Friday, March 19, 2010

Meet Tina Micheal Ruse, Author of "Campo Santo - Holy Ground"

The fifty fourth in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


I have loved cemeteries even as a child. I played in one as a pre-teen. I love the peace, art and history they represent. When I began researching my fathers Spanish-Mexican, Californiano roots, I discovered how shabbily the graves and cemeteries of California’s first European settlers have been treated. A big chunk of California’s history is missing, destroyed and misrepresented. I really believe that how a society honors its dead and its past reflects what it has learned and where we are going as a people.

This photo is of a unreadable marker in the San Juan Bautista Cemetery in San Benito County, California. This cemetery was dedicated in the early 1840's as "the Mission cemetery could hold no more." There are a number of these old wooden markers that survive and many other old graves. It is here that my great great grandmother Maria Teodora Garcia would have attended her mothers funeral when she was 13 years old.I believe her father is buried here as well,he died when she was 10, murdered, "three leagues from the Mission." He was the son of the first non-Indian child born west of the Mississippi. Behind and below this hill the cemetery is on, runs the San Andres Fault. In 1809 the first San Juan Mission and all buildings for miles around were leveled when there were earthquakes for 9 days. These and others of my family rest here. I like to look at this marker and think it might belong to one of them.

In 1885 in order to build the new Holy Cross church in Santa Cruz the cemetery for Mission Santa Cruz was dug up and 6 wagon loads of remains were reburied in a unmarked mass grave at what today is Old Holy Cross Cemetery.Some of the markers were moved and some left behind,my photo taken behind the church shows broken headstones that were left.

I am an 8th generation native of California. I have a lifelong interest in old photos, family history and stories, cemeteries with a focus on my early California Spanish/Mexican ancestors. I hope my blog can help me organize research, help others in their searches and memorialize those who are a forgotten chapter in California's history.

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