Because the first children of my great-grandparents José María Alvarado and Jesús García de Alvarado were born in Ensenada, Baja California, and José María had indicated on his petition for naturalization that he emigrated to Los Angeles in 1899, I had always assumed that they were married in Ensenada.

Marriage Certificate, Jose María Alvarado and Jesus Garcia, 1895

Marriage Certificate, Jose María Alvarado and Jesus Garcia, 1895

In a comment to a previous post, my cousin David Hernández told me they were married in San Diego. This was a new twist. So I requested a marriage certificate from the San Diego County Clerk. And what do you know, in today’s mail I received it. José María and Jesús were married 10 September 1895 in San Diego. (By the way, I am so glad the county clerk obliterates information with a big stamp: “Informational: not a valid document to establish identity.” I’d hate for someone to impersonate my 139-year-old great-grandmother.)

Rosario (Moraila) García (1854-1924)

Rosario (Moraila) García (1854-1924)

At the time, I know there was a constant stream of everyday travel between San Diego and Ensenada; people would travel between the two port cities practically as day trips for shopping and business—and apparently marriages. Why my great-grandparents decided to get married in San Diego is a mystery. Was it a romantic weekend? Did they have family there? Was it a way for my great-grandmother to reiterate her claim to U.S. citizenship because, as the story goes, her mother María del Rosario Moraila de García (b. abt. 1854 in Culiacán, Sinaloa, d. 17 Nov 1924 in Los Angeles) had given birth to her on the muddy north bank of the Rio Grande on her way to have her child born in San Diego?

The reasons may elude us. What we do know is that four years later they had settled in Los Angeles. Back then, borders were porous; they did not include walls and patrols, and immigration to the United States did not require paying tens of thousands of dollars and waiting for years. At the time they probably filled out a short form and were allowed in as long as they did not appear to have cholera or smallpox.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Where, and when, and how did we lose this vision?

Location of Baja California in modern México

Location of Baja California in modern México

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