Reflections or Today's Latino
La Familia Gallegos en Nuevo Mexico
By Robert D. Martinez
Last summer, while my wife and I were walking through the medieval cobblestone streets of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, we happened upon a handsome building with the name Banco Gallego emblazened across its facade. My wife immediately exclaimed, "Take a picture of that building!" We had a close friend back home, as so many of us do, whose last name is Gallegos. Why on earth would a bank in Santiago have the same name as so many primos and friends in our native New Mexico?
The surname Gallegos is plural for "Galician" or one who is a native of Galicia. Galicia is the misty mountainous region of northwestern Spain, of which Santiago de Compostela is the spiritual center. A Gallego is a native to that region, and the language of Galicia is also called Gallego, which is a combination of Portuguese and Spanish. Like Austurias to the east, Galicia is one of the few areas of the Iberian peninsula that was not conquered by Muslims during their seven hundred year presence (711 A.D to 1492 A.D.).
There is, however, a strong Celtic flavor in the land, as Celts settled the area centuries before the time of Christ (1300 B.C.). These Celts intermingled with the native Iberians, and later with the Roman colonists and Visigoths.
As Hispanic Iberians immigrated and settled throughout the peninsula, some Gallegos made their way to the Indies, and more specifically, to New Spain. Among the first conquering wave of soldiers that came into the what is today southern Mexico were a number of men with the surname Gallegos. When Cristobal de Oñate, father of Juan de Oñate (adelantado for the expedition into New Mexico in 1598) established the city of Guadalajara, there were a few soldier/colonists bearing the name who established families in the new villa. No one with the name Gallegos came with Oñate to establish a permanant family settlement in New Mexico. The arrival of the name into our region would take place years later.
The first Gallegos people to settle in New Mexico were two brothers from Parral in New Spain named José and Antonio Gallegos. According to research carried out by Gerald Mandell and José Antonio Esquibel, they arrived around the year 1677. From research carried out at Parral, Mr. Mandell has gathered information that gives a more focused picture of these individuals. José and Antonio were the sons of Diego Gallegos and Catelina de Rivera. Diego was an alferez, or ensign, and was involved in ranching and siver mining in Parral. Diego, born around the year 1600, also had three brothers: Antonio Gallegos (the first) and Juan Burruel de Luna, who were miners as well. The parents of these three brothers were Luis Gallegos de Terazas and Pascuala de Rueda. Luis was identified as a freighter in the Parral/Durango district. Luis, therefore, was born around the year 1570. He is most likely a son of one of the Gallegos men who settled in New Spain in the mid-sixteenth century.
More information on Diego Gallegos and Catelina de Rivera was revealed in a document found at Parral dated 1656. In that year, Capitan Alonso Morales Garcia sued Alferez Diego Gallegos (father of José and Antonio of New Mexico) for the amount of 333 pesos. In the petition, Catelina de Ribera (Rivera) is referred to as the legitimate wife of Diego Gallegos, a resident of Parral, and Diego confirms that he was also a resident of Parral and was married to Catelina de Rivera, legitimate daughter of Francisco Miguel (de Rivera), deceased, and Maria de Ortega. As did so many of our ancestors, the brothers José and Antonio Gallegos ventured north from Parral to New Mexico to start a new life.
According to Fray Angélico Chávez, José married Catelina Baca and was twenty-six years old in 1681. He was described as tall and slim, with a long face, large eyes, blond hair and bearded. These individuals were the first Gallegos to establish themselves in our land of New Mexico.
Data for this article was taken from research by Gerald Mandell, José Antonio Esquibel and Fray Angélico Chávez.
Robert D. Martinez is a Research Historian for the Sephardic Legacy Project of New Mexico.