Letter to Alejos
(contributed by Angelita)
Alejos Zepeda was born July 1850.
He died Nov. 14, 1925, in Dallas Texas.
Nov. 07, 2001
I never knew you, or knew your
name, until I started doing the family tree.
I found out you were born in 1850
-- where, I don't know yet. You married my great-grandmother,
Angelita Garza, on Jan. 08, 1879, in Del Rio, Texas.
You had three daughters -- Bonefacia,
Ylfonsa and Tiodora [Lola], my grandmother. You also had four
sons -- Leandro, Manuel, Vidal and Merejildo. I only knew
two of them, Vidal and Merejildo. My grandmother married my grandfather,
Ysabel Montalbo, on Jan. 19, 1901, in Sonora, Texas.
They had one son, Rafael, my father,
and eight daughters -- Anita, Rosa, Maria, Guadalupe, Elena,
Paula, Victoria and Felipa. I only knew three of them -- my aunt
Elena, Felipa and Victoria. The rest died before I was born.
Tiodora and your other daughter,
Elfonsa, and her husband, Julian Garcia, are also buried there.
Your granddaughters, Paula and
Guadalupe and your great-grandson, Braulio, and his sister, Natalia,
your son-in law, Jose Angel Benavidez, and one of his grandsons,
Elario Benavidez, are also there.
So, you see grandfather, I never
thought I would find out your name, much less where you are buried.
So, because of the family tree,
I found you and the rest of the family. I went three times to
Dallas to find the cemetery, even though I didn't know where
I was only seven years old when
my grandmother Tiodora died. All I remember is when they had
her in the funeral home, and I remember my father crying by her
casket, trying to wake her up. Then, when they took her to the
cemetery, I stayed in the car. I remember that day as if it were
yesterday; it was cloudy and raining lightly. There were a lot
of people standing around her grave; almost all of them wore
black and had black umbrellas.
I was so scared, I wanted to hide.
I also remember that there was
a railroad track next to the cemetery, so, the first times we
went, we would drive by the railroad tracks trying to find a
cemetery close to them.
So, the family kept on growing
and I kept asking questions
until someone told me a name -- they said it was the Rancho Grande
My aunt Dorothy told me that when
uncle Joe Chaves was
alive, he would go almost every week to take flowers to his Mother
Tiodora [Tiodora, my grandmother, married again when my grandfather
Ysabel died.] She married Salvador Jose Chaves on Oct. 15, 1919,
in Santa Anna, Texas.
They had two sons -- Santiago and
Jose M. Chaves [Joe]; Santiago died before Jose was born.]
So, now I had a name, but where
I was also told that the cemetery
was located behind a hospital. We kept asking but nobody knew
of a cemetery by a hospital.
We even asked some people who lived
not even a block
from where you are, but nobody knew. My son Raymond told me.
"Maybe they were moved so the city could build." I
said, "No, they have to be there!" One of my sisters,
Paula, came to visit from California, so we went back to Dallas
again, but no luck.
We were so close yet so far away.
Then, my brother Vale [Ralph] came
to visit from Phoenix,
Arizona. And, we went back for the third time. This time I printed
a map from the Internet; still, we looked for about three hours.
The address is Lee Hall. We went
in there so many times,
it would take us back to a lot of stop signs, dead ends, and
back to the entrance.
We drove around all the hospitals
that were close to Lee Hall. We had stopped at a red light
and I was looking around and saw a cross. I told my brother,
Vale [Ralph], "Look over there behind those trees; I see
a cross, or am I seeing things? I even see a headstone;
do you see it?" He answered, "Yes, I see it too!"
Lola had told me that her father -- your son Vidal -- had
made the crosses for you and grandmother Angelita. She
told me that when she was six years old she went with her grandfather,
Alejos, to visit Angelita's grave. When she went back to
the house, she ran to her father, Vidal, and told him that she
knew where her grandmother was; that she was by the railroad
tracks and there was a mound of dirt on top of her. Her
father asked Alejos what she was talking about and he told Vidal
that they had gone to visit Angelita's grave. Vidal said
that he had to make a cross for her grave so it wouldn't get
lost, and he did! After you died, he made a cross for you,
too. At last, we had found the cemetery, but there was no way
to get through. We parked the car by a gas station and
tried to walk to the cemetery, but not even that way could we
get through. So, we got in the car again and drove around.
We had to go to Harry Hines Blvd. to Lee Hall again. Then
we had to go through two houses to get there. At last,
we were there! There was a fence around the cemetery, and
the gate was locked. So my brother, Vale, jumped the fence
so he could go look at the graves. Then he yelled, "Here
is my aunt Guadalupe and here is my aunt Pauline," and then
he helped me over the fence so we could look for the graves together.
At last, we found your grave with the cross that your son
Vidal had made. Then, we found Angelita's grave, too, and
grandmother Tiodora, and all the familiar names that I have heard
of. I can't describe how I felt, the only way I can say
it, is when I had my children and you see them for the first
time; you can't wait to touch them; to hug them, to kiss them,
and to hold them in your arms; that is how I felt, grandfather
Alejos. But, you see I could not do this to you or the
rest of the family. Seeing where you and the rest of the
family were, felt the same way. Now, we can come visit
and bring our children and tell them about all these families
that once were lost, but now are found.
I had also been told that on El
Dia De Los Muertos, people would get together at the cemetery
and the priest would come and say mass and bless all the graves.
So, my son Raymond, his children, and I went. We
came and it was a nice day, Dorothy and her daughter, Barbara,
went also. My cousin Marce and her husband, Pablo, went,
too. Almost all the people that were there were related
to us, one way or another. The Zepedas, Montalbos, Benavidez
and Garcias -- they are all decedents of you, Alejos. So,
you see, grandfather, because you and all the people that are
buried here in Rancho Grande, we are all coming again next year.
A lot of family from California also want to be here. So
are all my sons and daughter and all their children. We
are keeping in touch with all of our newfound family.
Now, I am finding out the city
wants to get rid of the cemetery and to remove your remains somewhere
else. So, grandfather, after all you and grandmother suffered
the first time you came here, not even dead will they let you
rest. Lola told me about the first time you came here in
1919; how grandmother Angelita was very sick. You had just
come in from Santa Anna, Texas, by wagon. She said you
stopped at the Gomez house that was by El Rancho del Japones;
you asked for water for grandmother; they saw that she was sick
and offered you a place to stay, but you said no. You were
looking for La Hacienda Del Rancho Grande, as the Hispanics called
it then. Then, she died a few months later. How sad it
must it must have been. You still had your son, Tio Merejildo,
and your daughter, Aifonsa, with you. They would not let
you bury her at the white cemeteries, but the people from Rancho
Grande were kind to you and let you bury her there; also, a lot
of other people later on. If only there were more people
like them, this world would be a better place for all. If
only they would walk in our shoes for a couple of days, they
would think different. I know how you must have suffered,
going form place to place and from job to job.
I have been told about your son,
Manuel; how he wanted to join the war in the U.S.A., but you
wouldn't let him go, so, he did what you said because back then,
kids obeyed their parents. He wanted to join so bad, but
he didn't, so he went crazy. You had to put him in a mental
hospital in Dallas; that must have been very hard for you. I've
been told that he died there. I'm trying to find out where
he is buried and about your other son, Leandro; how he went to
California and married over there. Then, you were told
he went to Mexico and you never heard from him again. Well,
Alejos, I found out he married a girl named Elena and they had
two sons and one daughter. He died at an old age. My father,
Rafael, used to tell my children that you were related to Emilino
Zapata. I will try to find out about that one of these
days, because Zapata and Zepeda mean the same name. I have
father Edwardo Fuentez and Mrs. Villanueva to thank, because,
if they had not tried to save Rancho Grande and all the people
that helped them, I would have never found you.
So, I will try my best to help
father Fuentez, so that you and all the people that are buried
here at Rancho Grande can rest in peace forever. And, I
hope that one day my grandchildren can bring their grandchildren
here and tell them about you and tell them about you and the
families that came here to work and help build the city of Dallas
in their own way.