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Alberto Celaya: A Family Memory

From: Journal of the Southwest
Volume 49, Number 3, Autumn 2007
pp. 419-432 | 10.1353/jsw.2007.0026

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Alberto Celaya: A Family Memory Alberto Bravo Celaya with Patricia Bravo Tanori When Carl Lumholtz hired Alberto Celaya to accompany him on his Gran Desierto expedition in 1909, Celaya was twenty-four years old, and married with three children. Celaya became an influential, respected leader in his town, a friend of governors and presidents, and mentor to field scientists who wanted to learn more about the Pinacate. He was also our grandfather. Here we share some of our memories of him. At the Celaya home in Sonoyta, Sonora, Mr. Julian Hayden, Mr. Ronald Ives, Mr. Paul Ezell, and others would sit outside on the patio and ask my grandfather all kinds of questions about the Pinacate region. They called him “Don Alberto,” a sign of respect and admiration. I remember that when my grandfather’s friends would visit our home, my Aunt Aurora called them los científicos, the scientists. They continued to stop by even after my grandfather died. One of the last of many letters that Mr. Julian Hayden left included a copy of Ronald Ives’ book José Velásquez with this beautiful note: Dear Aurora and all the family, I send herewith Ronald Ives’ book just published, dedicated to Don Alberto, Ygnacio Quiroz and Father Oblasser. I wish Ronald had lived to present this to you and your family himself, but he didn’t, so I do. Alberto Jr. called a while back to tell me of Eddie’s death. I’m sorry he’s gone, but with cancer, it’s God’s mercy. He leaves good memories, and I wish I knew him. On the other hand, I hear Patricia will make Lola a grandmother again, and you a great-aunt. That’s the way the smart comes down, isn’t it? And Alberto’s father and Patricia’s father would be so proud of the first son of the new one to come. Here no changes especially. I had a lens implant in one eye, which I’ve been blind in for a long time. It is doing well, though I won’t be able to be in Pinacate for several months yet. I stopped by and left notes, as you know, but have missed you, to my disappointment. I hope you are well and cheerful and busy, and I know Lola and Journal of the Southwest 49, 3 (Autumn 2007) : 419–432 420  ✜  Journal of the Southwest Patricia are, Jesus and Alberto Jr. If and when I come to Sonoyta again, I’ll stop by to visit with you. My love to all, my long-time friends. Julian. June 20, 1984. Oh, that is so nice. That was a famous, wonderful patio, with pomegranate trees and all kinds of shady trees and interesting plants. I grew up in Sonoyta eating Alberto Celaya, Sonoyta, 1926. (Photo by Ronald Ives, Ronald L. Ives Collection, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, photo no. 22072) Alberto Celaya: A Family Memory  ✜  421 granadas, pomegranates—my face would get all stained, and my clothes. My mother played the piano beautifully. My grandfather smoked a cigar, I remember that—cigars from Dr. Ives and Mr. Hayden. He didn’t drink alcohol, my grandfather. Later in his years Don Alberto remained a source of information to all these young explorers who passed through. Because he had explored it himself, rounded up cattle there, and talked with friends and family who went there, he always was the source of information for anyone who had an interest in the Pinacate region. He never held any official position over the Pinacate, but if anyone needed information regarding the region, they would seek him out. Who knows how many Mexican scientists visited with him to pick his brain. My mom used to call them “amigos en México,” “México” meaning Mexico City. I remember that Mr. Ives would catch a bus to Ajo, and from Ajo he would hitchhike to Sonoyta with his backpack. From Sonoyta he would just take off on that road, walking to the Pinacate. I saw Mr. Ives do that many times—always smoking. Also for years I remember Mr. Julian Hayden with the big, big truck, like an army truck—a blue...

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