New Mexico’s Child Brides

The 1895 wedding picture of María Dolores Sánchez and Emiliano Sánchez.

Through the 19th century it was not uncommon for men to take child brides in New Mexico. I first heard of this phenomenon when visiting my cousin José “Turkey” Rodríguez in the summer of 2005.

As usually happens when I visit relatives, we began talking about los antepasados, which led to
the tale of his grandmother Ciprianita and her arranged marriage. What really fascinated me about the story was the fact that she was only 13 at the time. I mentioned this to my late father, Jesús
Pacheco, and he said matter-of-factly,
“Yes, tía Ciprianita was 13 when she married and so was your uncle Henry’s mother, Juanita.” Apparently, marrying underage girls was not only common with Hispanics but also crossed cultural lines.

Maxwell & Maria de la Luz

In 1864 Lucien B. Maxwell was the largest land grant owner in the world. His was a rags-to-riches story, he born in Illinois in 1818 to a family of Indian traders. At the age of 17 Maxwell embarked on an adventure west as a trapper and met the dynamic frontiersman Kit Carson. Enthralled with the escapades of Carson he followed him to Taos, New Mexico. He was introduced to the enterprising businessman, Carlos Beaubien, and quickly went to work for him. Maxwell fell in love with Beaubien’s thirteen year-old daughter. With her father’s blessing Maria de la Luz and the forty-two year old Maxwell were married by Padre Jose Antonio Martinez in 1862.

Together in Death

Lucien B. Maxwell founded the First National Bank of Santa Fe in 1867. Soon thereafter he found that he did not have the business acumen to be a banker and sold the bank. Then he became cattle rancher and invested in other agricultural ventures but they all failed. By 1870 he had lost all of his assets and died five years later in poverty. Maxwell’s child bride, Maria de la Luz, was buried by his side at the Old Fort Sumner cemetery twenty-five years later. In1879 the town of Maxwell in Colfax County was named in his honor.

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