The Ramirez family arose in the small town of Parras de La Fuente, in the landlocked Northern Mexican border state of Coahuila de Zaragoza.
Juan Ysidro Ramirez married a woman who’s name is lost to us, only a fragment of her name, “Razo,” survives.
Juan Ysidro and his wife had a son on May 13, 1796 named Jose
Asumpcion Ramirez born in Parras de la Fuente.
On September 8, 1829 Jose Asumpsion Ramirez married Maria Noverta Velis at the beautiful Santa Maria Church in Parras de la Fuente. The wedding party probably feasted on carne asada, the most popular dish in the small town, with a glass of local wine, remarkably tiny Parras is the site of the oldest vineyard in the Americas.
On August 18, 1830 Jose Asumpsion Ramirez and Maria Norverta Velis had a son named Jose Maria de la Asumpcion Ramirez Velis in Parras.
Jose Maria de la Asumpcion Ramirez Velis married Maria Guadalupe Morales Ylaria who was born on December 15 1836 in the state capital of Saltillo, Coahuila. She was probably named for the Virgin of Guadalupe because she was born near her feast day.
Parras was founded by an expedition of Spaniards and their closest allies, the Tlaxcalan Indians, that set out from Saltillo. It is quite possible that we have Tlaxcalan and Spanish blood. Perhaps the Ramirez Family arrived in the area as part of the initial post conquest colonization.
Two major Mexican presidents hail from this area. Francisco Madero was born in Parras de la Fuente, Venustiano Carranza hails from nearby Cuatrociengas.
Maria Guadalupe Morales Ylaria’s parents were Tomas Morales and Maria Paula Sebastiana Ylaria, both also born in Saltillo.
Jose Maria de la Asumpcion and Maria Guadalupe Morales Ylaria had a son, Mateo Ramirez Morales born in 1852, before they were married. They later married and had other children in wedlock, but jumped the gun with Mateo.
On the 24th of August of 1875, 23 year-old Mateo Ramirez married 18 year-old Maria Silvestra Romo. According to the handwritten marriage certificate (attached), Mateo was a laborer, and his mother was already dead by the time of his marriage. The certificate also states that Silvestra’s father was Miguel Romo, and that her mother was the late Maria Juana Ybarra.
My late father told me that Silvestra told him we are descended from Emperor Moctezuma. This was one of his firmest beliefs, that the Romos are descended from the imperial Aztec family.
Mateo died in 1930 in Guadalupe County, Texas.
Silvestra died in an auto accident in 1935 in Los Angeles while on her way to church. Supposedly the driver did not see her and hit her, dragging her body under his car, thoroughly crushing her chest, according to her death certificate. The certificate confirms that she was born in Rio Nuevo (now La Madrid), Coahuila, and that her father was Miguel Romo.
I looked for Silvestra’s grave, and I was surprised to find out she was buried as a pauper. No one would pay for her burial, so the cemetery buried her for free. She never had a headstone, and much later, in the 1960s her plot was sold to a paying customer who was buried on top of her. His headstone is the only that shows where they are both buried.
Silvestra was the middle born of three sisters. Maria del Carmen Romo was born about two years before Silvestra, and Maria Francisca Romo was born seven years after her.
It was older sister Maria del Carmen, or Maria del Carmel, who adopted a six year-old abandoned by the Indians. She named this girl Juanita. Juanita eventually married the half brother of Carmen and Silvestra, making Juanita a Romo by adoption as well as marriage, if not blood.
This is a story told to me in parts by my father, as well as my great grand mother, Antonia Gonzales Ramirez. Although it happened well before their times, and in distant Coahuila. This story was confirmed in large part by a Romo relative who lives in south Texas who contacted me by email.
Silvestra most likely told them the story. Silvestra must have been a good storyteller, because my dad and great grand ma also told me Silvestra could divine water with a forked branch, and gathered natural cures from the countryside. Tonya gathered plants, and leaves as natural curatives herself, and knew a few words in an Indian language that she may have picked up from her mother-in-law Silvestra.
Silvestra’s son, Victoriano Ramirez Romo, is also buried at Calvary, a short distance from Silvestra. He has a proper headstone.
Supposedly, Victoriano Ramirez was born on September 8, 1876 in Brownsville, Texas. But there is no birth record. Texas did not begin systematic record keeping until around 1903.
But there is a record of Victoriano Ramirez being baptized on November 13, 1877 in San Buenaventura, Coahuila. A small town very near Parras de la Fuente, and Rio Nuevo. His parents may have taken him home to Mexico for his christening.
I have not found a marriage certificate for Grandma Tonya and Victoriano Ramirez.
However, I did find marriage certificates (attached) for both Grandma Tonya and her older sister Catarina, both from 1895, in their hometown of Brackettville, Texas. 16 year-old Tonya married Cleofas Figueroa.
So the first two known children Tonya had were actually Figueoas:
First born Gregoria or “Goya,” and Esther.
Mike, David and Lupe were her children with Victoriano Ramirez.
I had always heard that there were two fathers involved. And I remember asking Aunt Esther directly who her father was. She told me she had no idea. Apparently, Tonya and Cleofas split while their two daughters were quite young.
So both Tonya and Victoriano had children together, and with other partners.
No couple could be more disimilar. Victoriano was fluent in seven languages, and Tonya was illiterate. I remember coming home from elementary school around 1960, and asking her to help me with my homework. She tried to convince me to ask my maternal grandmother instead, but I loved Tonya will all my heart and soul, and insisted she help me. At that she burst into tears and told me the truth, she could not read nor write.
She did learn to sign her name. And she was very proud of that. I remember watching her sign her monthly social security check. I also remember her walking about a mile every Tuesday to get her hair done.
We drank a cup of coffee together every morning. She called it “azul marino.” Black coffee, no milk. I’ve never drunk another cup of coffee since her death.
I remember she smoked cigarettes. She rolled her own with Bull Durham rolling papers. But the day the surgeon general declared smoking was harmful to your health, she quit cold turkey. To my knowledge she never smoked again. But, of course it was too late to undue the damage to her lungs by then.