While helping my mom sort through old photographs, cards and letters, one folded sheet sailed out of the pile and onto the floor. As I was about to pick it up and toss it into the discard pile, my mom insisted on taking a look. What we discovered was a glimpse into my dad’s past, a past seldom discussed, but often speculated when speaking about our dad. Gone more than a dozen years, for a few moments he was alive and so many mysteries solved.
The paper was a brief history of the Landeros family written in 1999. The author is unknown, but must have come from somewhere within my dad’s large family given to him before he died. The paper began by mentioning the Mexican war with France how my great-great grandfather was part of a contingency of soldiers sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to defend their majesties Maximilliano and Carlotta.
Benito Juarez was a threat to the Mexican empire with his liberal ideas and Napoleon, the uncle of Carlotta wanted this rebellion squelched. Juarez’s liberal ideas were not tolerated by the current rulers. In the Battle of Puebla on the 5th of May 1862, my great-great grandfather fought on the “wrong side.”
When the soldiers were defeated, many went into hiding deciding to remain in Mexico and await the reestablishment of the Mexican Republic. My great-great grandfather moved to the Jalisco and amassed quite a gold fortune on a ranch called “El Planeque” where my great grandfather Atilano was born, with blonde hair and blue eyes. My great grandfather was married three times, but only had one son, Esteban my grandfather who was described as fair with green eyes.
My abulelita, Estaban’s wife lived a long life to the age of 96. I remember her as a tiny lady, very religious. She was about five feet tall that wore the traditional black clothing of widows of that era. She was a kind lady, but at the time we didn’t speak Spanish so we never asked questions or learned of our heritage. The paper stated that at the moment of her passing she announced she saw a door of light, sombreros, doves, light and was gone.
I believe the most surprising information on the letter was the amount of children my dad had during his life. My dad had a total of 14 children, nine in our family and five with the first wife. We knew that our dad had two children, a son and a daughter. We do not know the name of his first wife or their history. The remaining three children will remain a mystery as we are not close to my dad’s family.
What an exciting find, to know our family was part of history, even if we were on the wrong side of Mexico’s battle for freedom from the French. The mystery of our family origin remains a mystery as we could be French, Flemish or Dutch; because our great-great grandfather was a nameless soldier whose son’s name created the genealogy. What I learned may seem so little to many people, but my dad came from a generation where not much was spoken about the past. When our dad passed away, we knew our connection with his family ended too. What a surprise to find such an invaluable piece of paper t I almost tossed away.