Ramona Salazar was born in the small village of Tubac, Arizona on August 23, 1898. Ramona’s parents were Yaqui Indians from Northern Mexico. Tubac is situated about 20 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border but at this time Arizona was still a territory of the United States.
Ramona’s father Santiago worked in the silver mines that surrounded the village. Her mother Ramona Tadeo took care of the home and the raising of the children. When Ramona was just 4 years old her mother died, so she went to live with her Grandmother. It is said that Ramona enjoyed living and growing up in this area as there were plenty of wide-open places with rolling hills covered with desert shrubs and tall Junipers trees that grew by the banks of the Santa Cruz River that flowed past the village. The Coronado National Forest surrounds Tubac on 3 sides with magnificent views of the mountains.
In the summer of 1912 at the age of 20, Francisco Acuna came to Tubac to find work. There he met and fell in love with Ramona. They decided to get married, but both families were against it. They said Ramona, who had just turned 14 three months earlier, was too young to get married. Not listening to their relatives Francisco and Ramona ran away to Mesa, Arizona, and got married on November 13, 1912. When the family found out they all agreed that there was no way this marriage would last.
The young couple moved back to Tubac and began raising a family. They had 4 boys and 4 girls. One of the girls, Ramona Jr, died when she was 1 month old. Francisco took work as a laborer on farms and he and their growing family began to move from farm to farm working and living in the labor camps. After many years Francisco saved enough money to buy a large piece of land with a house on it in Randolph Arizona. He paid a total of $600 for it all. The home never had running water but that did not stop Ramona from having a large garden, growing food for her family to eat. She also grew some of the most beautiful roses in the county. Their small house was always open to any visitor and every morning family and friends would stop by for coffee and breakfast.
After a few years, Francisco built a larger home on the property. This one also did not have running water; it had dirt floors covered with rugs and a large outdoor stone oven. Ramona was happy and content with her life, regardless of the hardships. Those who knew her said she never lost that childlike wonder of the world and youthful fun.
In 1943, Ramona’s oldest son Francisco “Pancho” Acuna was drafted into the army. Ramona was so afraid that her son would not return home to her. Just before he left for Europe Ramona went to her church and made a deal with God. She told him that if He would watch over Pancho that she would cover her hair with a scarf and not take it off until her son returned home safely. Ramona’s hair was a source of pride for her, it was long and thick and it was the envy of others. She then took out a scarf, braided her long hair, pinning it up on top of her head, and covered it with the scarf. She stayed true to her vow the entire time her son was gone. She said the scarf was a daily reminder to pray for her son and to believe that God would keep him safe. At the end of the war, Pancho did indeed return home safely. By this time Ramona was so grateful that she continued to wear a scarf as a reminder of how God took care of her son, wearing a scarf every day until her death almost 30 years later.
On November 13, 1973, Ramona and Francisco’s large family gave them a dinner for their 61st Wedding Anniversary. They attended a church service before the dinner and during the ceremony, Francisco fainted. When he came to he said, “This will be our last year together.” 3 months later on February 28, 1974, Francisco died. 10 months later on December 25, 1974, Ramona joined her beloved Francisco. They were married for over 61 years, proving all the people who said these two young people would not last as being wrong.
Ramona Salazar Acuna is my husband’s maternal Great Grandmother.
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