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Sylvia R. Longoria
Thursday, June 28, 2001
Preserving a family historyEx-teacher Elodia Saenz links her father's store with history of La Rosita
Saenz, who in 1989 moved back to her birthplace of La Rosita in Duval County and into the two-story homestead her parents left her, has used her retirement years to preserve a family history intricately entwined with the history of La Rosita.
"My heart belongs out here," said Saenz, 74, great-granddaughter of rancher-horse breeder Cecilio Valerio, one of the founders of this rural community between San Diego and Freer on County Road 317.
In 1994, after meticulous research, Saenz obtained a Texas Historical Marker for Felipe Valerio's Store and Garage, the La Rosita business her father opened in 1906.
And over the years, Saenz has carefully turned the store, closed since 1956, into a museum of sorts housing everything from census records to photographs that preserve the Valerio family history.
"As word is getting out about what my aunt has preserved in that store, more people who are related to (Cecilio) Valerio or whose roots run through La Rosita are becoming interested," said Angelita V. Munoz, Saenz's niece, who was raised in La Rosita and now lives in San Diego.
For the most part, Saenz keeps the store closed, but opens it for passers-by who inquire about the family or community's history.
Last year, two busloads of people attending the Spanish American Genealogical Association's annual convention descended upon La Rosita to see the tiny store and learn about Cecilio Valerio, an area pioneer who owned land in Driscoll and near Agua Dulce.
He also owned six lots on Corpus Christi's bluff, selling them to H.L. Kinney in May 1851 for $230, Saenz said.
Successful horse breeder
Valerio, born in Mier, Mexico, in 1796, was one of four pioneers who came sometime in the 1820s or 1830s to what would eventually be named La Rosita.
He became a successful horse breeder, breeding mustangs with Spanish horses to produce a horse strong enough to tolerate the South Texas heat.
Although he owned land in Corpus Christi and elsewhere, Valerio settled in La Rosita and, according to court records, at one time owned a herd of as many as 400 horses.
Historical marker on road
Valerio also at one time served in the Union Army, fighting alongside his son, Juan Valerio, in several battles. A historical marker on U.S. Highway 77 between Kingsville and Bishop memorializing the Battle of San Fernando Creek mentions Cecilio Valerio's participation.
After the war and after the death of his first wife, Valerio sold his land and returned to Mexico, where he died sometime in the 1880s.
'Young people won't know'
Always a teacher at heart, Saenz plans to bridge past and present by opening her father's former store for a Fourth of July family reunion at La Rosita.
"We like to talk about our family; otherwise, it'll be forgotten and the young people won't know," Saenz said. "It's my tribute to my parents and family."
Sylvia R. Longoria can be reached at 886-3718 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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