Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jacinta Gonzales and Victor Acedo, 1860 Monterey Cenus

Recently, a descendant of Jacinta Gonzales (the subject of my poem, "Jacinta's Medicine," contacted me through this website. I've been sending Teresa the information I've found about Jacinta, including a song that she and her aunt, Bibiana Mucjai (Mucjay) Soto sang for Kroeber in 1902 (he recorded it on a wax cylinder). I wasn't able to locate Jacinta in the Mission records; she was born after Secularization and many Indians were no longer baptized in the Church, even if they had stayed in the Carmel/Monterey area.

Today, I checked the US Census for Monterey County in 1860, and found her. Jacinta was 22 years old, living with her husband Pedro Gonzales, and their two children (Jose, 4 years, and Manuela, 2 years). Pedro was a "laborer," and he is reported as being from New Mexico. Although no one in the family is identified as "Ind" (Indian), that's not surprising. Jacinta may have been attempting to pass as Mexican, given the dangers inherent in being Indian at that time. Her knowledge of Carmel Indian songs later in life testifies to the Indian identity that the Census does not reveal.

In 1879, Jacinta, already identified as "an old Indian woman," would save Robert Louis Stevenson's life as he lay ill in Monterey.

But this page of the census also held a special surprise for me: #30 on that census page is a 12 year old Indian boy named "Victor Asedo."

If you remember, Victor is the son of Maria Estéfana Real, my ancestor whose father Fructuoso was granted the land at El Potrero after secularization. I knew from another Harrington field note that Victor had grown up to be a cook in the household of a man named Snively; but I didn't know what had happened to him between early childhood on El Potrero, and that later employment. Now, I have a glimpse (I'm sure this is the same Victor, since his age matches up exactly with Estéfana's son Victor, born in 1848).

Victor is identified as a servant in the household of Edwin Clay, a carpenter from Virginia with a wife and four young children (the wife and children are all listed as born in California; I suspect this was an Indian or Indian/mestizo spouse). Sometime between 1853 and 1860, his mother and grandmother lost the land at El Potrero, and the family was broken up. Evidently, Victor became self-supporting at least by age 12, and probably never lived with his blood family members again.

This is one of the heart-breaking characteristics about post-secularization. Mission Indians had scrabbled together a semblance of a community and reinvented culture during Missionization; it involved great and frequent loss due to deaths from childbirth, disease, poor nutrition, poor housing, overwork, and tremendous emotional depression. But even that hard-scrabble community and family system was torn apart yet again when the missions closed. In a way, Victor and his mother and grandmother (and any other family members they took in at El Potrero) had a brief reprieve on their rancho that other Carmel Indians did not; but that reprieve evidently didn't last long.

In the same census, Maria Estéfana Real is living in a large household which includes Ventura Cantua and several Cantua children; curiously enough, Ventura was Estefana's brother-in-law (married, at one time, to her sister Teodosia Real).

Where was Teodosia at that time? I have no idea - yet (she was around - Isabel's notes tell a horrifying story about an act of violence perpetuated by Teodosia against Ventura, and Teodosia's own agonizing last days). With so many extra children and young adults living together, did Victor somehow lose his place in the family? were there too many mouths to feed? did he consider himself lucky to be a servant in the relatively smaller household of Edwin Clay, probably earning, at most, room and board? Was it a step up from his family situation, although it meant going it alone?

Just being alive at this time was a major victory for any California Indian. As the census reveals to me just how broken and scattered my family was becoming, it also serves to remind me that my ancestors were still fighting to survive, that life was still precious, despite the grief and pain involved. Just down the street from Estéfana and her relatives, I see the Cruz Miranda family, a group of colonized Indians from Mexico. Perhaps they had come up looking for work, or were fleeing the post-revolution upheaval in Mexico.

Cruz's son, Tranquilino, listed as a 14 year old boy, would grow up to marry an Esselen woman. In 1871 at the age of 22, Tranquilino and Severiana Ramirez, age 18, a “Carmelo” woman, an Esselen Indian from the local area, were married at San Carlos (Carmel Mission). Her parents had been residents of the Mission; born in 1836, her mother Sacramento was of the generation immediately post-secularization. Severiana was, in fact, the only one, of her mother’s twenty children (all born during the final two decades of the Mission era) to survive, but was marked by disfigurement of her hands – only three fingers on each – a mutation most likely due to the chronic syphilis that plagued California Indians, leftover “legacy” from soldiers which decimated Indian women’s fertility.

Six years after that marriage, Severiana and Tranquilino’s son Tomás Santos was born in Monterey. Like his father, Tomás married a Carmel woman, Sacramento Cantua. Their son, Thomas Anthony Miranda, my grandfather, married a Chumash woman from Mission Santa Barbara, Marquesa Robles. And there you have it: their son, Alfred Edward Miranda, is my father.

Given the miracles of our existance, I wonder at my own impatience with my small troubles.

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