Juan Antonio kept his word – I arrived for Ramon Macario the day he turned one. The following year I arrived for Jose Fernando. The birth of these two little boys were a godsend, it came with the promise of a new beginning. Both children were of a mischievous sense of humor, and knew innately that I would never punish them for their naughty behavior – and naughty behavior there was.
Jose Fernando recognized my voice, and called me “Papa” in that baby gurgle. He followed me everywhere the moment he learned to crawl – one afternoon I was conducting business in my study with my majordomos when I felt something tugging on my pant leg, I looked down and it was Jose Fernando. He raised up his little arms for me to pick him up. He was the only child I ever knew that looked for me, that wanted to be with me – perhaps it was because he sensed my sadness.
The boys were two and three years old the year I fulfilled my dream of establishing my cattle enterprise on the north side of the Rio Grande – it was August 22nd 1750. She was named Nuestra Senora de los Dolores; we referred to her as Dolores. I did the customary act of pulling weeds, throwing and kicking rocks to prove possession. I had the land augmented to include Juan Antonio; together we brought twenty – five families and one hundred extra people including livestock. Dolores like the rest of my haciendas was self-sufficient, I knew beforehand that farming would prove impossible – since the soil was dry and water almost unavailable. Dolores was created for the sole purpose of becoming a cattle enterprise, I produced 300 to 500 additional mules every year – Dolores was by far my most profitable endeavor. Since the boys were still too young I solely depended on my nephew Bartolome Vasquez Borrego – I liked Juan Antonio allot it was just that he did not carry my blood in his veins – I was peculiar about those types of things.
At the age of five I began to teach them how to ride and often rode my horse with both boys in tow. My son Fernando had a son, which he adopted named Jose. I forbade the children to play with him, it was more to do with the fact that Jose was an unruly child and proved to be a negative influence.
I was a strict disciplinarian in certain things and did not want the boys distracted from their learning. They had a position to uphold and learned to conduct themselves with dignity given any situation.
In the evenings the children and I sat around by the fire playing Parlor games – the boys especially liked ghost stories and a particular game called murderer. The game consisted of a chosen henchman winking the other players into pretend death. We laughed so hard the game never got underway – no one could look into each others eyes without laughing.
Once I even joined in on a game called “Verdades y Arevimientos”. The moment I chose dare, the children dared me to kiss the tongue on the mounted bear. Their laughter was infectious. I loved the sound of their childish laughter; given that they were only a year apart it felt more like they were twins. They read each others minds, finishing off each others sentences. Ramon Macario was always one ahead of Jose Fernando. Jose Fernando had a good disposition and never bothered to try to upstage his brother, who he followed around like a puppy. They were both fiercely loyal and protective over the other – nothing ever came between them until Alexandrina.
In February 1753 DN. Jose de Escandon paid a visit to Dolores, I readily agreed to encourage more growth by supplying two passenger boats on the river. The purpose was to not only open up the fields or water supply from the Rio Gande but to help conduct business for his majesties Royal Service – and to nurture the colony of the growing population.
In 1757 we had 123 in habitants living and working on Dolores. I needed more help that’s when I appointed Tomas Sanchez dela Barrera y Garza as one of my chief administrators. This action served dual purpose; it also established Tomas Sanchez as a strong community leader. Later we both created a blue print for La Villa de Laredo. Dolores would stay a private estate – my intentions were to never turn her into a Villa or town. In that same year Capitan Jose Teinda de Cuervo arrived for the annual inspection. During that time I was at El Alamo, it was Bartolome that took care of the details during that visit. Dolores in that year produced 1,500 mules, 3,000 heads of cattle, 1,050 donkeys, and 3,400 horses on my 329,000 acre estate.
I established on Dolores as I did on all of my estates a flying squadron – this squadron consisted of 12 men mounted on identical grey horse, wearing black leather and carrying 5 different types of weapons. Their sole responsibility was in patrolling the grounds 24 hours a day – they provided protection against possible Indian raids.
Tomas Sanchez founded Laredo in 1757 with 11 families and 85 extra persons. He was a medieval lord and ran Laredo with very little Democracy – and people claimed I was an authoritarian. I was just efficient and believed in free will. This lack of Democracy would scar the town for generations to come. Sanchez not only owned the majority of the livestock in town but was given 15 sitios of land by Escandon, the rest of Laredo remained private property. Laredo was primary a big ranching headquarters for Sanchez – resembling Plymouth or Jamestown. Laredo like Dolores was not suitable for plating or irrigation and suffered with long droughts – this made the crops wither and die. However things on Laredo ran efficiently and when Tienda de Cuervo made his inspection he was so impressed that he increased Laredo in size and turned the brush huts into adobe houses, installed a church and the 85 people became thousands. With all of that going in Laredo’s favor Tomas Sanchez still failed in creating a mission, he did not fulfill his first agreement to Escandon. The Royal commission was still impressed with Laredo’s location and in 1767 Laredo as a city began to keep its official records.
The children loved to watch the gathering of the cattle in early December. We gathered them, bathed them and branded them. It was the bathing ritual that had the children mesmerized; they made a beautiful splash of water. I had branding irons made with their initials and gave them cattle for birthdays and Christmas – which they would sell later for pocket-money. I taught them how to conduct and negotiate business transactions. They were receiving a superior education. I began to teach them how to read and write at the age of twelve. In this aspect Jose Fernando excelled. I loved them both equally, but it was Jose Fernando that captured my heart.
As the boys grew older I began to teach them how to shoot and hunt. There was not a gun those children could not load and unload with ease. They were experts at riding, often racing each other.
Jose Fernando proved to be a good business administrator – he started conducting business transactions for me at the age of seventeen. Eventually he began handling all of my business dealings. This infuriated Fernando – who felt that he was entitled to the position. I sensed that things were tense between them, but in my presence Fernando would never dream of berating Jose Fernando. After my death Fernando will accuse Jose Fernando of stealing not just land but cattle –
Bartolome was in love with Alexandrina Sanchez de la Barerra y Uribe – Tomas Sanchez’s daughter. A wild child if there ever was one. I arranged their marriage.
They had two children – Josefa y Francisco. There was a vast age difference though, by twenty years.
Ramon Macario being shy asked Alexandrina if she would show him how to waltz. She agreed and asked Bartolome for permission. For months the two sequestered themselves in privacy – Ramon Macario didn’t want anyone to know he was learning to dance.
This situation caused gossip – but Bartolome paid no attention, as he knew the truth.
Bartolome had a riding accident and was in critical condition. He was bed ridden. During this time, Jose Fernando developed feelings for Alexandrina. He became her champion and had no idea of the dancing lessons she was giving Ramon Macario.
The blow to the head Bartolome received took its toll and finally caused him to expire – leaving Alexandrina a young widow with two small children. Jose Fernando came to me asking me to arrange his marriage to Alexandrina.
“Papa, I am in love with Alexandrina – I want you to arrange my marriage to her.”
I agreed, easily knowing that it would make a good marriage in terms of genetics.
Jose Fernando went to the priest to make a formal declaration, when the priest informed him of his true parentage.
“You can’t sign your name as Borrego, you are a Vidaurri.”
Jose Fernando was in shock, “What are you talking about, my name is Jose Fernando Vasquez Borrego, and Don Jose is my father.”
“No – your father is Don Juan Antonio de Vidaurri; Don Jose is your grandfather.”
I knew something was wrong the moment Jose Fernando came home. I could tell by the sound of his foot steps as he entered the house. He walked into my study without knocking.
“You’ve been lying to me all along.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You made me believe you were my father when you are my grandfather.”
“I never lied to you, I just never corrected you when I taught you to sign your name, I was so proud of you, and you reminded me of my Fernando.”
“You kept me from my mother; you estranged me to my father and my siblings.” He was crying, I had never seen him cry before.
“Your father and I agreed to terms before your birth, it’s not his or your mother’s fault – don’t blame them.”
“How could I not blame a man who gave me away?”
“He did not give you away he gave you to me to raise, to love and to protect.”
Jose Fernando stormed out of the house – he went in search of his father.
The confrontation between Juan Antonio and Jose Fernando was emotional.
“Where is my father” he yelled storming into the house.
“He’s in the corral” answered Jesus Maria.
Jose Fernando tore through the house in the direction of the corral. Manuela hearing the commotion followed.
She stood by the door, unable to move.
“Papa!” He yelled holding back his tears.
“What is all this noise” inquired Juan Antonio looking up – he was in the middle of watching the doctor geld a horse.
“This noise – is your son coming to ask you why you gave him away.”
Juan Antonio’s mouth dropped – he made eye contact with Manuela and silenced her with his glance. He would take care of this; they had agreed that he would when the time came.
Juan Antonio dismissed the workers and the doctor. He needed privacy for their conversation.
“Please lower your voice; I don’t want the rest of the children to hear.” Juan Antonio asked, almost pleading.
“Why did you give me away?”
“I didn’t give you away – I’m not going to defend myself or give you an excuse, your mother and I felt that we were doing the right thing – it was an agreement that we made and I kept my word”.
“I was part of an agreement?” he asked with clenched teeth.
“You were the chosen heir, you are going to inherit everything – we did it for your future.”
“To think, all this time I envied the other children when I’d see you playing with them, when you taught them how to ride and shoot – how to fish, how I envied them – I always longed for more siblings, I always wished you had been my father”. The tears now flowed freely; he wiped his nose with his shirt sleeve.
Juan Antonio was not a man who gave way to emotions – he remained calm, he almost appeared insensitive, until the single tear flowed down his cheek.
“Does Ramon Macario know?”
“No, and if you love him you will allow your mother and I to tell him.”
“Fine, you can have the pleasure of breaking his heart.”
There was silence, both men fought for control over their emotions.
“Money, father isn’t everything – but perhaps I can say that since I grew up a Vasquez Borrego.” Jose Fernando’s voice took on a bitter quality that it would contain for the rest of his life especially with the subject of money.
Manuela was still standing by the doorway, unable to move. Jose Fernando walked by her and stood next to her for a moment – both of them starring into each others eyes.
“I remember those nights you nursed me through the chicken pocks and the measles, I always thought of you as an angel – because of you I know what it feels like to have a mothers love.” Before Manuela could react he walked away, as he walked his posture changed, his walk took on the air of dignity.
His whole world had been destroyed – he had been confident, secure and gregarious because he knew his place in this world, he knew who he was and now he would remain a shadow of the boy he used to be, of the man he should have been. And I was responsible for that; I broke his heart – me the man who loved him more than anything in the world.
The gossip mill produced an ugly rumor accusing Jose Fernando of conspiring with Alexandrina to murder Bartolome in his sleep. This caused a serious investigation – which I made go away. I still needed to ask Jose Fernando man to man if he had anything to do with the cause of death, although I already knew the answer.
“Did you conspire with her to murder your uncle?”
“How could you ask me that?” he implored.
“It’s a formality – I know you had nothing to do with it, but I need to ask, and I need to hear you answer.”
“No, Papa- Alexandrina and I had nothing to do with his death.” He would always refer to me as Papa and Juan Antonio as mi padre.
“I know that’s why I made this thing go away, but I would not have if I thought for a minute you had anything to do with his death.”
“Leave things as they are I don’t want to owe you anything.”
“It’s already taken care of – you don’t owe me anything.”
“Right, that’s what you say now – come to think of it that’s what you always say to lore people into your service.” The trace of bitterness echo – ing in his voice.
“Sweet heart – don’t allow what I did to harden your heart – you have always been loved, don’t tell me you never felt my love.”
“That’s what makes this betrayal all the more hurtful – how could you betray someone you claim to love – that’s what I will never understand.”
Once the viscous rumor of Bartolome’s death was laid to rest, another rumor started. This time Ramon Macario was accused of having an affair with Alexandrina during the time Bartolome was alive. Not only does a widow Catholic go through a regular investigation, but now it was in full force and the objective was to crucify Alexandrina.
Women in general did not like her, she was beautiful with her long dark hair, those big blue eyes and those nice full lips – she reminded me of my Manuela. Ramon Macario and Jose Fernando were not just dealing with their parental issues – but with their trust in each other. This proved conflicting and traumatic for both boys.
Ramon Macario broke his silence and confessed to his private dancing lessons with Alexandrina – and that tio Bartolome had given his consent. Alexandrina confirmed his story and they both denied any wrong doing. I knew they were telling the truth – I knew Ramon Macario and he would never lie. None of my boys have ever lied to me – except for Fernando. Jose Fernando who was dealing with trust issues went along with the story – but believed none of it. This he held against Ramon Macario with silence. Ramon Macario received the brunt end of the conclusion.
I suspected Jose Fernando was starting to believe the rumors, he continued to stand by her – he read Don Quixote as a boy and believed in chivalry. And like his father, he kept his word. The investigation started on the 25th of June 1765 and lasted a full week – all the information was submitted to the bishop of Guadalajara on September 6th and the dispensation was granted on the 26th of October 1765.
Juan Antonio forbade Ramon Macario to ever visit the home of Alexandrina and his brother. I felt that was a bit harsh – once the investigation was over Jose Fernando married Alexandrina and moved away – For a full year my letters were returned to me unopened. How I grieved.
Juan Jose who heard of the trouble offered Ramon Macario a home with him at San Juan de Casta in Tamaulipas. Not having children of his own – he made Ramon Macario his legal heir – Ramon Macario and Jose Fernando never spoke again. Just when I thought there would be nothing more in this world that could break my heart – my heart broke again. Ramon Macario legally changed his surname to Vidaurri and his descendents would later after 1867 change their surname to Vidaurreta.
The marriage between Jose Fernando and Alejandrina produced several children – Jose Allejandro, Jose Fernando, Jose Indelfonso, Jose Manuel, Maria Encarnacion, Maria dela Luz, Maria Fabiana, Josefa de Jesus, Leonor y Manuela. During the years the marriage developed difficulties. Jose Fernando never questioned Alejandrina – it would have implied she had a carnal relationship with Ramon Macario – she was his wife. He also never believed the story he was told by either of them, this doubt began to eat away at the love he had for her, then slowly over time the resentment of having chosen her over his brother.
*Note: It is inconclusive that Ramon Macario’s family changed their surname to Vidaurreta after 1867 –