So fun fact: getting any kind of family history out of my dad is like pulling teeth.
I know all about my Mom's side of the family -- Grandpa in the Danish military, grandma's family in Ireland, how Ellis Island changed great grandpa's name from Faxholm to Olson, and then how he didn't like the spelling and changed it again to something else-- but my dad's family? Nada.
The man hates talking about anything relating to the family from before they came to the US, so the fact that he told me this story has me ridiculously excited. If the details are fuzzy, that's because that's how it was told to me.
* * * * *
Once upon a time, there was a young man in Spain named Valero.
I don't know if that's his first name or his last name, but that doesn't matter much. What does matter is that he wanted to get to North America. However, this was in the late 1800s, and transportation options were limited. Valero decided the best course of action would be to join the Spanish military. Unfortunately for him, the Spanish military said "nah fam," and turned him away for reasons I do not know. Keep in mind, this was around the time that parts of Mexico were starting to revolt against the French, meaning that they needed the manpower, and so he must have done something for them not to want to send him.
However, luckily for him, Portugal wasn't nearly so picky, and soon he was joined up with the Portuguese army and headed for North America.
Upon setting foot in Mexico, Valero said, "lol, thanks. I got mine, suckers" and promptly went AWOL.
Enter Leonella Silva.
Leonella Silva was from a large and wealthy landowning family with strong European connections. I don't know what came first, the girl or the desertion, but somehow she and Valero fell in love and subsequently married. Despite being married, they stuck with using only the Silva surname (as opposed her using both last names, which is more common).
Things went smoothly for a few years. Then that pesky revolution that had been going on reared its head in their neck of the woods.
The details are fuzzy, but when the juntas took over, the workers on the Silva's land revolted and murdered most of the family. Among the people who survived were Leonella, Valero, and Leonella's little sister. The three of them fled and made their way up north, crossed the border into the US, bumped around California for a while before eventually settling in Visalia.
In 1937, Leonella gives birth to my grandma Ofelia.
* * * * *
Upon hearing this story, I then asked my dad about my grandpa's family.
"His family was already in California. They were here before it was part of the US. His family was indigenous. Like Mexican-Indian-- Aztec or something like that. That's why some of my sisters and some of your cousins turned out so dark."
I supposedly met Leonella and her sister when I was like 6, but all I remember from the encounter is a living room with a flowery couch and a lady who didn't speak any English smiling at me. I don't know if that was Leonella or her sister.