Magon: Five Generations of Sinaloa

August 27, 2013 /

The author's grandmother, Maria, has helped him piece together his family history. Photo: JESUS E. VALENZUELA FELIX

The author’s grandmother, Maria, helped him piece together 250 years of family history in order to understand and share his immigration story. Photo: JESUS E. VALENZUELA FELIX


The Diary of Joaquín Magón Entry 26:  Five Generations of Sinaloa


My great grandmother, Maria, never wrote anything down.

Her stories came with laughter and dance as she told me about her mother, who died at 100 years of age, and her father, a small indigenous man from the sierras of Chiricahueto, Cosalá, Sinaloa, who shrunk year after year until he reached well over 115 years of age.

Maria’s father got so old and small that she could wrap him in a blanket and hold him. He once fell asleep near a fire and fell in and came out laughing and shaking himself off. His own father, an indigenous man named Francisco Ávila, married a woman named Juana Torres that was white as white could be and had pink cheeks. How those two met and married nobody knows.

Maria’s husband, Atalo came from a tall white father named Onofre and a mother named Loisa who was a tall blond woman with braids. Maria would laugh and tell stories of how Don Onofre would paint his horse different colors because the soldiers would catch him all the time. He changed the color of his horse every chance he got and put on a fake moustache.

He was tremendo, Maria would say. No one knows exactly what Don Onofre did before laying down in El Pescadero, a town near Bacatá, Sinaloa, to piss the soldiers off so much. Was he a revolutionary? A bandit? I don’t know. I never asked her before she passed and, as a result, I have decided to ask twice as many questions to twice as many people since then.

Don Atalo would work the gold mines in Durango, México, and she would keep some of the gold nuggets that he brought home and hide it in a hole by the house until, she said, the moles dug a hole and stole them all.

They had a child named Gilberto who married a woman from El Capulito, Sinaloa, named Luisa. They have lived for the past 50 years in the little ranchito of Bachigualato, Cualiacán, Sinaloa.

Gilberto and Luisa, my grandparents, gave birth to a small daughter. Maria would tell me how she carried my newborn mother to the hospital because she was sick and near death but survived to live her life and, eventually, have me.

My mother migrated following a pattern that was set by her uncles. She had, after all, my brother and me to feed.

To which I add, migration is a mix of sociological and economic forces that drive us  – out of necessity, security, or hunger.

Migration is not random, we do not point our fingers on a map and chose to go “there.” We must have a friend, a relative that was, is, or will be in that specific town working in that specific industry. We were born in a country where external forces and faulty economic equations gave us banks that failed just like the banks in this country failed and gave us the recession.

If you really want to blame someone or something for migration then first look at the systems that fail and force us to leave like the Mexicano after the bank crash in the 1980s, which brought upon an unprecedented migration wave in the 1990s, like the Salvadorans that were in the middle of a US invasion, like the people from Oklahoma that were victims of the depression. So let us dissect our stories with a sociological imagination to bring us better understanding of where we are in the world.

That story of my great-great-great grandparents stems over 250 years, all compiled like an equation that took me from Culiacán to Coachella to San Diego to Bakersfield and Salinas – fighting for immigrants that share a story so unique that the world will never hear one like it ever again.

The Caravan to Citizenship in Bakersfield is the middle of a beginning and can still get the House to go into many directions – pass S. 744, create a series of smaller bills and pass them one at a time, pass bills that will have negative impacts such as the Bracero bill or to defund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Which direction it goes depends on you, on me, on us.


Jesús E. Valenzuela Félix, a reporter from Coachella living in Salinas and working for the United Farm Workers Foundation, contributes regularly to Coachella Unincorporated and New America Media.

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