Tag Archives: Toribio Ortega

El Rondin – An Important Account by Esteban Lujan

29 Jan


The campaigns of Coronel Toribio Ortega and Jose de la Cruz Sanchez. 

During the revolution of 1912 from February 1st to the 14th.         

When my mother passed away what I wanted most from her estate was a little book that my Grandfather Esteban Lujan wrote.  At that point no one knew its title, much less its theme.  When I finally got my hands on it, the first thing I did was to look up the meaning of its title: El Rondin.

El Rondin:  The rounds made by a Corporal visiting the Sentinels on the walls.

Published in Cuchillo Parado, Chihuahua Mexico, on November 30, 1912, the thirty-one page booklet covers activities of Pancho Villa’s future General, Toribio Ortega, and the confrontation between his native Cuchillo Parado and Coyame.  Cuchillo Parado and Coyame are on opposite sides of the Rio Conchos which joins the Rio Grande about twenty five miles to the north.  Grandpa’s little book is full of minute details and names of participants from both Coyame and Cuchillo.  He knew them all well, and no one escapes his blatant assessments. Comments on Ortega’s gullibility, as well as his bravery, abound.

I was preparing the above when the realization hit me that El Rondin will be one hundred years old in February.  I sent an e-mail to Armando Ortega, grand-nephew of General Ortega.  I asked him if he would please write a short comment on El Rondin for my Blog. (Armando published it in his PRENSA LIBRE newspaper in Ojinaga.)  His reply included this interesting observation:  Since El Rondin was published in February of 1912, it could well be the first book about the Mexican Revolution!

El Rondin is a charming as well as an historical treasure.  I’m told that its cover may be squirrel skin (it looks like plastic).  Grandpa wrote it on an old typewriter that is still in the family.  It sold in El Polvo (Redford), Texas, and across the border in Ojinaga for 50 cents!

My biggest dilemma to this day is where I want this significant treasure to end up.


My Cousin – Gilbert ‘Magu’ Lujan

3 Aug

GILBERT ‘MAGU’ LUJAN – October 16, 1940 – July 24, 2011

Gilbert ‘Magu’ Lujan was one of the seventeen grandchildren of Esteban Lujan.  His father Alberto was a godson of General Toribio Ortega and Fermina Juarez (See Blogs “Fermina Juarez: Viuda de Toribio Ortega” and  “General Toribio Ortega”).  Gilbert, who was very interested in our Indigenous Roots and our extended La Junta Tribe, celebrated the day that I was able to document our Apache great-great-great- grandfather (see Blogs “My Apache” and “Digging Up The Roots”).

Because I married young, and my Tio Alberto married older, Magu and his brother Richie were contemporaries of my own boys.  Richie and my son David sang in a “garage band” such as sprung up all over L.A. around the time of La Bamba and Richie Valens.

This “carucha” upon which ‘Magu’ applied his art, was Gilbert’s interpretation of the family vehicle during his youth   Gilbert envisioned the world through the eyes of a “Chicano”.

My oldest son, Ruben and his friend, Philip Russo (see Blog “Chico Cano – Did He or Did He Not”), were into restoring 1949 Chevy coupes upholstered in Tuck-and-Roll leather from Tijuana, Mex.  Gilbert never got into either one of them.  But… he did tell me repeatedly that it was then that his vision of  “Caruchas“, as related to the Chicano experience, took root.

In the years that followed Gilbert moved to Fresno, joined the Air Force, and was mostly living outside of L.A. County.  By the time he returned he had already been involved with the Cesar Chavez Movement.

Gilbert later banded together with a group of Chicano Artists that creatively dubbed themselves “The Royal Chicano Air Force”, an “artistic flank” of La Raza that could “fly without wings” .  Comically, the FBI and the CIA investigated the RCAF as “subversive”.

When the members of the self-proclaimed Royal Chicano Air Force were interviewed by the federal agencies, they confessed to having a squadron of adobe airplanes, but “they were having a very hard time getting them off the ground”. Of course, the artists laughed their asses off, over this insane scenario.  Their next mental creation was “The Royal Chicano Submarine”.  They (fictitiously) built a prototype that broke all subsurface records……”It never came up”.

By then Gilbert was more deeply involved in his art and had developed his signature approach.  However, we were to have many a heated argument about what I considered his promotion of negative aspects of our marginal existence.  His views were labeled by some as radical.  Gilbert never thought of himself as an extremist. He once asked,  “How does wanting parity make me a radical?”

On August 29, 1970, Gilbert and Richie stopped by my house.  They were on their way to a peaceful protest against the “disproportionate number of Chicanos being killed in Vietnam.”  They were back within a few hours–ashen faced and shaken by what had turned into a frightening scene.  We did not yet know that LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar had been killed by a police deputy who fired a tear gas projectile into a crowded bar where Salazar was sipping on a cold beer.

The incident only served to solidify Magu’s passionate, verbal pursuit of social justice.  Later, despite having achieved world-wide fame, he never wavered from his initial path. Gentle and soft-spoken, Magu would turn livid when speaking in defense of “La Raza” — then do a turnabout to speak lovingly of our indigenous roots and our “costumbres”.  He remained the same unassuming “Vato” to the end.  I recall teasing him about his signature Khaki pants—I think he continued to wear them until they became hard to find.

As of now, much is being written about Magu’s contribution to the art world.  But for me, his greatest legacy is having enabled “Raza” to shed the negative cloak that enveloped us for too long.  Gilbert had attained national social influence.

La Familia: left-to right standing, Ronnie (brother), Phillip (brother)

Pictured above: Gilbert Lujan, Elisa Lujan Perez, Sergio Hernandez at Magulandia

Pictured above: Gilbert Lujan, Rick Salazar, Sergio Hernandez

Viva Gilberto Magu Lujan!.   Que Descanse en Paz!

Prima Elisa

Razing Our Past

14 Jun

One of my greatest sorrows is witnessing how historically significant structures in Mexico are blatantly destroyed.  I long ago visited an old church, “Nuestro Padre Jesus”, in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico.  Its entranced graced with charming original aged doors. Inside there were equally old worn benches.  Then, much to my sorrow, the next time I was there all of the old charm was gone!  In their place were insignificant new doors and trivial pine benches!  Gone is the history and charm of yesteryear.

An even greater destruction has taken place at the “Hacienda Tabalaopa”,  located further south.  That is where I found my earliest Lujan ancestor – circa 1759!  And, I discovered my La Junta pioneer, Great-Great-Great Grandfather had married in 1785!

When I first uncovered these documents I inquired as to where Tabalaopa was.  No one seemed to know.  Finally, I found a short reference in Peter Gebhart’s “La Nueva Vizcaya”.  The Hacienda Tabalaopa became a titled Hacienda at the end of the 1700s.  It was then occupied by Jesuit Priests.  In 1761 it was sold to Don Bernardo Revilla, in accordance with the nationalization of clerical properties.  I don’t know who occupies it today.

One of my greatest joys is having had the opportunity of seeing Tabalaopa, even if only from outside its locked gates.  However, I did get to wander among old adobes that once housed the Hacienda’s Labor force.  Ever the “incurable romantic”, I wandered about, trying to conjure pictures of what was going on there over three hundred years ago.  I heard the chatter of women, the laughter of children at play, and I could fairly smell smoke and the scent of tortillas cooking! Then, to my amusement,

I spotted evidence of modernity in an electricity Meter that had been installed onto an old adobe.

I learned from General Toribio Ortega’s son that the area had been inhabited as late as 1915.  He told of having stopped by there when his mother went to say goodbye to Pancho Villa and his wife before leaving for the United States. According to Don Galacion, his mother knew everyone at Tabalaopa.  Later, I discovered that this applied to my own grandparents as well

To my sorrow I have since received a phone call:  “The entire site has been razed in the interest of Progress!”

Prima Elisa

General Toribio Ortega

30 Mar

For reasons that only he knew, my grandfather never spoke about his activities during the Mexican Revolution,  nor did he speak about his close association with Pancho Villa. He also never spoke about his “compadre”, General Toribio Ortega.

When I inherited some of my grandfather’s papers I found a little book he wrote, “El Rondin”, in which he gives a detailed account of General Ortega’s activities during October and November of 1912.

I later gave permission for El Rondin to be published in an Ojinaga newspaper. The newspaper editor, Armando Mata, suggested that I look up the General’s son, Galacion Ortega, who lived in East Los Angeles.

After returning to Los Angeles, I introduced myself to a very surprised “Galacion”.  At the mention of my grandfather, Esteban Lujan, his face lit up.  His first anecdote was that his mother often told him that: “Don Esteban Lujan le enseno al General a leer y escribir.” translation:  Don Esteban Lujan taught General Ortega to read and write.”  That puzzled me because I have a book in which it is stated that an ancient man in Cuchillo Parado schooled the General.

When I met Galacion, he suggested I get La Brigada. A nephew of Toribio’s wife found it in the rare-books section in Austin Texas. He put out copies in Spanish and English.  In the book it was noted that anti re-election clubs opposing the re-election of 35- year Dictator Porfirio Diaz were springing up all over Mexico.  In Chihuahua, Toribio Ortega established the Cuchillo branch and was installed president. Esteban Lujan was installed secretary. Other members were: Jose Lucero, Fabian Rico, Marcelino Juarez, and Fulgencio Olivas.

It was a pleasure to have known Don Galacion.  He conveyed a lot of his father’s “old world” mannerisms; it was almost like conversing with the General himself.

Prima Elisa

My first visit to Cuchillo

3 Mar

At the beginning of my genealogy research the possibility of visiting Cuchillo Parado ( the birthplace of my maternal grandmother) seemed very unlikely.  Yet, during my third trip to Ojinaga, Prima Julia (a retired school teacher) and her husband drove me there.    The unpaved road  seemed endless as we traveled east toward Cuchillo Parado and the Conchos River.

As we rode along,  my prima told of the many times that flooding had destroyed the bridges spanning the Conchos.  This time we would be crossing over a solid brand-new structure. From the bridge I soon saw Cuchillo peeking out from among the trees.  The sight was so breathtaking that I asked my prima’s husband to stop so I could take a picture.  The resultant photograph is my favorite of all the pictures ever taken during my many trips to La Junta.  But a more dramatic sight awaited me.

The Cuchillo of old was still there!  Adobe buildings, the church, and jail were still standing!  The gate, through which General Toribio Ortega barred the entry of the men of Coyame, was still there!  Days before the set date for the Mexican Revolution to begin, Coyame (acting  on the side of the status-quo) tried to put down Ortega and his anti-re-elecionistas.  The incident  gave rise to the first revolutionary uprising of Chihuahua, and all of Mexico (a largely unknown fact).  Thanks to Frederick Katz’s  The Life and Times of Pancho Villa this incident is now in print.  Today Cuchillo inhabitants proudly proclaim Cuchillo as “ La Cuna de La Revolucion” [The Cradle of The Revolution].

Prima Elisa

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