′s. Thanks to this pact, later sanctioned by the Federal Government of Mexico, the Kickapoo Otawatomi settled in Santa Rosa, and with the Spaniards fought against the Comanches and the Apaches. Joachin’s descendants also welcomed the Black Seminoles into Santa Rosa, and may have had something to do with the underground railroad’s branch that led into Mexico . Joachin and his descendants were also cattlemen. According to family stories, they bought and sold cattle in the territory of Nueva Vizkaya (Present day Chihuahua ). The route they followed was from Santa Rosa, to La Babía, to San Vicente, to Presidio, to Julimes and then Chihuahua . All of these sites were also Presidios. The building of the Presidio de Santa Rosa was acquired by my great grandfather, José Encarnación Gonzalez. He bought it from his cousin Rafael Aldape. (By the way “Rafael” was always pronounced with a Sephardic accent: Rah-pha-eel) José Encarnación was married to his cousin Josefa González. Cousins married cousins for generations, until my own mother married my father. How they met and married is also a great story. By the beginning of this century Joachin’s ancestors had amassed significant wealth from cattle, agriculture, generation of electricity and banking. José Encarnación also owned a source of water, a flow of about 5 cubic meters per minute that was coming out of an old silver mine called “El Socavon.” However, the González were Porfiristas (on the side of Porfirio Díaz), and lost much of what they had during the Mexican Revolution.

Encarnación himself was killed on one of his ranches by a group of bandits headed by a man surnamed Muzquiz. When I was a child and throughout my early teens I used to visit my grandmother, Carmen González de González who lived in the very building where the soldiers commanded by Joachin had been stationed. (Carmen had married her cousin, Alfonso González , a descendant of Blas de la Garza and the Ancyra family). There were still a few remnants of weapons and other things of the Spanish soldiers laying around the yard of my grandmother’s house. It was at that House that I met Papeequahno, the head of the Kickapoo-Otawatomi, who was visiting my grandmother’s brothers. But, and this is the thing, throughout all of this history, Pedro’s and Joachin’s descendants had never lost the memory of a Jewish past and continued to do things like light candles on Friday, keep what was essentially a kosher kitchen and avoid unclean foods, and marry only into families with the same history. My wife, by the way, is a descendant of Juan Farias, another member of the Carvajal’s expedition.

Although there were plenty of catfish in the main ranch that the González family owned, not even in a time of scarcity and frequent draughts did they dare to eat one. The Ranch itself was called “Molino Buena Fé,” The Good Faith which is what Sephardim called Judaism, in contrast to the Catholic Faith of other Spaniards. The Ranch was called Molino because they milled wheat and sugar cane in it. I suppose that Joachin was Catholic and certainly my grandmother was a Catholic in good faith. But the Catholicism of Pedro’s and Joachin’s descendants contrasts with that of others in the Coahuila region in it is centered around G-D the Father. There were no images of saints or any other sign of such devotions in my grandmother’s house. I was baptized when I was seven days old. I grew up being Catholic in good faith, I was educated by Jesuits. But, also, I grew up experiencing this intense communion, which no one taught me, with Judaism and everything that is Jewish. I once defined myself to a Jewish colleagues here at the medical school as “a Catholic Jew” but she said “That’s not possible.” Joachin’s descendants are still to be found in Santa Rosa , now Muzquiz, but their surname is Elizondo. The descendants who still carry Gonzalez as their first surname live in Monterrey. They are industrialists. But, there are descendants of Joachin in San Antonio (me) and even in California (their last name is Weber).

By the way, all that I have told you is my history from my mother’s side. But my paternal Grandfather’s name was Bedolla-Cano, and Cano, I understand, is the Spanish word for Cohen. My great grandmother’s two last names were Cano and Cansino, two Jewish surnames from Toledo at the time of The Expulsion.

Miguel Bedolla
BEDOLLA@uthscsa.edu