In 1989 I made my first trip to Redford, Texas, and across the Rio Grande to Ojinaga, Mexico. Within five years, what began as family research resulted in a database containing over twenty-thousand names! Twelve trips later I’d had contact with the descendants of all but three of my grandpa’s siblings, and made countless new friends. However, none of this would have taken place without the help and support of primo, Frank Nieto Lujan.
Still vigorous and sharp at age 75, he drove my daughter Monie, prima Dolly Lujan Salazar, and me to Redford, Texas, and across the Rio Grande to Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico! Ever a brilliant conversationalist, the poetically inclined Frank regaled us with tales of woe and the struggle for survival in southwest, Texas.
The first leg of our trip, from Las Cruses New Mexico to Marfa, Texas, flew by rapidly because Frank had an interesting tale to go with every landmark we passed. By the time we were approaching the Rio Grande, our heads were swimming with endless tales of Indian sequestrations, hair-raising narrow escapes, and the endless struggle for survival along the border.
In the border town of Presidio, Texas (directly across from Ojinaga, Mexico) the homestead home of Lucy Rede Franco served as our “headquarters”. It is there that we first heard of the diary that Frank kept during the days preceding and following “D-Day” of WWII. Frank recited his heart-wrenching Ode to his Patron Saint, “La Virgin de Guadalupe”, and promised to read from the diary when we returned to his home in Las Cruses, New Mexico.
Soon after Frank’s passing, I was a guest of his daughter Linda when she presented me with a copy of her extraction of the Dairy. I read far into the night. What most amazed me were the numerous implorations to God and La Virgin de Guadalupe following each entry. Even during the most precarious moments, Frank had taken the time to jot them down!
When I returned to California, all I could think about was that over fifty of Frank’s grandchildren, and his numerous great-grandchildren would never benefit from Grandpa’s Diary because they don’t read Spanish!
I don’t know how I did it, (my Spanish is not perfect), but within two weeks I had translated the diary, and the Ode to his “ Virgin Morena”. The day that I presented the translation: “A Testimony of Faith” to Frank’s widow and children, remains as one of the most gratifying moments of my life.
Frank Lujan is indisputably the most unforgettable man that I will ever know. His remarkable persona radiated love and concern for all. Never, never did I hear him speak ill of anyone. A true hero to his seven children and his many grandchildren, he lived his final years as a Deacon, and went to Heaven as his adoring family sang his favorite hymns.