Each year, the Denver Public Library receives donations that become part of its Western History and Genealogy collection. In 2008, José Aguayo donated his family papers, aptly named the Aguayo Family Papers (C MSS WH2035), which are organized into three series:
- Museo de las Américas
- personal papers of José Aguayo
- personal papers of Marciano Aguayo, his father
Marciano Aguayo was born circa 1903 in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Around 1917, he followed his older brother Ciriaco to the U.S. and settled in Sedgwick, Colorado, by 1925. He married Jovita Ortega of Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1929, and together they had six children. His younger sister, Daria, remained in Aguascalientes.
In the collection, Marciano’s legacy is highlighted by the correspondence he left behind addressing both professional and personal matters. While few of Marciano’s outgoing letters survive, the collection contains dozens of letters addressed to him from 1925 to 1966.
The bulk of letters were received from the Consulate of Mexico in Denver. Written in Spanish between 1925 and 1944, they document the hard life that Marciano, his family, and fellow Mexicans experienced in rural northeastern Colorado. The letters addressed unfair labor practices, lost wages, mistreatment, and discrimination he and his fellow Mexican braceros encountered while working for The Great Western Sugar Company (C MSS WH1227) and the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Letters from the Railroad Retirement Board and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees deal with transfers, force reductions, wage issues, displacement from seniority lists, and being called back to work.
Marciano received a letter of congratulations and a $50 savings bond from a Union Pacific vice president when he observed a hotbox on a train and helped stop it. A hotbox is when a railroad car’s axle bearing overheats by friction. The town newspaper also featured a story about his actions. Every few years Marciano also registered for a matrícula consular, or Mexican consulate ID, for himself and his family through the mail.
At a time when illiteracy was high among migrant workers, Marciano wrote letters on behalf of fellow Mexicans. He advocated for better wages and informed the consulate of missing persons, deaths, and asked about repatriation rights to Mexico. His inquiries were timely and addressed real-life concerns in 1920s and 1930s U.S. immigration laws, the risk of deportation, and if foreign nationals could be drafted into World War II military service.
A fair amount of Marciano’s Spanish correspondence was with friends and family in Mexico and the U.S. He corresponded with Daria in Aguascalientes and Ciriaco who went missing for a time, and was later discovered to be living in California. He regularly bought books, newspapers, magazines, and planners from Mexico and became pen pals with the woman who processed his orders by mail. Some of his English correspondence includes nasty letters from a doctor collecting unpaid medical bills, a wristwatch purchase, a Singer sewing machine on a payment plan, and letters from a son in prison.
A few poems Marciano penned also survive, mostly from a Mexican civic celebration and parade in Sedgwick he and his brother organized in 1929. The civic celebrations were funded by dances held throughout the year as fundraisers. The dances were a way for Mexicans to meet one another in northeastern Colorado, and Marciano met his future wife Jovita at one such dance.
In 1934, Marciano was tasked with forming a chapter of the Comisión Honorífica Mexicana, or Honorary Mexican Commission, in Sedgwick. This was a type of honorary consulate and mutual aid society officially sponsored by the Consulate of Mexico in Denver and Mexican federal government. Funds raised benefited members by defraying funeral costs, hospital bills, repatriations, and other expenses in a time and place where few other support systems existed for Mexicans.
In addition to letters, the collection offers additional artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, and primary sources of interest to researchers, genealogists, students, and scholars. More information on the collection is available in the bilingual finding aid (currently in process). Access to the Aguayo Family Papers is open to anybody who would like to consult the collection. No appointment is necessary, however, researchers should note that documents are in both English and Spanish.