A Legacy of Service

A family of Mexican-American defenders of California

By Jennifer Vo and John P. Schmal
Published on LatinoLA: September 29, 2003

A Legacy of Service

The state of California is a very special place for many people. Millions have come here from other parts of the United States and from around the world to live, work, and prosper. And many of these people embrace their new lives in this western state. As the world's fifth largest economy, California has a great deal to offer the many people who make their way to the Golden State in search of a better life.

My name is Jennifer Vo and to me and my family, California is a very special place. This may be due to the fact that - I am an eleventh-generation Californian of Mexican descent. In 1781 - when an expedition was organized to bring a small group of civilian settlers from Sonora, Mexico to take part in the founding of El Pueblo de Nuestra la Reina de Los Angeles del Rio Porcioncula - an escort of several dozen Mexican soldiers serving under the flag of Spain were recruited. One of those soldier recruits who took part in this important expedition was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Juan Matias Olivas, an Indian from Rosario, Sinaloa.

From my earliest memories, my family has always expressed its pride in its California roots. When my mother, Sarah Melendez Basulto Evans, was just a teenager, she went to her grandfather's funeral in Oxnard, California. After the church service, the family drove to the Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard for the burial service.

Recounting that day thirty-nine years ago, Mom told me, "Once the graveside service had ended, my Uncle Simon [Melendez] took me for a long walk, pointing out the various tombstones for many of our ancestors. I was amazed that he could recount so many stories and names from our family history. As we walked along, Uncle Simon explained to me that our family had been in California for a very, very long time. For him, this was a great source of pride. I remember his words very clearly when he said, 'Our family has known no home but California. This is where we belong.' From that day forward, I have always felt a great emotional attachment to California, the land of my ancestors."

Sarah also told me that Uncle Simon had explained to her that our California family has had a long and proud tradition of military service extending back to our earliest California ancestor. One generation after another had joined the military to defend the only land that we could call home. And, although Mexican Americans in California have been treated unfairly at times, our resolve to defend this state and this country has never wavered.

As I was growing up, my mother expressed these sentiments to me, and for this reason, I have always told people that I am proud to be a descendant of the California pioneers. And, over time, I have gradually learned the details about my family's military service. From the first moment Juan Matias Olivas entered California - and for the better part of nine generations - my family has played a role in the defense of California. And, in some cases, members of my family had to make the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard the security of California. Over a period of two centuries, the flags, the causes, and the surnames have changed, but my family's legacy of military service to California has endured.

First Generation:
Juan Matias Olivas was born two and a half centuries ago near Rosario in what is today known as the state of Sinaloa (in the Republic of Mexico). On May 25, 1777, Juan was married at Nuestra Se?ora del Rosario Church in Rosario to Mar?a Dorotea Espinosa. Three years later, their second child, Jos? Pablo Olivas, came into the world and was baptized in the same church.

On August 6, 1780, Juan Matias Olivas, enlisted for ten years as a soldado de cuera (leather-jacket soldier), attached to the Military District of Monterrey of northern Mexico. Interestingly, Juan Matias' discharge papers of 1798 provide us with his physical description. He was 5 feet and 2 inches in height and had black hair and black eyes. In addition, Juan Matias had olive skin and - unlike many of his fellow soldiers - was clean-shaven, an obvious manifestation of his predominant Native American ancestry.

Joining Spain's frontier army offered Juan and his family with great opportunities that were not available to Indians who lived in the Rosario area. If he had stayed in Rosario, Juan Matias Olivas would have been destined to a life as a poor and lowly Indian laborer, subject to the whims of his hacienda jefe and to a society that classified him within the lower rungs of a racist caste system.

But, as a soldier serving in the Spanish military, Juan Matias would be permitted to ride a horse, carry his own weapon, have access to skilled medical attention, and enjoy free housing. Such a profession also provided him with retirement benefits and guaranteed that his wife would receive a pension if he died while performing his duties.

At about this time, Captain Fernando Rivera was scouring the coastal cities of Sinaloa and Sonora to find and recruit 59 soldiers and 24 families of pobladores (settlers) who would make up the nucleus of an important expedition to the north. The ultimate goal of the expedition would be the founding of the Pueblo of Los Angeles and the Military Presidio of Santa Barbara. In the end, Rivera was only able to recruit twelve families, which would be accompanied by 59 soldiers on the northward journey.

Late in the winter of 1781, the expedition embarked. The soldier Juan Matias, his wife -Mar?a Dorothea Espinosa, then 23 years old - and their two young children, Mar?a Nicolasa and Jos? Pablo - took part in the 960-mile journey, arriving at the San Gabriel Mission on August 18, 1781. In the months following their arrival at the Mission, Juan Matias Olivas and his family were housed with the rest of the soldier families near the mission. Soon after, on the morning of September 4, 1781, the Pueblo of Los Angeles was founded, with forty-four settlers and several soldiers in attendance. It is likely that the services of several soldiers - including Juan Matias Olivas - were needed to help the small pueblo get started. Juan Matias, as a matter of fact, would - after his enlistment ended - make his retirement home in the small pueblo.

Early in the next year, Juan Matias Olivas and forty-one other soldiers made their way to the Santa Barbara Channel, where, on April 21, 1782, the Santa Barbara Presidio was founded. Not long after, the families followed and the rest of my ancestor's military career would be spent at the Santa Barbara Presidio.

As a Presidio soldier, Juan Matias Olivas and the other soldiers had a multitude of responsibilities: Sometimes they delivered the mail to other parts of California or escorted priests to and from their destinations. A regular escort of fifteen soldiers from Santa Barbara were posted to guard the San Buenaventura Mission. And, of course, there was always the possibility that they would be called upon to take part in an Indian campaign.

After a few years at the Presidio, Dorotea died, leaving poor Juan Matias a widower with six children, including Pablo. Not long after he was widowed, Juan Matias Olivas was tallied in the 1790 census of the Real Presidio de Santa Barbara. Listed as a 31-year-old widower, Juan Matias was classified was an Indian and a native of Rosario. Four of his six children were listed as living with Juan Matias. By now, the entire population of the Santa Barbara Presidio had reached 230 individuals, comprising 24 percent of the entire Hispanic population of Alta California.

On June 1, 1794, Juan Matias married his second wife, Juana de Dios Ontiveros, at the San Gabriel Mission. After their marriage, Matias and Juana had several children. Then, on November 23, 1798, Juan Matias Olivas, now 40 years of age, was discharged from the military after eighteen years of service. Two years later, Juan Matias Olivas and his family took up residence in the small pueblo of Los Angeles. By this time, the small pueblo had seventy families, 315 people, and consisted of thirty small adobe houses. He died a few years later.

Second Generation:
My great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Jos? Pablo Olivas, the son of Juan Matias and Dorotea, had been born in Rosario, Sinaloa, on January 25, 1780 as the legitimate son of Juan Matias Olivas and Dorothea Espinosa. But, from the age of two, Pablo grew up within the walls of the Santa Barbara Presidio. Living at close quarters with fifty other families was no easy chore, but the inhabitants of the garrison were united in their camaraderie as the families of soldiers. As a child, Jos? Pablo attended the same church services as his future wife, Mar?a Luciana Fern?ndez, the first-born child of another presidial soldier, Jos? Rosalino Fern?ndez.

Around the turn of the century, Jos? Pablo Olivas stepped into his father's footsteps and became a soldier of the presidio. In a roster of individuals dated February 17, 1804, Pablo Olivas was listed as one of the fifty-four soldiers on active duty at the Santa Barbara Presidio. Four years earlier, he had married Mar?a Luciana Fern?ndez. Between 1801 and 1812, Jos? Pablo and Mar?a Luciana would have eight children, including my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Jos? Dolores de Jesus Olivas, who was baptized on Nov. 3, 1802 at Santa Barbara, and would represent the third generation of soldiers in my family.

Mexico's struggle for independence against Spain began on the night of September 15/16, 1810 when a mild-mannered Creole priest, Father Miguel de Hidalgo y Castillo, published his famous outcry against tyranny from his parish in the village of Dolores. His impassioned speech - referred to as Grito de Hidalgo ("Cry of Hidalgo") - set into motion a process that would not end until August 24, 1821 with the signing of the Treaty of C?rdova.

From 1810 through 1821, Mexico's war of liberation interfered with the arrival of Spanish supply ships in California. Eventually, supplies dwindled to a mere trickle, making the California presidios more dependent upon the local missions for food supplies and manufactured items. By 1813, the Commandant of Santa Barbara informed the Governor that his soldiers were without shirts and had little food; in addition, the presidio soldiers received no pay for three years, and pensions were suspended. Four years later, on December 16, 1817, Jos? Pablo Olivas, the second-generation soldier died.

Third Generation:
Jos? Pablo died when his son Jos? Dolores Olivas was only fifteen years of age. It was during this period of intense upheaval that Jos? Dolores Olivas stepped into his father's shoes and served as a third-generation soldado de cuera. Jos? Dolores Olivas was actually the first of my Olivas ancestors to be born in California, and he would become the third generation of Olivas men to become a soldado de cuera at the Santa Barbara Presidio. It was his destiny to see the transition of California as it passed from the hands of the Spanish empire to the newly independent Mexican state. And he would serve as a soldier to both nations.

In 1821, Mexico had finally achieved independence from Spain, and on April 1822, the California soldiers were notified the revolt had been successful. Almost immediately, the California presidios lowered the Spanish flag and California became a province of the new nation. On April 13, 1822, Jos? Dolores Olivas and the other soldiers at the Santa Barbara Presidio took their oath of allegiance to the new government in Mexico City.

On June 14, 1829, Jos? Dolores de Jesus Olivas was married to Mar?a Gertrudis Valenzuela at Mission Santa Ynez. Dolores Olivas was listed as a single soldado de cuera and a native of the Santa Barbara. His bride, Gertrudis, was a daughter of another presidio soldier, Antonio Maria Valenzuela and his wife, Mar?a Antonia Feliz. Mar?a Gertrudis Valenzuela had been baptized sixteen years earlier on June 7, 1813 at the San Gabriel Mission. Like her husband, she was the daughter of a presidial soldier and had spent most of her early years growing up at the presidio.

As Jos? Dolores and Gertrudis prepared to start their family in 1830, they took their position as members of the growing Santa Barbara presidial community which now numbered 604. Between 1830 and 1850, Jos? Dolores and Gertrudis became the parents of twelve children. My great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mar?a Antonia Olivas, born in February 1834, was the fourth-born child of this group, although she shared that position with her twin sister.

After serving out his term of enlistment, Dolores Olivas retired from the military and became an agricultural laborer. He and his family continued to live in the vicinity of the presidio. It was during this time that President James K. Polk of the United States devised a strategy for snatching California from the hands of the Mexican Republic.

In the fall of 1845, President Polk sent his representative John Slidell to Mexico. Slidell was supposed to offer Mexico $25,000,000 to accept the Rio Grande boundary with Texas and to sell New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the U.S. However, the President of Mexico turned this down, and in May 1846 Polk led his country into war.

The Mexican-American War in California ended on January 13, 1847 with the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga. A year later, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, ending all hostilities between the two nations. By the provisions of this treaty, Mexico handed over to the United States 525,000 square miles of land, almost half of her national territory. In compensation, the U.S. paid $15,000,000 for the land and met other financial obligations to Mexico. By the provisions of this peace treaty, the Mexican citizens living in California were offered American citizenship and full protection of the law.

The area which Mexico transferred to American control in 1848 contained a population of 82,500 Mexican citizens, 7,500 of which lived in California. Two years later, on September 9, 1850, California was admitted to the Union as the thirty-first state. During the Federal Census of the same year, my ancestor, Jos? Dolores Olivas - now an American citizen - was tallied in his Santa Barbara residence as the head of a household of eleven. My ancestor would die a few years later.

Fourth Generation:
At the time of the 1850 census, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mar?a Antonia Olivas, was only 15 years of age. Mar?a Antonia Olivas was truly a daughter of the Californian military establishment. She was descended from five pioneer California families (Olivas, Fern?ndez, Valenzuela, Feliz and Quintero) and lived at the Santa Barbara Presidio which four of her soldado ancestors had helped to found. Her father (Jos? Dolores Olivas) was a retired soldier. Both of her grandfathers were California soldiers (Jos? Pablo Olivas and Antonio Mar?a Valenzuela), as were all four of her great-grandfathers (Juan Matias Olivas, Jos? Rosalino Fernandez, Pedro Gabriel Valenzuela, and Anastacio Mar?a Feliz).

On November 30, 1849, Mar?a Antonia Olivas was married to Jos? Apolinario Esquivel, a native of Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, at the Santa Barbara Mission. The two of them relocated to the San Buenaventura Township to raise their family and tend their crops. Her brother, Jos? Victoriano Olivas, four years younger than she was, would become the fourth generation Olivas to serve as a soldier in the defense of California.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) divided the American people into two camps and resulted in more casualties than any other war in American history. Many of the hostilities in this war took place in the eastern half of North America, especially in the Southern states. For the most part, California - which was a Union state - seemed removed from most of the battlefields and action that was taking place.

As the war between the states raged in 1863, a call was sent out to the people of California to guard the West from Confederate incursions. At this time, the U.S. Government organized four military companies of Mexican-American Californians into a cavalry battalion in order to utilize their "extraordinary horsemanship." Company C of the First California Native Cavalry was organized under Captain Antonio Mar?a de la Guerra. My ancestor Jos? Victoriano Olivas joined this company, which was made up of native troopers from Santa Barbara County. Mar?a Antonia's brother would thus become the fourth generation of the Olivas family to serve in the military. And this service had now been extended to three flags (Spain, Mexico, and the United States).

Fifth Generation:
My ancestor Regina Esquivel was born in 1851 as the daughter of Jos? Apolinario Esquivel and Mar?a Antonia Olivas and as an American citizen. Nineteen years later, on January 3, 1870, Regina Esquivel was united in marriage with Gregorio Ortega at the San Buenaventura Mission. Gregorio was a laborer who had emigrated from southern Mexico in the 1860s. Over the next two decades, Gregorio and Regina would become the parents of eighteen children.

Sixth Generation:
On September 16, 1875, Gregorio Ortega and Regina Esquivel became the parents of Valentine Ortega. Eighteen years later, Valentine was united in marriage with one 18-year-old Theodora Tapia, a native of the Los Angeles area. Valentine and Theodora had five children in all, including Isabel (born in 1902), Paz (born in 1906) and Luciano P. Ortega (born in 1908).

During the early Twentieth Century, this family lived in the Saticoy District of Ventura County, California. Saticoy was nine miles east of the county seat, the City of Ventura. In 1918, at the age of forty-three years, my great-great-grandfather Valentine Ortega fell victim to the worldwide influenza epidemic that ravaged the American continent at the end of World War I.

Seventh Generation:
As Isabel Ortega and her siblings grew up, they witnessed what would eventually be called the First World War. Initially the war broke out in Europe and, it was not until three years later that America would join this conflict, with its declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917. During this war, the American military was rife with discrimination against Hispanic and African-American soldiers. Soldiers with Spanish surnames or Spanish accents were sometimes the object of ridicule and relegated to menial jobs, while African Americans were segregated into separate units. Some Hispanic Americans who lacked English skills were sent to special training centers to improve their language proficiency so that they could be integrated into the mainstream army.

My great-grandmother, Isabel Ortega, married Refugio Melendez, an immigrant laborer from Penjamo, Guanajuato. Refugio and Isabel met during the 1920s and their first-born child was my grandmother, Theodora (Dora) Melendez, who was born in November 1927. Dora was followed two years later by my Uncle Raymundo Melendez. Isabel and Refugio raised their family in Saticoy, living right across the street from the Ortega family during the 1930s and 1940s.

The Great Depression was a difficult time for my family as it was for most American families. But the beginning of World War II was an ominous event for all Americans. For three years, the United States avoided this war, which pitted the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) against a multitude of other nations, including Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China.

On December 7, 1941, everything changed. The surprise attack on the American naval fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii would bring America into this struggle against tyranny. And when Uncle Sam called for recruits, his call was answered. By the end of the war in September 1945, sixteen million men and women had worn the uniform of America's armed forces.

At the time of America's entry into World War II (1941), approximately 2,690,000 Americans of Mexican ancestry lived in the United States. Eighty-five percent of this population lived in the five southwestern states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado). Like other ethnic groups, Mexican Americans responded in great number to our nation's dilemma. At least 350,000 Chicanos served in the armed services and seventeen individuals won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

California played an important role in World War II. Eighteen California National Guard Divisions were sent overseas, and thousands of men enlisted or were drafted. According to the United States War Department, California - containing 5.15% of the population of the United States - contributed 5.53% of the total number who entered the Army. Of these men and women from California who went to war, 3.09% failed to return home, representing 5.54% of the American casualties

In 1942, my great-uncle Luciano P. Ortega - the brother of my great-grandmother Isabel - was drafted into the armed forces. For some reason, his name was Americanized to Joseph P. Ortega while he was in the service, but our family has always called him Luciano. Luciano was attached to the 34th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division, which was on the front lines in the war against Japan.
During October and November, the 24th Infantry Division was involved in the campaign to eject the Japanese from Leyte in the Philippine Islands.

Then, on November 19, 1944, Uncle Luciano was killed in action. He was buried in the Manila American Cemetery in the capital city. My uncle by marriage, Joseph Torres (the husband of Lucy Ortega) - who also served in the Philippines - saw Uncle Luciano's grave. However, my great-great-grandmother, Theodora Tapia Ortega never reconciled herself to her son's death and refused to accept it. Instead, she continued to believe that he was missing in action and would someday return home to Saticoy.

Eighth Generation:
The eighth generation of my family was involved in two wars: World War II and the Korean War. Late in World War II, Chello O. Ortega, the son of Paz Ortega (a sister of Luciano and Isabel Ortega) and Laurencio Ortega, went to war. He was the second Ortega to go to the Army from Saticoy and - like his uncle Luciano - was sent to the Pacific Theater. On June 27, 1945, a month-and-a-half after Nazi Germany had surrendered, the Oxnard Press Courier announced that Chello Ortega from Saticoy was missing in action in the Pacific Theater. Nine days later, on July 6, 1945, the same newspaper announced the sad news that Chello Ortega had been killed in action (although his exact date of death is not known to us). Less than two months later, Japan would surrender and peace would finally come to America after three years and nine months of war.

As World War II drew to an end, the three Melendez brothers - sons of Refugio Melendez and Isabel Ortega and brothers to my grandmother Dora - were teenagers. Raymond (Raymundo) Ortega Melendez had been born in 1929 and yearned to join the military. In 1945, at the age of 17 - with his parents' permission - Ray entered the American armed forces. This would mark the beginning of a long military career, with would take him through the Korean and Vietnam Wars before his retirement in 1969.

The Korean War began in 1950, only five years after the end of World War II. The participation of Mexican Americans and other Hispanics in the Korean War was such that the Department of Defense publication, Hispanics in America's Defense (Collingdale, Pennsylvania: Diane Publishing Co., 1997), has paid tribute to their contribution: "The Korean Conflict saw many Hispanic Americans responding to the call of duty. They served with distinction in all of the services?. Many Mexican Americans from barrios in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Laredo, Phoenix, and Chicago saw fierce action in Korea. Fighting in almost every combat unit in Korea, they distinguished themselves through courage and bravery as they had in previous wars."

By the end of the Korean War, all three of my grandmother's brothers, Raymond, Donald (Danny) and Simon would join the United States Army. During this war, Uncle Ray served as an airborne paratrooper for many years. But my Uncle Simon Melendez's experiences in the Korean War are the stuff that legends are made of.

Born on October 28, 1930, Simon Ortega Melendez was raised in Saticoy and attended Ventura Junior High School and Ventura City College. When the Korean War started, Simon joined the 2nd Division of the U.S. Army and became a machine gunner. It would be Uncle Simon's destiny to take part in two of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. The "Battle of Bloody Ridge" began in August 1951 and continued up until September 12, 1951. On August 27, Simon was hit in the neck and legs by mortar shrapnel and in the back by grenade fragments. At the same time, he was separated from his platoon. For seven days, he was behind enemy lines and disoriented by torrential rains that made his weapon inoperable.

The rain did not stop until the sixth day, and on the seventh day he was able to make his way into the area of the 9th U.S. Regiment. When asked how he managed to make his way through enemy lines for seven days, 21-year-old Simon explained that "my extreme faith in God brought me through." Soon after this, Uncle Simon was able to have a three-day reunion with his brother Ray near the front lines. Raymond, who had already been in the service for six years, was a paratrooper and had been stationed about a 100 miles from Simon's position. Soon after, Simon was once again in the thick of the fighting when his unit took part in the "Battle of Heartbreak Ridge," which lasted from September 13 to October 22, 1951.

The Battles of Bloody Ridge and Heartbreak Ridge were the two bloodiest battles of the Korean War. By the time he left the service, Simon had been awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. He also founded the Mexican-American Korean War Veterans of Ventura County and became a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. Simon Melendez, the proud Korean War veteran, died at the age of 71 on June 15, 2002, surrounded by a family that adored him. Even to this day, Uncle Simon's memory remains strong with me and my family, in large part because he had a larger than life personality that endeared him to everyone.

Uncle Donald Ortega Melendez, who was born in 1936, entered the service in 1954 at the tail end of the Korean War. Like his brother Raymond, he initially joined the paratroopers. During his first stint overseas, Donald was assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry division. He did three separate hitches overseas and was on service during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Uncle Donald spent 25 years in the military and achieved the rank of First Sergeant before he retired in 1979.

Uncle Ray, also an airborne paratrooper, served all around the world at one time or another and achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major by the time he retired in 1969. Like Donald, Uncle Ray was a career military person and does not feel that he is at liberty to discuss his military service in great detail. Uncle Simon - after his Korean War service - had been offered a promotion too, but he decided that he was ready for civilian life.

Ninth Generation:
Four members of our family's eighth generation served in the military, possibly even more that I do not know about. But the military tradition has carried through to the present generations and the number of Ninth Generation family members who have served in the military is hard to tally. Luciano Ortega's daughter, Geraldine, joined the military for a long period of time. Donald's son Daniel Melendez followed in his father's step and served as a paratrooper from 1970 to 1982. Uncle Simon had two sons who spent a number of years in the military: Ricardo Melendez served in the air force and Roy enlisted in the U.S. Marines.

When he was twenty years old, my mother's brother, Eusebio Javier Melendez Basulto followed in our family's military tradition by enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served in Military Intelligence with MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) Unit 406 ASA, where he achieved the rank of Specialist, Fourth Class. Uncle Eusebio's military career lasted from 1973 to 1985, a total of 12 years, after which he became a chemist in the civilian world.

During the extended Vietnam Conflict (1963-1973), approximately 80,000 Hispanic Americans served in the American military. Although Hispanics made up only about 4.5% of the total U.S. population at that time, they incurred more than 19% of the casualties. In all, thirteen Hispanic soldiers received the Medal of Honor during this conflict.

Continuing this trend of service into the last decade of the Twentieth Century, twenty thousand Hispanic servicemen and women participated in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990-1991). Writing in Hispanic Heritage Month 1996: Hispanics - Challenging the Future, Army Chaplain (Captain) Carlos C. Huerta of the First Battalion, 79th Field Artillery stated that "Hispanics have always met the challenge of serving the nation with great fervor. In every war, in every battle, on every battlefield, Hispanics have put their lives on the line to protect freedom."

As Mexican-American citizens of California, my family has carried on a proud tradition of military service. When our nation has been in need, my ancestors - from the earliest days in California - answered the call with a sense of pride and obligation. This sense of duty is a deeply held tradition to all Mexican-Americans.

Although I have inherited my dark eyes and thick dark hair from my Mexican ancestors, I am also German and Anglo-American through my father's side of the family. For this reason, it is not readily evident to some people that I am Mexican-American. As a result, I have - on occasion - heard friends and acquaintances express less than flattering opinions about Mexican immigrants or Mexican Americans.

Such comments and criticisms - although they were undoubtedly based on ignorance or fear - hurt me and were an affront to my family's pride and dignity. I can only say - in response to such hurtful comments - that I hope those people are reading this article. If I could speak to them today, I would tell them that my family - for two centuries - has been fighting for their freedom. And when my Uncle Luciano Ortega and my Cousin Chello Ortega were killed in action during World War II, they were sacrificing their lives for the freedom of all Californians.

DEDICATION: This work is dedicated to my ancestors who have defended California for two centuries:
1. Jos? Matias Olivas - Soldier in the Service of Spain, 1781-1798
2. Jos? Pablo Olivas - Soldier in the Service of Spain, 1804-1817
3. Jos? Dolores Olivas - Soldier in the Service of Spain and Mexico
4. Jos? Victoriano Olivas - Civil War Veteran (1863-1865)
5. Joseph Luciano Ortega - World War II - Killed in action, Philippine Islands, November 19, 1944
6. Chello Ortega - World War II - Killed in action, Pacific Theater, June 1945
7. Raymond Ortega Melendez, Korean War Veteran and Career Soldier
8. Donald Ortega Melendez, Korean War Veteran and Career Soldier
9. Simon Ortega Melendez, Korean War Veteran
10. Eusebio Basulto, Jr., Specialist, Fourth Class in Military Intelligence

Special Acknowledgments: We thank Eva Melendez Aubert, Dora Melendez Basulto, Eusebio Basulto, Donald Ortega Melendez, Sarah Basulto Evans, and the Simon Ortega family for their valuable contributions to this tribute.

Copyright ? 2003, by Jennifer Vo and John P. Schmal. All rights under applicable law are hereby reserved.

Interviews conducted by Jennifer Vo, Sarah Basulto Evans, and John Schmal.

About Jennifer Vo and John P. Schmal:
Jennifer Vo and John Schmal are the authors of "A Mexican-American Family of California: In the Service of Three Flags," which will be published by Heritage Books on November 1.

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