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operated a public boys' school in connection with their private
college. Inasmuch as the Brothers of the Christian Schools
already had a college at Santa Fe, and the Neapolitan Jesuits
had opened the College of the Sacred Heart (later Regis) in
Colorado, Las Vegas College was closed in 1888 without
granting any degrees during its ten-year existence.

Due to the advent of the railroad, Las Vegas grew consid-
erably in population, and in 1884 the Jesuits were authorized
to start a parish there for the accommodation of the new-
comers. The existence of this Jesuit church, together with the
college chapel, became an increasingly sore point for the local
secular clergy. They complained that the Jesuits were usurp-
ing their parochial prerogatives, and alleged that the people
would often attend and support the Jesuit services to the
exclusion of their rightful pastors. The controversy, in which
the archbishop sided with the secular clergy, twice required
the intervention of Rome. Ultimately, in 1917, the Revista,
Catolica (which had ceased its political activities and become
a strictly devotional periodical) was moved to El Paso, and
the Las Vegas house was closed. This left Albuquerque as the
only remnant of Jesuit activity in New Mexico.

The Neapolitan Jesuits' operations in Albuquerque re-
flected a steady growth from 1875 on. Although several at-
tempts at opening a novitiate for prospective priests failed,
the public school and the wine press prospered. The priests
at San Felipe Church took an active part in civic affairs, but
welcomed the increased population brought by the railroad
with mixed emotions. In 1883 Immaculate Conception Church
was built in "New Town" with the aid of many recently-ar-
rived Italians. Fathers Carlo Ferrari, Francesco Fede, and
Alfonso Mandalari, all members of the Society of Jesus, fig-
ured prominently in its history. Father Mandalari, who
served the church until 1924, had been a member of the Las
Vegas College staff, and was one of the last of the Neapolitan
band in New Mexico. He thus represents the end of an era.

The other Jesuit venture in "New" Albuquerque began in
1900, when Father Alessandro Leone built Sacred Heart
Church to serve the Spanish-speaking residents of that area,



104 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

and his work was later taken over by the Rev. Pasquale
Tomassini, who retired in 1918. In 1919 the New Mexico-
Colorado Mission of the Neapolitan Province was disbanded
and its holdings divided between two American provinces.
Some of the priests returned to Europe, as they had been
urged to do, but many had become American citizens or had
been in this country so long that they had no wish to return
to Italy or any other part of war-torn Europe. San Felipe
continued under the leadership of several Italians who orig-
inally had belonged to the Neapolitan Province. These were
Fathers Salvatore Giglio (1926-1928), and Robert M. Liber-
tini (1933-1937 and 1947-1952). Father Libertini, whose ad-
ministrations bring the history of the Italian Jesuits in New
Mexico almost up to the present day, is still active at Sacred
Heart Church, El Paso.

Probably the most colorful of all the non-Jesuits, and
one whose history has never been adequately told, was the
hermit-monk, Giovanni Maria d'Agostino. Born in Novara in
1801, he wandered around Europe and South America, sleep-
ing in caves and travelling afoot and by canoe. He lived in a
volcano in Mexico, tramped through the Canadian woods, and
came to New Mexico in 1863. For three years he lived near
the summit of El Tecolote, a mountain about twelve miles
from Las Vegas, ministering to the local ranchers and In-
dians, in 1867 he moved to the Sacramento Mountains of
southern New Mexico where, two years later, he was killed,
presumably by Apaches. A number of legends grew up around
the "Cimarron Hermit," based at least in part on fact. Some
of them are associated with El Tecolote, others with Hermit's
Peak north of Las Vegas, where it is claimed he also lived. He
reportedly erected a number of crosses on the mountainside,
and would affix a light to each one each night to assure the
people below that he was safe. He found a spring in the here-
tofore barren Tecolote, and shared his cornmeal and water
with his pet cat, "Capitan."

One of the Sisters of Charity in New Mexico, Sister
Blandina Segale, was brought to this country as a small child
from her native Italy. A teacher, school builder, and friend of



THE ITALIANS IN NEW MEXICO 105

many prominent New Mexicans in the 1880's, her experiences
are recounted in her book, At the End of the Santa Fe Trail.

In assessing the place of Italian churchmen in the history
of New Mexico, the emphasis must continue to lie on the ac-
tivities of the Neapolitan Jesuits. They came to the Territory
during 1 its formative period, and encountered both the tradi-
tional Hispano culture with its set of values, and that of the
incoming Americans who had a different way of life. The
Jesuits' contribution lies in their ambivalence: as well-edu-
cated Italians (all of the priests had college educations and
many had been professors) they could understand and adapt
to both cultures, thus providing a "bridge" between the two.
This is not to say that other clergy were unable to do so, but
the Jesuits' ability is demonstrated in the readiness with
which Archbishop Lamy and Bishop Macheboeuf of Denver
entrusted them with both Spanish and American parishes.

The Neapolitans were pioneers. If church statistics of
confessions, communions, baptisms, and marriages may be
trusted, they were most successful in bringing the Spanish-
speaking New Mexicans back into formal relations with the
Church. Once their work was accomplished, however, it
tended to pass into the hands of the secular clergy as the
number of these and the population increased. The Society
was habitually short of clergy, although this may have been
due in part to doubts in Naples that the Territory could finan-
cially support any more. Most of the fathers' missions were
conducted in Spanish, but they soon learned English and used
it when required.

Their influence in the social and political life of the Terri-
tory, however, was far greater than their numbers. Their
private and public grammar schools, the Revista Catolica,
Las Vegas College, and their political activities of the 1870's
and 1880's are all history. Without passing judgment on the
moral issues involved, it seems evident that they filled a need
during that stage of the Territory's development. As an or-
ganized group, they provided education when the Territorial
public school system had not yet been perfected, and by pro-
viding teachers helped that system get started. They pub-



106 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

lished a periodical which was widely read and which crys-
tallized public opinion at a time when newspapers were few.
Their press published school books when these were almost
non-existent in New Mexico. Within the framework of the
Church itself, the Jesuits were on the scene and ready to ac-
commodate the American influx, and they, more than any
others among the New Mexican clergy, were able to "hold the
line" over several decades, until American priests arrived to
take their place.

In the present, those Italians who are members of the
regular and secular Roman Catholic clergy in New Mexico
continue to demonstrate their ability to act as a "bridge"
between the two cultures. The Fathers of St. Joseph of
Murialdo teach boys of all backgrounds at Lourdes Vocational
School in Albuquerque. Priests serving in other parts of the
state have "mixed" congregations, and even the Chancellor of
the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the Very Rev. Ottavio A.
Coggiola, a native of Cuneo, is in the critical position of har-
monizing the activities of both Spanish-speaking and Eng-
lish-speaking clergy. That Italians are found in these
positions bespeaks their importance in New Mexico's history.

Although John Stambo, a young tinner from Piedmont,
lived in Albuquerque in 1860, there were no Italians other
than the Jesuits in that town until about 1880. Ferdinando
Selva, a stone cutter, who was there in that year, later ac-
quired property in Tijeras Canyon and opened a roadhouse
known as "Selva's Ranch" in the early 1890's. This enterprise
is still in existence, and is now called the "Paradise Club."
Selva's widow, Secondina, carried on his interests for many
years following his death in 1893. In 1880 also, Charles Bruno
and John Pedroncelli, whose families are still represented in
Albuquerque, were gardening on the Gutierrez Tract in Los
Poblanos following an attempt to make their fortunes in the
mines of Nevada.

The 1880's brought a number of Italians to Albuquerque,
and some of the more prominent names of that period are still
found in the city : Sanguinetti, Badaracco, Viviani, Bianchi,
Di Mauro, Giomi, Scotti, Torlina, Toti, Melini, and Bachechi.



THE ITALIANS IN NEW MEXICO 107

Many Italians of these and later years went into the saloon
business in Albuquerque's "tenderloin." As they prospered
and either built or bought their own buildings, they would
obtain additional income from rentals. Gambling rooms and
dance halls usually took up ground floor area, while upper
stories were leased to either hotels or houses of prostitution
(and sometimes it was difficult to tell which was which) . This
type of activity had little, if any, opprobrium attached to it
at the time, and few Italians had more than a landlord's inter-
est in these operations anyway. In later years the famed Joe
Barnett owned the "White Elephant," which featured gam-
bling, drinking, etc., but he easily made the transition to real
estate and theaters when his former activities were outlawed.
At his death in 1954, this second-generation Italian left an
estate valued at over two and a half million dollars.

The movement of these people into Albuquerque in the
1880's and 1890's exemplifies the effectiveness of the letter
home and word-of -mouth advertising, as carried on by those
few already here. Oreste Bachechi was probably the most ac-
tive and best known of these, and is certainly acknowledged as
the one person responsible for more Italians coming to Albu-
querque than anyone else. Bachechi, born in Bagni di Lucca,
near Florence, in 1860, came to New Mexico by way of
France, Cuba, and Mexico, and opened a small saloon in a
tent rented for that purpose. In 1889 he married Maria
Franceschi, a business- woman in her own right, and between
them they expanded their holdings as rapidly as finances
would permit. Mrs. Bachechi operated a dry goods store and
the Elms Hotel by herself, and at the same time bore Oreste
six children. Meanwhile, Bachechi transformed a partnership
with Girolamo Giomi into a corporation, the Consolidated
Liquor Company, which existed for thirty-three years and in
time extended over the entire Southwest. In 1905 Bachechi
built the Savoy Hotel, then the finest in Albuquerque, and in
1909 he added the Bachechi Block at First and Tijeras. His
interests later led him into the theater business, later merged
with that of Barnett. Bachechi was also one of the founders
of the Colombo Society, established in 1892 with sixty-two
charter members, and was its president for nineteen years ;



108 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

Mrs. Bachechi, too, maintained an interest in public and
charitable affairs.

Two other Albuquerque families date from 1899, when
Ettore Franchini and Alessandro and Amadeo Matteucci ar-
rived. Franchini was associated with Bachechi in the grocery
business, and later in a similar enterprise with his brother,
Ovidio, which still bears the family name. Ettore Franchini
served as Italian consular agent in Albuquerque, and was
made a Knight of the Crown of the King of Italy for his help
when the Italian flying boat "Santa Maria" crashed in Roose-
velt Lake, Arizona. He also acted as penitentiary commis-
sioner and as a member of the state parole board.

Alessandro Matteucci entered the grocery business in the
city, and later expanded into real estate. He and Amadeo were
later joined by a third brother, Pompilio, whose shoe repair
shop on North First Street later developed into the Paris
Shoe Stores operated by his family. A fourth brother, John,
also lives in Albuquerque.

Other Italian residents arrived during the first and second
decade of the twentieth century; among them were such
names as Domenici, Balduini, Dinelli, Bonaguidi, Pucci, Gan-
zerla, Puccini, and Schifani. While most of these people were
from Lucca, Schifani was a Sicilian. Active in politics and
public service, several of his sons are engaged in the printing
business in Santa Fe. Another son, Emmanuel, is President
of the Springer Transfer Company and was Adjutant Gen-
eral of the New Mexico National Guard.

Latecomers from Italy have been few, for the quota system
set up by the United States immigration laws of the 1920's
curtailed this flow rather sharply. Consequently, the main
additions to Albuquerque's colony have been first or second
generation Italians from other parts of the United States.
They have maintained social and cultural ties in the Colombo
Society, the Italian Women's Club, and more recently the
Italamer Civic Club, as well as through Immaculate Concep-
tion Church.

Since 1880 Albuquerque has been the center of an urban
Italian colony which not only grew with the years numerically
(over three hundred members of the first generation in



THE ITALIANS IN NEW MEXICO 109

1950) , but even more so in influence. Those who had groceries,
wine shops, and saloons, catered to citizens regardless of cul-
tural background. Almost without exception, the new arrivals
if they did not already speak it used Spanish as fluently
as their native tongue within six months to a year. They
learned English, and were often called upon to translate for
customers and friends of both cultures. While a majority of
the first generation married within their national group, a
significant number married outside of it. The following gen-
erations moved easily either way, although increasingly in
the English-speaking direction as Albuquerque filled with
people from other parts of the United States. In the city, with
both an Hispano and an American culture, the Italians have
suffered very little from social visibility, being accepted more
readily by either culture than the one culture accepted the
other.

The majority of these people came from agricultural back-
grounds in Italy, but few chose farming as a vocation in the
Albuquerque area, even after acquiring capital by working in
the Santa Fe shops or for others. Several families, such as the
Salces, Trossellos, Morettos, and Airas, however, did cultivate
acreage in the nearby community of Corrales, as did the
Ghirardis and Ghirardettis near Isleta. The Italians' affinity
for the liquor business, in all of its aspects, seems to be a local
phenomenon; through tight organization and rigid control
they have made it both respectable and profitable.

Santa Fe also acquired its Italian families after the com-
ing of the railroad. Aside from several individual workers,
the 1880 manuscript census reported the arrival of the Pala-
dino and Digneo families, stone cutters from Abruzzi. They
were brought from Woodstock, Maryland, where they had
been working on the Jesuit college, to help in the construction
of St. Francis Cathedral, and remained in Santa Fe for the
rest of their lives. Gaetano Paladino, with a partner, Michael
Berardinelli, entered the contracting business, and was re-
sponsible for the construction of many public buildings in
the Territory, such as jails, courthouses, and business blocks.
The Digneos, likewise, were engaged in this field ; Carlo Dig-
neo built Hodgin Hall, the first unit of the University of New



110 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

Mexico at Albuquerque. The Berardinelli family has been
prominent in Santa Fe's public life ; among the seven living
members of the second generation there are represented a
former county treasurer and city council president, a police
magistrate, and a postmaster. The Sebastian and Di Lorenzo
families virtually complete the roster of Santa Fe Italians,
but others were found in the nearby mining communities of
Madrid, Golden, San Pedro, and Cerrillos, when those flour-
ished in the 1890's and early 1900's. There were enough Ital-
ian coal miners at Cerrillos to warrant establishment of
Camillo Cavour Lodge, a member of the Columbian Federa-
tion, in the 1890's.

The town of Las Vegas featured a number of Italian fruit
vendors in the 1880's, and two musicians, Paolo Marcellino
and Domenico Di Boffa. Marcellino was bandmaster of the
Las Vegas Brass Band (which reportedly paraded in "ele-
gant" uniforms) , directed the band at Las Vegas College, and
was a partner with Di Boffa in a music store. In later years
Marcellino moved to Socorro where he raised imported Italian
fruit trees and engaged in the insurance business. He became
involved in some pension fraud cases, however, and after
serving a term in the penitentiary spent his last years teach-
ing music. One of the fruit sellers, Rocco Emillio, later moved
to Lincoln County, where he accumulated a saloon, a hotel, a
butcher shop, and an orchard. Some of his descendants now
live in Socorro.

The Italians were late arrivals in northern New Mexico,
despite the fact that some of the Territory's earliest mining
activity took place there. However, when the Raton Coal &
Coke Company was incorporated in 1881 and developed the
coal mines at Blossburg, Italians streamed in by the dozens.
The 1885 manuscript census indicates that they comprised
almost half of the miners, but few of them figure in the later
history of this area. Among the exceptions, however, was An-
drew Bartolino, who later established a cattle ranch near
Raton, and whose descendants still have large holdings there.
Another pioneer cattleman is Sam David, who was born in
Piedmont in 1882. He was brought to the United States as a
child, and began "punching cattle" at the age of twelve. Now



THE ITALIANS IN NEW MEXICO 111

retired, his grazing land extended over some ten thousand
acres north of the town of Folsom, in Union County.

The real development of Italian settlement here began
about 1900, when Coif ax County coal fields were opened ex-
tensively. Some abruzzesi came directly to the little mining
towns of Brilliant and Gardiner, near Raton, and began the
pattern followed elsewhere in New Mexico : working in the
mines for several years, returning to Italy, and then locating
once more in New Mexico. Still others worked in Van Houten,
where one section of this mining village was named "Cunico
Town," after that Venezian family. The Cunicos eventually
homesteaded land southeast of Raton, and contributed "Mike"
Cunico to the annals of championship bronc riders of the
Southwest. The Federici family of Cimarron had a similar
background, and is now represented by a district judge and
a prominent attorney. The coal mining towns of Dawson and
Koehler, both twentieth century developments, also had their
quota of Italians; around World War I Dawson reportedly
had one of the largest groups from the Province of Lucca to
be found west of Chicago. Not only were the Italians the most
numerous of all foreign groups there, but they held the "elite"
jobs in the mines, including those of foreman and engineer.
Most of these people moved to Raton, Trinidad, and north-
ward as mining operations declined.

While many ex-miners opened businesses in Raton and
nearby towns, probably the outstanding "success" story in
northern New Mexico is that of Joe Di Lisio. He was born
in Pacentro, Province of Aquila (central Italy) , in 1885, and
received an elementary education there. In 1904 he came to
the United States, spending two months in Hartford, Con-
necticut, before coming west. His uncle, Mike Sebastiani, had
a store at El Morro, near Trinidad, Colorado, and Di Lisio
worked a year and a half there. After accumulating a small
amount of capital working for his uncle, he took over a saloon
in Gardiner. His success led to an offer from the St. Louis,
Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coal Company to run their store,
the Blossburg Mercantile Company, in addition to his saloon.
This he did from 1907 to 1910, when the coke plant at Gar-
diner was shut down.



112 NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL REVIEW

Di Lisio then operated a saloon at Brilliant for about three
years, taking time out only for a quick trip to Italy to get his
bride. He became a citizen of the United States and a member
of the Elks' Lodge during this time also. In 1913 he moved
to Suffield, near Ludlow, Colorado, where he bought a saloon.
The violent strike at Ludlow caused all of the miners to leave,
and Di Lisio was broken financially. In 1914, however, he
managed to borrow sufficient capital to open a saloon in
Raton, and this was followed in short order by a small depart-
ment store, the Raton Mercantile Company. His affairs pros-
pered, and in 1917 he founded the International State Bank
of Raton, with himself as president. In 1929 he built the Swas-
tika Hotel, and used this name until World War II, when for
obvious reasons it was changed to "Yucca." He continues as
president of the corporation which owns the hotel, and he has
been chairman of the board of the bank since 1956. Although
he is now 73 years of age (1958) , he still operates the depart-
ment store, called "Di Lisio's" since 1922, and only sold his
interest in the Raton Wholesale Liquor Company (estab-
lished on the repeal of Prohibition in 1933) in 1955.

Always active in civic affairs, Di Lisio has been a director
of the Raton Chamber of Commerce, is a past president of the
local Kiwanis Club, a member of the Knights of Columbus,
and an honorary member of the Foresters (forestieri). In
World War I he spearheaded a subscription drive for the
Italian Red Cross, for which he subsequently received a gold
medal, and in the mid-1920's he was made a Knight of the
Order of the Crown of Italy. He and his wife, the former
Cristina Ponne, have eight children, all of whom are^now
grown.

The town of Gallup, in western New Mexico, was also a
focal point for Italian settlement, dating from its establish-
ment as a coal mining center in the early 1880's. At that time
about a hundred Piedmontese and Tyrolese farmers were
brought from Colorado, where they had received their first
experience in the mines. Among these the Brentari, Rollie,
Vidal, Baudino, Noce, Casna, Cavaggio, Martinelli, and Zuc-
cal families are but a few of those now represented in the
area. This first group moved into the business world after its



THE ITALIANS IN NEW MEXICO 113

stint in the mines, and was replaced by the continuing arrival
of relatives and friends from Italy. Around 1915 a second
round began when farmers from Abruzzi and Calabria, in
central and southern Italy respectively, arrived by way of the
Colorado mines. These are represented by the Ferrari, Di
Pomaggio, Di Gregorio, and Ricca families, to name several.

As in the coal mining towns of northern New Mexico,
these people also had their mutual aid societies for both men
and women, but succeeding generations have tended more
toward the American service clubs and fraternal organiza-
tions. They fitted into the local economy with remarkable ease.
While in Colorado Italian coal miners participated in the
famous Lake City strike of the 1890's, and in other disorders
culminating in the famous "Ludlow Massacre" in 1914, Ital-
ian miners in New Mexico led a most peaceful life. Strikes
seldom, if ever, got beyond the incipient stage ; there were no
extremes, and they had little interest in unions. Under these
conditions the coal mining areas of New Mexico, both north
and west, have benefitted from the enterprise of this immi-
grant group.

Italians were and are almost non-existent on the so-called
"East Side." They are found in southern and central New
Mexico, however, but never in as great numbers as in the coal
mines and towns of the north and west. The earliest perma-
nent settlers in the southern portion of the Territory probably
made their appearance immediately after the Civil War, in
the late 1860's. Some Italian laborers were reportedly em-
ployed in building Fort Fillmore during the 1850's, but left
before the war began. Notable among the names of early
arrivals in Dona Ana County were Chaff ee Martinelli (or
Martinett) and Domenico Luchini, both of whom erected flour
mills to serve the army posts in the area. Martinelli was killed


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