Life Story of
Jose Jesus Montes and Romanita Madrid

Jose Jesus Montes and Romanita Madrid


Data for my Grandparent’s Biography was obtained from San Elizario Church Records, University of Texas at El Paso Historical Archives, United States Census Records, Family Records and interviews with family, friends, and citizens from San Elizario, Texas. Additional information came from my own recollection and from numerous conversations with my father, Conrado Virgilio Montes. Most of the personal details came from my Mom, Rosa Gallardo Montes. Recently, I spent countless hours talking about my Grandparents with my Mom during her last days with us. She passed away December 29, 2002 and is now in Heaven with God and all His Angels. She has also joined my father, my brothers Mike and Nachito and all our family in Heaven. My Mom was very close to my Grandparents and her love, enthusiasm and involvement with them has proven to be significant and valuable in the completion of my Grandparents eminent life story.

Jose Jesus Montes was born September 6, 1888 in San Elizario, Texas. His father, Agapito De Jesus Montes (Papa Jesus) was born in 1851 and his mother Maria Maxima Garcia (Mama Maxima) was born in 1850. Papa Jesus had been a Texas Ranger serving along with his brother Jesus Antonio Severo under their father, Captain Telesforo Montes. Jose Jesus was the grandson of Telesforo Montes, born in 1820 and Quirina Alderete, born in 1818. He was also the grandson of Captain Gregorio Nacianceno Garcia, born in 1814 and Maria De Los Santos Alvillar, born in 1820. They were all born in San Elizario, Texas. Both Telesforo and Gregorio had served as Texas Rangers, County Judges and Mayors of San Elizario. Gregorio Nacianceno Garcia constructed Los Portales, located in the town square next to the San Elizario Mission, in the 1850’s and lived there with his family. He donated Los Portales to the town of San Elizario for use as a school in 1870. The first teacher at this school, Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo, later became Governor of New Mexico in 1919 and a United States Senator in 1928. Octaviano married Maria Montes Garcia who was a first cousin of Jose Jesus and granddaughter of Telesforo Montes. Los Portales now serves as a Museum and Information Center operated by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society.

Jose Jesus Montes had the following brothers and sisters, all born in San Elizario: Antonio, born in 1872, Josefa II, born in 1874, Francisca II, born in 1876, Ignacia, born in 1878, Telesforo II, born in 1880, and Adelaida, born in 1882. His mother Maxima died when Jose Jesus was 12 years old and his father married Carolina Aranda Alarcon a few years later. Carolina, born in San Elizario in 1870, was a widow and had two sons and two daughters. Papa Jesus and Carolina then had two additional children. They were Josefina, born in 1905 and Benjamin, born in 1906. Jose Jesus’ sister, Francisca II lovingly accepted the responsibility of raising her youngest brother, after their mother passed away. Afterward, Francisca went to the convent and became a nun but returned to San Elizario years later to care for her ailing father, Papa Jesus, until he died in 1941. Francisca continued living alone in her home that was located one block from the San Elizario Mission. She was known by everyone in the community as “Tia Kika.” Tia Kika was very popular with all the children and young people of San Elizario. Jose Jesus was very close to his sister Kika and loved her like a mom. He remained devoted to her all his life.

Jose Jesus Montes’ sister Josefa II married Joaquin Salazar who was born in 1871 in San Elizario, Texas. Jose Jesus Montes also had two sisters that married two brothers. Ignacia and Adelaida Montes married Jose and Lorenzo Madrid. Ignacia married Jose Madrid who was born in 1885. They were married February 05, 1905 in San Elizario, Texas. Adelaida Montes married Lorenzo Cazares Madrid who was born in 1880. They were married February 10, 1902 in San Elizario, Texas. His brother Telesforo Montes II married Cesarea Salazar who was born in 1879. Amelia, the daughter of Telesforo Montes II wrote the book, “The Bells Of San Eli.”

Jose Jesus Montes attended school in San Elizario. He was fluent in English and Spanish at a very young age. He went as far as he could in the San Elizario School and independently, continued his studies in law through La Salle University Correspondence School. During this time, he also taught school in San Elizario. Next, he served as Justice of the Peace for El Paso County in San Elizario. During his early career, he also worked in Real Estate and served as the United States Postmaster of San Elizario.  Jose Jesus became well known in San Elizario and was greatly admired by everyone in the community. In San Elizario he was addressed as “Don Jose,” which is a sign of respect. Jose Jesus was appointed to take the United States Census of 1920 and successfully executed his obligation as Census Enumerator. I recently had the opportunity to review the original census records and was very impressed with my grandfather’s penmanship, his attention to detail and how well organized the records were taken and documented.

Note: To view the original first page of the census documents, click on: 1920 Census(381K)
Notice my grandfather's signature on top right, Enumerator, J.J. Montes. Also note that he started the census with his family.

Romanita Madrid was born February 28, 1895 in San Elizario, Texas. Her parents were Manuel Madrid, born in 1868, and Eloisa Aguirre, born in 1875. Her paternal grandparents were Luis Madrid, born in 1840, and Manuela Madrid, born in 1841. Romanita had one sister, Maria, born in 1898. She also had two brothers, Eduardo and Carlos, who died as children. Her sister Maria married Adolfo Pedregon who was born in 1897 in San Elizario, Texas. Maria and Adolfo lived in San Elizario many years and later settled in Ysleta, Texas.

Romanita’s parents, Manuel and Eloisa Aguirre Madrid, were from prominent pioneer families in San Elizario. They were admired and well liked by the people in the community of San Elizario. Manuel and Eloisa owned the general store located a couple of blocks from the San Elizario Mission. Their store carried groceries, clothing, provisions, farm and ranch equipment and other essential requirements for the local farmers, ranchers and families of San Elizario and nearby towns. This was the largest store between San Elizario and El Paso at the turn of the century. As a young lady Romanita and her sister Maria enjoyed helping in the store. Folks met at the store to buy their provisions, exchange recipes, discuss politics and visit with one another. It was a popular place where people enjoyed getting together and conversing about church and family issues. Romanita was also very active in church activities and enjoyed playing the piano in her home. Her parents and sister attended services at the San Elizario Mission on a regular basis. Romanita’s mom, a devout Catholic, donated the two angels in the San Elizario Mission. Everyone knew Romanita’s mom as “Mama Locha.”

Romanita(62K) was a beautiful young woman. She had classic European aquiline features. Her eyes were blue but sometimes looked green, depending on what she was wearing. She was of fair complexion and was quite charming. Romanita was also very elegant and rather sophisticated. Everyone loved Romanita. Jose Jesus Montes began courting Romanita prior to their marriage in 1910. Jose Jesus, always in a crisp white shirt, tie, suit and hat, was tall, dark, handsome and distinguished looking. During this time, Jose Jesus would often serenade Romanita with Flamenco music influenced from his Spanish heritage. He sang to her and harmonized with a guitar. On Sunday afternoons Jose and Romanita would sit, under proper chaperon, and listen to the band that played in the gazebo on the town square in front of the San Elizario Mission. During fashionable occasions, they would waltz to the Blue Danube and other classical music. It was during this time that Don Jose asked Manuel Madrid for Romanita’s hand in marriage.

Jose Jesus Montes and Romanita Madrid were married in the San Elizario Mission, October 4, 1910. Don Jose’s uncle, Gregorio Nacianceno Garcia II and his cousin, Elceario Martin Montes served as ushers. The bridesmaids were Francisca Garcia Alarcon and Angela Montes, sister of Elceario. Telesforo’s son, Jesus Antonio Severo Montes, born in 1854 was the father of Angela, born in 1886 and Elceario who was born in 1890. Angela’s and Elceario’s mom was Delfina Alarcon who was born in 1860. Gregorio Nacianceno Garcia II, born in 1856 was the son of Captain Gregorio Nacianceno Garcia. Gregorio II and Romana were the parents of Francisca Garcia Alarcon who was born in 1876. Francisca was married to Lorenzo Alarcon, Delfina’s brother. They were all born in San Elizario, Texas.

Note: Regarding wedding picture, standing from left to right are: Elceario Martin Montes, Gregorio Nacianceno Garcia II, Jose Jesus Montes, Romanita Madrid, Francisca Garcia Alarcon and Angela Montes.

Upon their return from their honeymoon, Jose and Romanita went to live in a bungalow, which was located on Main Street, a few blocks from the San Elizario Mission. Romanita often referred to the bungalow as “The Honeymoon Bungalow.” Jose and Romanita besides being romantics were soul mates. They loved each other very much and were devoted to each other. Jose and Romanita lived happily in their bungalow until Don Jose finished building their new home in 1916.

Jose and Romanita’s new home was located on Clint San Elizario County Road not far from the San Elizario Mission. It was charming, picturesque and spacious. The home was situated in the middle of a large field and was set back from the county road. Don Jose also built a smaller house on the property for the farm hands and domestic helpers. Here in their new home Jose and Romanita began raising their children. They also farmed some of the land and my father told me that he and his brothers had horses that they rode daily to the Rio Grande. Fresh milk came from their cows and daily eggs from their chickens.

The Montes family attended Mass every Sunday at the San Elizario Mission, which was within walking distance from their home. Jose and Romanita’s sons, Jose Jesus II, Conrado Virgilio and Gustavo Manuel were alter boys and they served Mass at the San Elizario Mission. After Mass, they would walk to Romanita’s parents home that was located behind the store. Jose, Romanita and their children would enjoy breakfast and visiting with the grandparents. Papa Jesus and his wife Carolina would join them. My father and his brothers would go into the store where Mama Locha would tell them that they could pick whatever treat or candy they wanted. The Montes family enjoyed spending their Sunday mornings around the San Elizario Mission where other friends and family did the same. As a pastime, Don Jose enjoyed playing Rebote (Handball) at a court located on Socorro Road, not far from the Mission. The court had a concrete wall about 25 feet high and I believe is still standing today.

Jose and Romanita enjoyed entertaining in their home. They often had several people over for various festivities. Among the family and friends that they invited and enjoyed socializing with were: Lorenzo and Adelaida Madrid, Maria and Adolfo Pedregon, Josefa and Joaquin Salazar, Ignacia and Jose Madrid, Telesforo and Cesarea Salazar Montes, Elceario Martin and Francisca Rey Montes, Ignacio and Francisca Loya Ponce, and Francisco and Anita Grijalva. On special occasions, family and friends would often talk Don Jose into playing a few songs on his guitar. Romanita would sometimes accompany her husband on the piano. Everyone loved these gatherings and quite often would talk about them for days after. Jose and Romanita had a passion for living and they loved the laughter and joy brought by their family, friends, and neighbors.

From 1916 to the late 1920’s, while living in his home on Clint San Elizario Road, Don Jose had the opportunity to assist many people, from San Elizario and the surrounding towns, concerning family issues. Friends, relatives and strangers came to him for advice and clarifications regarding legal matters. On Sunday afternoons, people with serious disputes would also call on Don Jose at his home. They would sit in the parlor and wait for Don Jose to summon them to his living room. Once everyone was situated, they would present their sides of the argument to Don Jose. After listening to each side, Don Jose would render a decision, which was accepted without question. Don Jose had a reputation of being a fair and just man. This was the main reason why people came to him. Besides being respected, Don Jose was also well loved and admired by everyone who came to know him.

Jose and Romanita’s children were the following: Aurora, born in 1913, Jose Jesus II, born in 1915, Conrado Virgilio, born in 1917, Gustavo Manuel (Manolo), born in 1919, Romelia, born in 1920, Luis, born in 1921, Maximo, born in 1923, Francisco (Frank), born in 1925, Carlos, born in 1928; Oscar, born in 1930, Antonio (Tony), born in 1932 and Maria Teresa, born in 1934. Most of their children were born in San Elizario, Texas and the rest were born in El Paso, Texas. Conrado, Luis, Frank and Tony all served courageously in the United States Armed Forces during World War II and the Korean Conflict. They were decorated for their valiant efforts. Romanita named her sons after her uncles, Conrado Madrid and Luis Madrid. She also named her sons after her father, Manuel Madrid and her husband’s brother, Antonio Montes.

Shortly after the death of Romanita’s mother, Eloisa Aguirre Madrid in 1926, Don Jose and Romanita moved to El Paso, Texas which is located about 30 miles Northwest from San Elizario. Romanita had been very close to her mother and her untimely death was intolerable. She was heart broken and immensely despondent. Don Jose in an effort to help his wife, whom he loved with all his heart, suggested moving to El Paso with hope of easing some of her great sorrow. Don Jose had already been working in El Paso and commuting from San Elizario for some time now. Romanita prayed for guidance and in the end felt that the decision to move was a sound choice. Don Jose was glad that his wife Romanita agreed with his judgment and so they moved to El Paso.

Don Jose worked at the El Paso County Clerk’s Office. During his career with El Paso County, he also held the position of Deputy Tax Assessor and Collector. He worked in this post for 37 years along with Hynie Roach, R.D. Deeson, and Carlos Terrazas. During this time, most everyone in El Paso knew him as “JJ.”

Jose Jesus and Romanita were devout Catholics. They attended church regularly and both friends and family members always sought both Romanita and Don Jose out as Godparents. They baptized several of their grandchildren including my brother Richard Montes and sister Rose Diane Montes Tate. Frank Montes, their son, baptized and confirmed my brother Agustin Montes. Their youngest son Tony Montes, confirmed my brother Mike Montes. I am also proud to say that my grandfather was also my Godfather because he confirmed me. Additionally, Ray Caballero’s grandparents, Manuel Caballero Almanza and Elena Loya Hernandez, were compadres of Jose Jesus and Romanita Montes. Ray and I attended Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas and have been friends since. My father and Ray's father were also boyhood friends. Other compadres of Jose and Romanita were Francisco and Anita Grijalva, Maria and Adolfo Pedregon, and Josefa and Joaquin Salazar, all of San Elizario.

Note: Compadres is the Spanish word for the relationship between the Godparents and the parents of the child being baptized or confirmed.

Jose Jesus Montes was a member of the Knights of Columbus and served as their speaker at many significant events. He was also a member of La Union Catolica de San Jose. In addition, he successfully managed his own real estate business. Furthermore, he provided accounting services to various companies in the El Paso and lower valley areas. He was a registered Democrat and was quite active in political and community affairs in El Paso, Texas. Jose and Romanita always found time to participate with their grandchildren in school activities and enjoyed taking part in all family celebrations.

When I was a little boy, my grandparents, Jose Jesus and Romanita Montes told my brother Mike and myself to call them Papa Jose and Nana. My grandmother did not like being called abuela (Grandmother in Spanish) and for this reason she decided to be addressed as Nana. Concurrently, she felt that Don Jose did not want to be called abuelo so she instructed us to call our grandfather, Papa Jose. To this day, family and friends now know them as Papa Jose and Nana.

Nana also had a sense of humor and did have some vanity. Although, she was born on February 28, she liked to tell people that she was a leap year baby, thus celebrating her birthday once every four years and as a result not aging as fast as the rest of the world. My grandparent’s families, friends and everyone who knew them, sincerely loved them. They lived a full and wonderful life and had close to forty grandchildren. They also had several great grandchildren. Papa Jose and Nana were very giving and contributed to their church, charitable organizations and anyone that was in need of a helping hand. Like my mother, my grandmother was very generous, compassionate and a caring person. Papa Jose and Nana were kindhearted, always accepted everyone with open arms and will live and remain in our hearts forever.

The families that came from San Elizario were admirable and exceptional. They were part of a new and young America with hopes and dreams of a better world. These families had a passion for life and have now become part of the glorious history that has made our country proud and promising. It is my wish that we continue to live in this great tradition with the same values and pass on this rich heritage and history of our ancestors to our families. Our family holds a unique and distinguished place in history that gives us pride to be Americans. “Honor, Respect and Tradition,” are principles that my father believed in and this is what the Montes Family will continue to strive for.


Conrado Montes
Feburary 28, 2003