Thursday, April 15, 2021

As the Story Goes: Mexico's Children



Nicolas Gonzalez, kidnapper or pawn in his father's game

     When Eusevia Villalovos was fifteen years old, she and her sisters were washing clothes in the river near their home, a poor, tired rancho, Las Palmas, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Her boyfriend sat on a tree overhead watching. In 1909 having a boyfriend or girlfriend probably meant nothing more than an attraction towards one another. Parents and the Church held a tight rein on children, especially girls.

     In his novel, Al Filo del Agua, Agustin Yanez paints a portrait of rural Jalisco as dark, bleak, and barren, trapped in the Gothic past. “Village of Black-Robed Women…old women, matrons, maidens in the bloom of youth, young girls; they may be seen on church steps, in the deserted streets…glimpsed through very few, furtively open doors” (Yanez, 1955), echoes of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1930s dark classic Bodas de Sangre, depicting sexual repression and violence in rural Spain.

     Bursting through the bushes from the opposite bank, 25 year-old Nicolas Gonzalez, a rich kid, a rancher's son, along with his friends, emerged on horseback, and in one fell swoop, lifted Eusevia from the water and onto his horse. She screamed, struck out, and tried to resist him, but he was too strong. From the tree, her boyfriend, helpless, could only watch. 


Eusevia Villalovos Gonzalez, 1950, victim, martyr, or woman warrior

     Nicolas carried Eusevia to his family ranch, Mitic, and deposited her with his mother, Micaela de los Santos Gonzalez. There, Eusevia remained, eventually submitting, marrying Nicolas, and by 1918 bearing seven children, one, the baby, Juanito, drowning in a Riverside canal, on the family's trek north.

     This is the meager story my family passed down through the years regarding the union of my grandparents, factual, no analysis, and no discussion,. I may have been the first to question the circumstances. My aunts and uncles told me “that’s the way it was back then,” "Mama never talked about it," and, “it was a different time,” but was it, really? 

     In Mexico, many young couples married back then in the traditional way, the boy respectfully asking his father to talk to the girl’s father and propose marriage. Kidnapping, brutal, violent, and destructive, was rare.

     When I told a friend the story, she answered, “Your grandfather kidnapped your grandmother, raped her, and forced her bear his children.” What went though my mind was, "Therefore, your mother and her siblings are all illegitimate, born of rape."

     I argued it wasn’t rape, not really. They were married, legally. My friend answered, “It doesn't matter. Your grandmother had no choice. She was forced to marry him. So, if she bore his children and didn’t want to be with him, that is rape, even if they were legally married.” 

     On my grandparents’ marriage certificate, after my grandmother’s name the words appear, “Vecina accidental de este lugar,” translation, “Accidental female neighbor of this location.” What could that mean? It's a phrase I've never seen on a certificate. I don’t know the legal designation, but it sounds like my grandmother married against her will. (Maybe a Bloga reader knows what this means.)   

     The young couple, along with their children, fled Mexico during the last of the revolution and settled in Santa Monica, California, where Nicolas found a job in the brickyard and Eusebia, a stern disciplinarian, raised the children. By 1940, the couple had a total of eight children, two born in Santa Monica. 

     According to most people, and his children, Nicolas was a loving father, a hard worker who rarely drank, was committed to his family, and had strong values he passed down to his children. He died in 1940, in his early 50s, from emphysema, a slow, painful death, too many years breathing brick dust. I never met him but feel like I had. 

     When I was a child, each month, my aunt would take me to visit his grave in Santa Monica's Wood Lawn Cemetery. No one else in the family is buried there, not even my grandmother, only him, solitary, a few feet from a tall palm tree near the corner of 17th Street and Pico boulevard, but surrounded by his Santa Monica neighbors, many from the same region in Mexico as he. 

     Now, I'm the only one in the family who still visits. Most of his descendants hardly know he existed. I took my grandson, Nicolas, to visit one time and told him about his great-great grandfather. His name is but a coincidence.

     When I first heard the story of my grandparents, I asked, without much thought, “How could my grandfather just steal my grandmother without her father and brothers saving her, bringing her home? Why would Juan Gonzalez, Nicolas' father, considered wealthy, allow his son to marry a girl from a poor family, no dowry, and nothing to contribute to the family?”


Esther Gonzalez Cano, the youngest, changing bloodlines

     One aunt said my grandmother Eusevia’s family was so poor, the father could barely feed them, so Pablo Villalovos figured she’d be better off with the Gonzalez family, and he didn’t complain or go to the authorities. An uncle offered another explanation. Eusebia’s family had very light skin and Nicolas’ family dark skin, Indians. Juan Gonzalez figured Eusebia's light skin would lighten the bloodline, maybe for generations. I heard the two fathers, Juan and Pablo, became good friends over the years, visiting each other regularly.

     Of course, everything I learned I was told by relatives who had to jog their memories to remember, like my aunt who told me, “I don’t think my mother ever loved my father, and she made him pay for what he did.” My mother told me, “She never forgave him and we could tell.” Another aunt said, “In the Santa Monica, Mama (that's what everyone called her) was the boss and my daddy went to work every day, came home, and gave her the money.” My grandfather, when he had earned enough money, wanted to take the family and return to Mexico, to Mitic, the family ranch, where he was still Juan Gonzalez's son. My grandmother would never return to live, and only once to visit.

     I ask myself how much of this history is true, how much is calculated, and how much is imagined? When I think of everything I was told, and everything I learned and studied about Mexico, I wonder if my grandfather really did kidnap my grandmother.

     I recall talking to a family friend, Bart Carrillo, a WWII vet, who owned a number of restaurants on L.A.'s Westside during his lifetime. Bart told me when he was ready to marry his girlfriend, he asked his father, born in Mexico, how he should go about it. Bart wanted to ask his girlfriend's father directly, out of respect. Bart’s father said it had to be decided by the parents. He would ask the girl’s father, an intermediary, for his son. Father to father. It turned out the two men were good friends.

     When days passed, and his father didn’t come back with an answer, Bart, embarrassed, had to ask his dad if he had talked to his girlfriend's father and what had happened? His father said, "Oh, that. Yes, everything is taken care of. He gave his permission." 

     Bart was peeved. Why did they make him wait so long for an answer? His father laughed and told Bart the fathers had agreed the first day they talked, but they decided to play a small joke on the couple and let them sweat it out a few days. The two men had a good laugh over that, which got me to thinking. Could Juan Gonzalez and Pablo Villalovos have planned the kidnapping and marriage? 

     Pablo Villalobos knew his daughter, Eusevia, would not agree to marry Nicolas since she had a boyfriend and didn’t even like Nicolas. Juan Gonzalez didn’t want to see his son rejected by any girl, let alone one from a poor rancho, so, it makes sense the two men might encourage Nicolas to take matters into his own hand and simply take the girl, with impunity. No one would object, not the parents, and not the authorities. The fathers may have thought she’d get over it after a few days.


The great-great-great grandchildren

     In the end, the two men, the elders, responsible for their families, may have concluded, the families were more important than the two children. With Eusevia married to Nicolas, it would lessen his own burden on having to provide for his large family. Eusebia would be taken care of, and her own children would be the grandchildren of wealthy rancher. On the other hand, Juan’s offspring would have light skin and, perhaps, change the family bloodline forever, giving his descendants a easier path into the upper echelons of Mexican society, where color mattered.

    I mean, it makes sense and is logical, as the story goes.


ndeneco said...

Poignant story, like water for chocolate. Where the bandido scoops up Gertrudis. The truth is much more interesting generations later, perhaps.

SDmamaof2 said...

This also happened to my grandmother but in torreon, coahuila...My grandfather stole her, he was also an dark mexican and my grandmother was light skinned, beautiful. Very Similar story but its true, thats just how it was back then, and my grandmother really never talked about it.

jmu said...

(My response to your query turned out to be too long. This is Part 1):

En esos tiempos, se robaban las muchachas.

And it wasn't that far back as the practice was alive and well at least into the 40s in the South of Sinaloa. I know because it was a "family secret" I ended up discovering when I managed to locate the "partidas de bautismo" of most of my ancestors who were all from the town of El Verde. It took a while because most of them were hijos/as "naturales" and many of these partidas did not include the father because for a time the church refused to identify the father for not being married (or maybe the rat bastard did not want to claim the child). Consequently, it took a lot of reading to find the family threads.

Unbelievably, that practice actually a matter of record in the life of a well-known músico sinaloense, Germán Lizárraga. He was born in 1938 and 11 years later (1949!) his father, Cruz Lizárraga (yep, that very same guy) decidió robarse a la reina del carnaval de Siqueros (a nearby pueblo) and left his wife, children and everything. So, yeah, se robaban las muchachas. (Check el chisme at and There used to be a video of Germán where he actually says that his own mother fué robada por su padre but I could not find it).

Now for ticking off the other themes: "Al Filo del Agua" takes place in those Jalisco towns that are described in "Las Tierras Flacas." And, yes, it resembles those areas of Spain the ancestors of those men escaped to join the expeditions to the "New" World. Those old soldados rasos kept the same customs and refused to give them up. It is likely that the ancestors of Nicolás González had some indio que se hizo rico and that's why they had a higher economic position than the ancestors of Eusevia Villalobos. There are all sorts of issues here: a 25-y-o that is un hombre de a caballo is used to hacer lo que le cuadre. And if there was trouble, that's why he was accompanied by his friends, to help him carry out his deed. The fact that he deposited Eusebia with his mother and did not just take her to el monte, raped her and left her there tells us that he was going to be un hombre and do what's right: se iva a comer esa tuna aunque le espine la mano. He married her and stood by her and his family and brought them all the way to Santa Monica. He was un hombre de honor, pues, notwithstanding how he got his tuna.

Of course your grandmother was not about to talk about it porque no se habla de eso. There is a certain amount of shame even though he "did the right thing."

As for "vecina accidental de este lugar," the church kept track of all marriages to avoid consanguinity, at least on paper. Therefore, the church kept records of who lived in the parroquia. In the case of your grandma, she became a resident "accidentally" not because she grew up there. As for the "vecina" title, a "vecino/a" was the classification given at birth to a child who was not an indio nor a negro. In other words, to a white child. That classification was supposed to last for life but that was not the case if the parents of the child were of higher economic position. The technicality on the title of "vecinos" is given in this Wikipedia page which tells you is based on a royal decree:

jmu said...

(And this is part II)

I did hit the motherlode in terms of consanguinidad. First a link from los mormones:,_M%C3%A9xico

next a very informative article on canonical law regarding marriage:

and finally, a link to a very interesting article on Encarnación de Díaz, the municipio just north of San Juán de los Lagos:

Another factoid: the Sistema de Castas used by the Corona dictated that the descendants of a man or a woman who married an india/o could, after sufficient blanqueado with español, go back to being designated español:

1) español e india --> mestizo
2) español y mestiza --> castizo
3) español y castiza --> español.

So, yes, there was a "mejorar la sangre" idea behind all this. However, if there was any mixing with black, there was no turning back. Read all about it here:

And, finally, there's a dicho that I never heard in Sinaloa but I first heard it from a Mexican diplomat/author who gave a series of lectures at UCLA. But he first expressed his opinion that "México es un país racista." I was speechless because I had never heard a white Mexican say that. He followed that by telling us the dicho: "no tiene la culpa el indio sino el que lo hace compadre." There is a lot to unpack on that sentence. The lectures, BTW, were on the Cristero conflict.

Lucky for me, there were not that many indios in the South of Sinaloa by the time I was born so I never heard that dicho. The indios I recall I would see were mostly coras or huicholes who begged in the streets. Surely there were others but I never noticed them because they did not wear typical clothes as the beggars did. Sigh, I was so ignorant then. Then again, a child is, by definition, ignorant.

OK, enough trivia that is not really trivia for us who are trying to figure out who exactly are we. :-)