The Moragas: Concerning the Last Conqueror and His Descendants

by Carlota Salazar, July 7, 1933, translated from Spanish by Oscar-Ernesto Morales

Who might say that those ruins that are seen in the distance by the traveler between Tucson and Nogales represent perpetual pyramids of unforgettable historic scenes actuated in the days of the conquerors.

Let us concede to that insignificant town of Tubac the right to boast of having had the honor to cherish during the days of the Presidio the first capital or general headquarters of the last of the Spanish conquerors in the state which included Sonora and Sinaloa and the dispersal to Guaymas in the days of Fernando VII.

Commanding general don Salvador Moraga, who was the last to govern at the Presidio of Tubac, finding himself advanced in years and after 53 years of military service solicited retirement subject to the call of his country if necessary.

He spent his last year with his older daughter, doña Juana, and her husband don Bartolomé Suástegui, residents in the town of Altar, Sonora, Mexico, where Mr. Suástegui chose to establish himself in business as a jeweler which because of the mining activities in the district was a pleasurable future as his profession.

Mr. Moraga being used to an active life felt his advanced age a few years after retiring; he spent his days holding his walking cane and seated in a chair at the entrance to the parlor of his daughter's house doña Juana, who was continually watchful of her father. One day, hearing a strange cough, she ran to see him, and found him standing bleeding profusely, caused by an inner wound opening anew, a relic of his military life; calling her husband don Bartolomé, the two took him by the arms to sustain him as he responded to the clarions of eternity.

In the very same parlor of such a sorrowful parting the last honors were made and his remains rest in the old cemetery of the same town.

It is admirable that the same house, rood and walls where Mr. Moraga ended his days still exists, yet that historic house is more than 100 years old and one notices yet that it is one of the best residences and best conditioned houses in the town, on the corner of Hidalgo and Obregon streets, number 26.

As you pass that old entrance door, great are the impressions and echoes of the past that still are felt and numerous incidents of those dangerous times resound through memory when neither the fear of Apaches nor the horrors of the extensive deserts were enough to contain the indomitable adventurous spirit characteristic of the conquerors and their descendants in those days.

Many were the travelers toward California at that time through the district and when the occasion occurred when they would delay in the town of Altar, where there was no boarding house, it was customary to direct the travelers to the hospitality of don Bartolomé and his wife doña Juana, who always manifested themselves disposed with the greatest pleasure.

It is related that on one occasion one of the guests having become ill, doña Juana gave him careful attention until re-establishing him to health.

What a great surprise awaited the traveler when upon departing asking for his bill he was told that in that house it was the custom to observe the works of compassion:

"Give lodging to the traveler"

So moved by such deep sentiments that poor traveler not finding what to do blessed her saying:

"May God give you a priest to intone your requiem masses someday!"

Prophetic words, interestingly verified with the passing of time.

For more than 40 years a son of don Bartolomé and doña Juana was the parish priest of Altar and the sincere benediction of the poor traveler was converted into spiritual bouquets of requiem masses celebrated throughout the state of Sonora, for upon the occasion of doña Juana dying, her son the Most Reverend Bartolomé Suástegui of Altar, was exercising the position of acting bishop after the death of the Bishop of Sonora.

Father Suástegui
Father Suástegui

Father Suástegui showed that he had inherited the same character as his parents, for he was esteemed as an elder in that city, besides he conducted himself with the same true conquering zeal of the missionary.

It is related that he was alert to the first news which circulated of the depredations of the Apaches, immediately, with the same spirit that was characteristic of his grandfather, don Salvador Moraga, the last of the conquerors of the district, used to respond and give spiritual help to the many victims of Geronimo and his savages.

The days of the active missionary ended in Tucson, where he was spending a few days of rest.

The place where his remains rest at Holy Hope Cemetery is indicated by a beautiful and artistic gravestone, a sincere remembrance of appreciation and esteem from the faithful of the district of Altar and the very eloquent engraved emblem dedicates:

Take unto Heaven what you sowed on Earth"

Carlota Salazar (right) pictured with Margarita Zepeda, daughter of Fernando and María Guadalupe
Carlota Salazar (right) pictured with Margarita Zepeda, daughter of Fernando and María Guadalupe