Monday, June 1, 2015

The Journey

Today kicks off another Immigrant Heritage Month. As I explore my own Latino roots through my Granny's side of the family, I am amazed at how far the family has come.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Mexico City, 2009.

I have recently learned my 3rd-great-grandfather Vicente Campuzano was a shoemaker in the small Sonoran town of Altar in 1860. His son, also named Vicente Campuzano, became a judge and justice of the peace in Altar before making his own journey to America around 1913. Vicente became part of the Liga Protectora Latina, a group that supported labor and civil rights for Mexican immigrants in Arizona. Vicente appears in a 1916 photo with leaders of the Liga Protectora Latina. It is fascinating to have a connection to the early days of the Latino civil rights movement.
Source:, Coconino Sun, 29 Mar 1918

Vicente's son, my great-grandfather, Plutarco Vasquez Campuzano, came to America as a 14 year old kid, who crossed the Sonoran desert on foot to come to Tucson. Plutarco became a painter, and lived to be 96 years old. He was a resident alien, but as far as I can tell never became a US citizen.

Plutarco and my great-grandmother Manuela Portillo had nine children, who were all first generation Americans. They settled in Arizona, California and Indiana, making their own families and contributing to the greater history of this country. Their children became soldiers, policemen, artists, gardeners, fathers and mothers.

Plutarco's granddaughter, my mother, is now a lawyer. She went back to law school after my sister and I were in high school, attending classes at night at Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. After many years of working in large firms, she became a partner in a law firm in Indianapolis. She is still working for them today from Northern Virginia, handling cases in environmental and insurance law. While this may have been beyond the dreams of my immigrant great-grandparents, her achievement tracks well with the past of Vicente, the judge, and respected supporter of immigrant rights.

I am proud of this heritage, and that I am contributing to the legacy today.

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