My Grandfather – Juan Cortes

 Here is a picture of my grandfather on the right, third row

   I never knew my grandfather. My only information about him came from talks with my grandmother, Romana and my cousins from Monterey, Mexico. I also did some research about the orchestras at that time. Here is what I found.

  Juan Cortes was born in Real Catorce, San Luis Potosi in 1882. This was a typical mining town. His parents and brother and sisters were all miners. He had four brothers and two sisters. He would work as a miner until he was 25 years old. Then he married Romana Lopes.

  Romana was then about 15 years old and Juan was a drinking man who still had a lot of life in him and was not quite ready to settle down. However, the Cueva family, who were distant aunt and uncle to Juan saw fit to marry her to Juan. In order to do so they lied about her age.

  At that time they were living in Salinas Victoria, Monterey. Juan had continued to enjoy his way of living but was still married. While he was in Monterey, he found work with the railroad company named El Camino Real.

   Six or eight years later they decided to cross over into the US by way of Piedras Negras, Mexico. This was during the Mexican Revolution and just prior to World War I.

  During their stay at Piedras Negras, Mexico, they had a son and named him Eugenio. They already had two other sons previously and named Carlos and Alejandro.

  Upon arriving in San Antonio Juan went to work with the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad and took his family along with him. They would live in freight trains and wherever the job took, him the family went too. This is one of the reasons why some of the family like Carmen was born in Milan, Texas and the rest in other cities or states.

  Juan was not rich as most people at that time were barely making it with what they had. He had something else going for him that made him very popular. That was his accomplishment as a musician. He had mastered the mandolin and bass and played with a group as a way of earning more money. This he did while working as a railroad lineman.

  When the 1929 Depression hit, he was forced to work as a musician full time as part of the Work Project Administration that President Franklin Roosevelt set up in 1932. He worked in this capacity until 1936 when his health forced him to give up his position in the orchestra. His son, Carlos, took up that position himself being an accomplished guitar player.

  On August 16, 1936, Juan died as a result of an asthma attack. He was laid on his bed at the last house he lived in at 910 S. Laredo St. The musician that he played with took up a collection to pay for the funeral. It wasn’t a fancy funeral but it was rich with friends. The orchestra marching behind the funeral procession playing the funeral song. They played again at the cemetery where he was laid to rest. he was buried at San Fernando Cemetery #2.

One thought on “My Grandfather – Juan Cortes

  1. Reading stories like this is when I really appreciate everything we are able to enjoy in the U.S. It is because of the hardship and sacrifices that were made by our ancestors that allows us to have opportunities they never could have imagined. Thanks Dad, for your dedication in keeping these memories alive. ~ Martin

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