Friday, November 27, 2015

Maestro Gaxiola - Searching For My Roots

I was born in San Luis Obispo, CA., in 1936, and so was my father, Urban Felipe Gaxiola, (1910).  My father’s father, my grandfather, Urban “Barney” Gaxiola, was also born in San Luis Obispo, CA., (1869),  as was his father, my great grandfather, Felipe Gaxiola, (1831).  Felipe’s dad, my gg grandfather, Jose Antonio Gaxiola was born in El Roserio, Sinaloa, New Spain in 1786.  I got this information from the Mormon Temple in Oakland, CA. and from census reports. 

I also found, Jose Antonio’s father, my ggg grandfather, Joseph Antonio Gaxiola, (1745) and his father, my gggg grandfather, Diego Gaxiola, (1729) but because they were born and I presume died in El Roserio, I was unable to verify this because they were not on any US census.  However in 2002 my dear friend Judy Mollica, who was deeply into genealogy on the Internet, told me she had done the research and confirmed Joseph and Diego as being in my family tree.

Jose Antonio Gaxiola was listed as being born In El Roserio (1786) and passing away in San Luis Obispo, CA in 1867.  He had been a secretary on the city council in Monterey, CA. back in 1829 and worked at the Mission Church in Hollister, CA. before ending up in San Luis Obispo.

As he was born in El Roserio, New Spain I did some research and found out that in 1560 a lot of people started coming from Old Spain to work the silver mines newly discovered there.  Mazatlán, 30 miles north on the coast was already an established port for Spanish ships so I assume most of them came by boat.  So the question I had was; did the Gaxiola’s come over to work the mines or were they already in El Roserio somehow connected with the Catholic Church before silver was discovered there? 

The Catholic Church in El Roserio, Our Lady of the Rosary, was built in 1759 and because of the fact that Jose Antonio was obviously educated and involved with the mission in Monterey and the mission in Hollister I think perhaps his father Joseph Antonio was with the original settlers in El Roserio and was perhaps connected with this church as a layman or solder. There is a good chance one or more members of the Gaxiola family were baptized in this church.

So with that in mind Alice and I decided to take a cruise on my 79th birthday down to the Mexican Riviera which included a stop in the port at Mazatlán.  We were able to book an excursion to El Roserio where I hoped to visit the Lady of the Rosary Church where I assume the original Gaxiola family may have been baptized and maybe find some Gaxiolas in the old cemetery.  

We boarded the Grand Princess in San Francisco on November 15, 2015, for a ten day cruise to the Mexican Riviera which included the port cities of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Manzillo and Cabo San Lucas

 We had to spend three days at sea before we landed at our first port of call Puerto Vallarta.

            There was always a lot of entertainment and dancing in the ship's main plaza.

..and live “Vegas style” shows in the main theater every night.  We really enjoyed Frankie Marino two time entertainer of the year from Las Vegas.
You always meet new and interesting people and there is always plenty of good food to eat!

Because I was the only cowboy on board I got a lot of attention….

On day four we arrived in Puerto Vallarta.

We got off the ship and loaded onto a bus for a tour of the city and a stop at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The interior of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is quite beautiful

I brought Les Blank along with us because he loved to travel and I thought he would like to see what I find out about my family’s history.

Back on the ship and on to our next port of call; Manzanillo

We visited the Church San Miguel Archangel and I had enough time to do a quick painting of it.

Some local school children watched me do the painting.  They were very friendly and wanted to take pictures of an “American Cowbouy”

There were children dancing in the streets

We visited a bakery where they make bread, cookies, and other Mexican goodies

...and a coffee roasting plant for some coffee tasting.  Mr Peet’s coffee has them beat by a country mile!

Then it was on to Mazatlán and an excursion to El Roserio.

We boarded a bus at the port to take us to El Roserio.  We had a great tour guide, Manuel, who was very helpful telling everyone on the bus to be on the lookout for anything with the name Gaxiola on it because it might be one of my ancestors

When we arrived in El Roserio, about 30 miles south/east of Mazatlán  we went directly to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary.  This church is known for its beautiful gold leaf alter.  It is quite impressive.
However, this was not the church where my family would have been baptized.  As it turns out the original church was about a mile away.  It seems the original church began to sink because of a series of tunnels dug by the silver miners below the town.  The tunnels caused streets and old colonial buildings to collapse.   The local people built this new church to replace the original church taking it stone by stone to its new location   It took twenty years to complete.  It was started in 1934 and completed in 1954 leaving only a shell of the original church still standing.

After our visit to the new church we went to the remains of the original church.  It was a wonderful experience for me as I thought about my ancestors walking around here over two hundred years ago.  They were the first Gaxiolas to leave Europe and establish themselves in the new world.  It made me think of how fortunate I am to be a link in the Gaxiola chain and that I have, along with uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren added to that chain.

Because I wanted to continue to be connected to this sacred family place I brought along a box of my ceramic crosses.  I’ve left these crosses at historic spots I have visited around the world.  Places like Russia’s Red Square, The Vatican in Rome, Elvis Presley’s grave, Arcosanti, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, to name a few. In the Les Blank documentary, The Maestro King of the Cowboy Artists, you can see me leaving a cross at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris, France and at Christo’s umbrella installation on the Grapevine Pass near Los Angeles.

 I have now left a cross in a gap in the rocks here at the original Our Lady of the Rosary Church.

As I was unable to get any information on my family at the church I went to the old historic cemetery to see if there were any Gaxiolas buried there.

No luck…no Gaxiolas here.

 After our church and cemetery visits we all went out to have a traditional Mexican lunch.  Les liked it I’m sure.

Now that my family connection has been made it is time to enjoy the rest of the cruise and the sights and sounds of old Mexico.

…anyone need to call a cab?
  Then it’s back to the ship and off to Cabo San Lucas…

This is our third visit to Cabo.  This time we booked an excursion to San Jose del Cabo, a few miles south of the city with a ride along its famed “Timeshare Row” and resorts.  I was told Bill Gates has a compound somewhere around here. Yes, Cabo is a playground for the rich and famous.

…more churches to see more trinkets to buy…

..more of everything imaginable..

...even a car show in the plaza!

OK, we've seen it back to the ship

..for more entertainment..

...and more of everything else! we say goodbye to Mexico and head back to our home port of San Francisco we say thank you to everyone we met on the ship and in Mexico.  You made our trip very enjoyable, and for me a birthday that I will never forget!


  1. Very good Gerald, I have our Grandmother Gaxiola's other side ( The Salazar's, Molino's) also.

    1. Very interesting. I am a member of Los Californianos I'll check it out