This is a copy of a letter my father sent, dated 7/25/94.
History of the Mendez and Sotomayor families (my father and mother)
This letter is in response to your wish to know something about our family. Of course it is not possible to go all the way back because records were not always kept or were destroyed in fires and wars.
Briefly speaking, various family members have tried to trace their fathers and mothers back, but only with limited success. The information that I have was obtained by Americo Mendez Mendez, a cousin who grew up with my father Ignacio Mendez Deyne. Another big source was John Sotomayor, a cousin on my mother’s side and photographer for Time magazine, who was turned on by the TV show called “Roots” which was about the descendents of slaves in the U.S. He has met your Uncle Andrig for family tracing discussions. My mother gave me a letter that had all the people that she knew as Sotomayors or Sotos. This letter was passed on to John Soto to help complete his data about the Sotomayors.
Briefly speaking (later I’ll go into more detail) the Mendez clan goes all the way back to the Visigoths who settled in the Iberian peninsula late in the sixth century. They were originally, along with the Ostrogoths, descendents from the Goths, a barbarian Teutonic people who were driven west into what is now Spain and France. They were forced west by the Mongolian Huns which swept across Asia and Eastern Europe. This information was obtained using the services of Time magazine in Europe by John Sotomayor. He obtained a lot of this from a German historian of the 18th century who married a Sotomayor woman. The word Mendez means “son of Mendo” a gothic chieftain. The Mendoza family also goes back to Mendo. These barbarians came into what is now Spain around 550 to 650 A.D. They were not Christians. Christianity entered around 700 – 800 A.D. and was not widespread. We the Mendez family also have some Indian blood, but it is several generations in the past and not as obvious as in the case of Lorenzo Rosario. This is why you four boys have varying complexions with Lawrence getting most of the Indian complexion. Your mother Elba is one quarter Indian by way of her father.
There were four waves of Mendez immigrants from Spain starting in the late 1500’s and as late as the 1800’s. Almost all of these came from Galicia, the Northern coast of Spain. Centuries before in Southern Spain the hero called “El Cid” is the best known. However in the North, the big hero was “Palayo”. We are related to this warrior. Most of my mother’s people came from Southern Spain, namely the Andalucian area. We don’t know which wave our Mendez people were on, but in general there are two different Mendez clans in Puerto Rico and we are from the larger one whose people are on the Western side of the Island.
The Sotomayors are also very ancient. After Columbus discovered Puerto Rico (the original name was the Isle of San Juan) three Sotomayor brothers obtained a land grant from the King of Spain giving them the Western third of the island of Puerto Rico. My mother was a poor descendant of these three brothers. My mother’s father was Mateo Sotomayor and he married a Vargas woman. My father, his sister Isaura, and his younger brother Nabor were orphaned when their father and mother dies at a young age. They were raised by the mother and father of Americo Mendez Mendez, an old cousin who lived in Fairfax Va. Last I heard.
My father’s mother according to my brother Andrig was the daughter of a Frenchman (Deyne) who settled in P.R. The word Deyne in ancient French means “keeper of the light”. My father therefore called himself Ignacio Mendez Deyne. My full name in the Spanish tradition would be Allan Mendez Sotomayor. Your name would be Michael Mendez Rosario. I am leaving out middle names as not to get ridiculous.
Your maternal grandfather is Lorenzo Rosario Padro. * See Footnote. This fellow is a half breed Indian whose Indian ancestors go back to the Seminole tribe many centuries back, when they started island hopping through Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. The Indians from South America came north by the Lesser Antilles and were cannibals, but they were warded off by the Indians in P.R. I don’t know much about your mother’s mother except that they were a huge family at one time (Vegas). Only Aunt Gloria is left from that generation. A branch of the family, Echandias is famous for committing murder and is generally not spoken about by your mother’s people.
My father, your paternal grandfather was a ladies man and first married Fatima Valdor, a poet from Cuba. She is the mother of my sister Norma, who is Ray’s Godmother. About a year and a half later he married my mother, Josefina Sotomayor Vargas. About three years later he married Rosaura Rivera, who is the mother of Andrig and Igna, my other brother and sister. I first met Andrig and Igna when he was 14 years old; I was 19 at the time. His mother, Rosaura, died first after many years of cancer and radiation treatments. My mother, your maternal grandmother died of a heart attack, and the first wife of my father, Fatima, is very old and close to death. Your mother I’m sure could fill in a lot more about her side of the family (the Vegas and Rosarios).
I will now give you copies of some of the detailed information that John Soto obtained from Europe and my mother. This stuff is translated by me to make it easier for you to understand. By the way, many slaves, as in the U.S.A., took their surnames from their masters. Most of them shortened it to Soto. My cousin and his people shortened it out of sheer laziness, not because they were descended from slaves.
The following is a translation of a sheet that has the Sotomayor coat of arms (my mother’s coat of arms). It is titled Sotomayor. There is a coat of arms for the Mendez clan but I last saw it in a Spanish encyclopedia. It has little castles in it.
In the year 698 there were two brothers, Arias Fernandez and Sorred Fernandez. They were the sons of Fernando, the founder of Eris castle in the estate of Saavedra, and his wife Ildaura, the lady of Arias Castle. According to the description of Mr. Pellicer in his work Memorial to the house of Saavedra, Sorred unfortunately killed a young lad, Legica, during a hunt. Legica was brother to Pelayo and son of Sir Favila Duke of Cantabria in Galicia. Sorred went to the Gothic King Witiza, gave him his sword expecting the King to slay him, but King Witiza pardoned him because he had hate towards Sir Favila (Sir Favila was a cousin of Witiza) and because he loved the wife of Sir Favila, Ildaura. (Years later Witiza had Sir Favila killed.) Witiza then married Sorred with teresa, sister of the dead boy, Legica and Pelayo. Later Pelayo became the King of Galicia and won the first battle against the Moors in 711 A.D. Sorred established the castle in Aldea of Trodia and started the house of Sorred and later started the surname of Sotomayor. (Sotomayor was the physical location of his castle). From this ancestor came the Counts of Belalcazar, the Dukes of Behar, and the Counts of Cambia. Cristobal de Sotomayor, Count of Cambia inherited the Title of Count. He became the second governor of Puerto Rico in 1510 A.D. He founded the town of Sotomayor, which today is called Aguada. His offspring were the Marquis of Villahermosa, Marquis of Tenorio, Viscount of Crecent, and others of noble blood. (The next sentence I can’t figure out). Regarding the houses of Saavedra and Sotomayor, there is this very ancient verse:
We shall see that these two houses are brotherly
Which are Saavedra and Sotomayor
One of which gave a disastrous end to the infant of the realm
Later had their faults pardoned
For heroic and shrewd deeds whereby its bands are in mourning
Leaving the other bands in gold.
The last two lines refer to the coat of arms. The coat of arms of Sotomayor has black bands (in mourning) and that of the Saavedra has golden bands, otherwise the design is identical.
I think a more accurate translation would be (these are solely my [Michael Mendez] interpretation of the old saying)
There are two sister houses
They are Saavedra and Sotomayor
One had the younger prince of the realm
Who disastrously died at the hands of the other.
Much later their guilt was pardoned
Because of the hateful acts and shrewd deeds
His bands are forever in mourning
His brother’s bands are golden.
Referring now to Mendez, the name originated in Galicia Spain around 687 A.D. It goes back to a Gothic King called Egica, was started to reign in Spain around that time. He was the nephew of another Gothic King called Wamba, who married Egilonia, daughter of another petty King Ervigio. (All of these characters were barbarians very similar to the Vikings of ancient times.) There is a discrepancy between Uncle Andrig’s knowledge and the information compiled by Juan Sotomayor. He, Juan, insists that my father’s mother was Monsa Cortes, my father’s father was Lino Mendez and that my father’s full name should be Ignacio Mendez Cortes, and not Ignacio Mendez Deyne. The people who would know are dying off from old age. We will probably never be certain.
The next sheet is from the books of Herman Reichhard
Maria Delores Sotomayor Riollano married Heinrich Kleiberling von Geldmier. Maria was daughter of Antonio Sotomayor Riollano. She was also sister of the father of Basilia Sotomayor Perez, the grandmother of Ignacia (Nacha) Cortes Roman. Basilia was the daughter of the first wife of Antonio Candelaria Perez. Maria Delores is my great great aunt, sister of my great great grandmother Basilia Sotomayor Perez.
Heinrich Kleiberling von Geldmier went to P.R. in 1885 and was a mechanical engineer. He was born in the Oppendorf district of Minden in Westphallen Germany. He died in Moca P.R. on the fifth of Feb 1890, his wife in 1883. When Kleiberling came to P.R. he bought the farms and land of his fellow German Friedrich Schroeder.
Antonio Sotomayor and Candelaria Perez are the great grand parents of Nacha. (His great great grandparents on his mother’s side. – This is John Soto writing all of this from his research in Europe and P.R.) The above writing refers to John Soto’s relatives.
I am shortening his description which gets real tacky with the following listing.
Born 1940 – John and Marion Sotomayor Perez
Born 1909 – Juan Sotomayor Cortez and Urania Perez Gonzalez
Born 1867 – Antonio Sotomayor Sotomayor and Ignacia Cortez Roman (first cousin to my father Ignacio Mendez Deyne and his sister Isaura)
Born 1834 – Fausto Sotomayor Vera and Casimira Sotomayor Cordero
Born 1810 – Calixto Sotomayor Jimenez and Teresa Vera – exact date is uncertain
Born 1771 – Alberto Sotomayor Lugo and Dionisia Jimenez Median
Born 1730 – Juan Sotomayor Acevedo and Serafin Lugo – exact date is uncertain
Born 1679 – Juan Sotomayor Hernandez and Rosa Lorenenzo Acevedo
There is a lot more on my mother’s side but I will only confuse more – I can’t always figure it out.
When I was young I dated Matilde (Tite) Vega, daughter of Secundino Vega and Matilde Sotomayor. By way of Secundino, your mother is her cousin. By way of her mother Matilde, she is a distant cousin of mine. It turns out that Mateo Sotomayor, my maternal grandfather and Matilde Sotomayor’s father Teodoro were first cousins.
I hope my letter satisfies you. I was never fascinated by the TV program called “Roots”. I thank God that all my sons have turned out to be decent human beings. My prayers go up every night wishing for good fortune to bless all your families and in-laws.
Love from your dad,
Allan Joseph Vincent Mendez Sotomayor
First Baptism Confirmation Father Mother
* Footnote: Padro was originally Padron. The “N” was dropped because the word pardon usually refers to a “stud” horse.