Trespassers On Our Own Land
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Juan P. Valdez was born in Canjil—n, New Mexico on May 25, 1938 the second of seven children born to Amarante and Philomena Valdez. Juan’s father took him out of school after the third grade to help with chores and the raising of crops necessary to support the family. Having been denied grazing permits by the U. S. Forest Service it was necessary for Juan to sneak the family’s cattle on and off the forest on a daily basis. When Juan was in his mid-twenties he met Reies L—pez Tijerina, a charismatic former preacher who was traveling from village to village in Northern New Mexico speaking out about how the United States had stolen hundreds of thousands of acres that were supposed to have been protected by Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which Mexico had been pressured into signing at the end of the U.S.-Mexican War. Juan joined the Alianza movement and was the first of eight members of the group to enter the Rio Arriba County courthouse at Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico on June 5, 1967 in an attempted citizen’s arrest of Alfonso Sanchez, the local district attorney. Ironically, the judge in the courthouse that day was none other than the father of Mike Scarborough who would wind up assisting Juan in the writing of his family’s oral history: Trespassers On Our Own Land which explores Juan’s family history from 1807 when Spain granted his great, great, great-grandfather Juan Bautista Valdez an interest in a land grant at Ca–ones, New Mexico to the present.
Mike Scarborough grew up in Espa–ola, sixty miles south of Canjil—n. After spending eight years in the United States Air Force he returned to New Mexico, attended college and law school, and practiced law in the area for twenty-five years. Some years ago Mike was asked by his good friend, Juan Valdez, to help him write an oral history. He recently completed a five year study of the Valdez family and of the troubling history of New Mexico’s Pueblo Indian, Spanish and Mexican land grants, as well as a study of the manner in which the United States government treated the land grants and the settlers living on them in the 150 years since the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Trespassers on Our Own Land is the result of his research.