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Family Heritage Project

In recognition of the importance of tradition and family, themes found in the musical FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Pima Community College created the Family Heritage Project to give our community an opportunity to come together and share their unique family stories and learn about each other’s cultures. More than 125 images and stories were submitted from community members and PCC faculty, staff and students.

The submissions culminated in a cultural mosaic of multimedia presentations, displays, and entertainment featured at the Family Heritage Celebration, a free community event held at the Center for the Arts before the opening performance of Fiddler on the Roof, February 20. The Family Heritage Celebration highlighted the many cultures that make up Tucson and honored the individual heritages represented.

A large photomontage of selected submitted images and a world map where people marked their families origins were on display in the Proscenium Theatre foyer for the run of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. The photomontage is now hung in the West Campus Saguaro Community Room. All the submitted images and stories are included in this web page.

Special thanks to everyone who made the Family Heritage Project and Celebration possible: Todd Poelstra, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF director - for the original idea; Dr. Louis Albert, West Campus president - for embracing and supporting the project; the PCC committee members: Geneva Escobedo, Trina Felty, Carol Carder, Dianna Repp, Daisy Rodriguez-Pitel, LeighAnn Sotomayor, Warren Loomis, David Andres; and the Center for the Arts staff and volunteers. We are deeply grateful to the members of the Tucson and PCC communities for sharing their heritages.

Pima Community College Family Heritage Project Written Submissions

FAMILY ARCHIVES - Patti Gardiner

I carry my family archives
in leather bound volumes
weighing heavily on my shoulders.

The brown pages are stained with tears,
cracked with anger,
crumbling with sorrow,
blank with unfinished business.

I search for a fresh white page
to write my own story
but the chapters are full.

I am only the keeper of history,
guardian of secrets,
bearer of truths,
seeker of justice. 

I sift through the stories
looking for freedom,
seeking my identity -

and find odd little papers,
tucked into the pages,
with scrawled notations
and scribbled regrets.

I want to bury these books,
hide them in the closet
behind the Christmas boxes.

Instead, I gather my courage,
muster my strength,
center my spirit
and advocate for my right. 

I will not be oppressed.
I will stand strong.
I will write my own story.

And I will store my family archives
in a repository
where I am proprietor,
master of my destiny. 

We... Spanish Jews - Max Storm, 2014

From the ashes rises Phoenix having burned its mournful song.
From the ash of Inquisition, having burned so long ago.

And its history discovered, yes it's history brought to light.
Of the martyrs and the others, when in Spain they fought the fight.

Now, I find that I'm part Jewish, and to me, a real delight.
That some members, my ancestors fought a struggle in that fight.

There's no pride in knowing that they suffered,
there's no pride in that they died.
But there's pride that they did conquer,
that with time this came to light.

“Will You Light a Yahrzeit For Me When I’m Gone?” - Audrey Sher-Walton

The glimmer of the candle;
A footing on the known
when so much was left to be unanswered

Asking for a visit from a Rabbi who never before even knew her name
As if HE had a direct link to God

A God who could make her agonize, writhe in pain,
Only to

Canvases left blank
Yarn never unraveled
Kitchen forever devoid of the aroma of chicken noodle soup

Your granddaughter is getting married I say to the air.
He’s a mensch.
You’d like him.

Rooted in tradition…. You would want me to go to your grave and invite you
Steeped in customs…. How can I refuse?

Just like I light the Yahrzeit for you
after you’ve been gone
for so long


Forbidden Cross - Audrey Sher-Walton

in a group they’d strut
Bravado reverberating across the schoolyard
Shiny gold crosses dangling from their chests
into white ribbed scoop necked tees

Breaking lamppost lights, knocking down street signs-
Marking their territory like feral dogs

Half of them named Tony
their Mothers
reticent to give them each
their own identity

We didn’t look these Tonys in the eye-
hardened Italian boys were not for us Jewish girls

Not so innocently I‘d sneak a glimpse
of Tony-imagine him
pushing me
up against the red bricked school
his olive skin pulsing against me
the cool feel of that forbidden Cross
across my neck

Pedro Pellon Obituary - Rosanne Couston

Pedro Pellon was born in the mountain town of Meruelo near Santander, Spain on June 2, 1849. As a young man he embarked for San Luis Potosi, Mexico. By 1869 Pedro resided in Tucson, Arizona, where he was acquainted with members of the Teran family who also resided there. He and Refugio Teran were godparents of Maria Guadalupe, daughter of Jesus and Maria Guadalupe Teran Baldenegro, baptized at St. Augustine on December 15, 1869.

By 1875 Pedro was a member of the Jose Perez Garcia Company, a major dramatic company, whose principal members included Pedro, comic actor, Dona Jesus Teran de Perez (mother of Elena Mancera) and Don Jose Perez Garcia, dramatic actors, and Elena Mancera and Dolores Rodriguez, dancers. The company performed in Mexico and the United States including Tucson and Yuma, Arizona and San Diego (Horton's Hall) and Los Angeles (Merced Theatre) California to glowing reviews.

Pedro Pellon and Elena Mancera married and settled in Tucson, Arizona where they purchased property. Pedro organized the town's first group of amateur actors and became active in Democratic politics. In 1886, as a member of the Young Men's Democratic Club, he was credited for giving "the best speech of the evening." In 1888 he became a member of the Democratic Central Committee and was elected a delegate to the Democratic County Convention.

Pedro and Elena had 10 children between 1881 and 1900, six of whom lived to adulthood.

Pedro was active in political, social, church and community organizations throughout his life and frequently organized, arranged and performed in musical and dramatic entertainments and community and school celebrations. During his lifetime, he worked as a freight-team owner, a county jail guard and a city jailer and policeman. He also secured county contracts to furnish wood, kept a commission store, owned rental property, established and sold numerous mining claims in Pima County and was the proprietor of a saloon and a grocery store.

On March 14, 1889, Pedro became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. He read, wrote and spoke Spanish and English and was a frequent and dynamic public speaker.

On January 14, 1894, Alianza Hispano Americana "AHA" was founded and Carlos I. Velasco, Mariano G. Samaniego and Pedro Pellon were recognized as the principal founders. AHA was a mutual aid and benefit society catering to the social and cultural needs of the ethnic community and provided death benefits. Pedro was described as the "heart" of the organization. Some observers claimed that the relations between Mexicans and Anglos were healthier in Tucson than in other places due in part to the leadership and examples of these pioneers which group also included Leopoldo Carrillo, Federico Ronstad, Hilario Urquides, Carlos Jacome, Manuel Montijo and other prominent members of Tucson's Hispanic society. Pedro had a lifetime leadership role in AHA, served as President during 1896, and traveled extensively in Arizona and into Texas and California on behalf of AHA.

In March 1896 the Pellon family was present at the laying of the cornerstone of the new St. Augustine Cathedral located on South Stone Avenue. The stone was blessed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Bourgade and the solemn ceremony was attended by hundreds. Pedro, as one of the official speakers, made an address of thanks in Spanish.

Pedro was elected a Representative to the 21st Territorial Legislature which opened in Phoenix, Arizona on January 22, 1901 and was elected Sergeant at Arms of the assembly.

Pedro was described during his life as "The brilliant and forensic Spanish orator from Tucson" and the "great old war horse of Democracy." He campaigned throughout Arizona territory for Marcus A. Smith who served 8 terms as Arizona Territorial Delegate to Congress and as one of the first two Senators from Arizona. Hon. Smith was described as the "single statehood champion." Sadly, Pedro did not live to see Arizona admitted as a separate state, the 48th State, on February 14, 1912.

Pedro was one of the best known of the Spanish inhabitants of Tucson and was affectionately called "Don Pedro" by the older residents and "Uncle Pete" by the younger ones.

In February 1911 Pedro suffered pneumonia which unfortunately led to his premature death on February 25, 1911, at age 61. He died at his home at 370 Convent. Survivors included his wife Elena Mancera Pellon, and children Concha Pellon, Louis M. Pellon, Anna Pellon, Peter M. Pellon, Charles Pellon,and Teresa Pellon.

The insignia that appears on the top of Pedro's gravestone indicates he was a member of Woodmen of the World, a fraternal benefit society founded in 1890 to help clear away problems of financial security for its members. The Tucson organization, San Xavier camp, was organized April 29, 1896, and members were initiated. Pedro was a founder and an officer of the local organization.
-Biography by Ruthann Grace 

My Family - Abigail Dunscomb
My great, great, great grandfather on my father's side ran the shipping company my family owned out of Bermuda (and also therefore, land in Bermuda) during the Civil War era. Besides shipping goods, he would also ferry escaping slaves all the way into Canada. It was there that he fell in love with a native Canadian woman, married her, and moved to Canada. Very romantic, but also why I'm not lying on a beach in Bermuda. Apparently, at one point the validity of their marriage was called into question until the signature of one of the witnesses was noted: William H. Seward, former governor of New York, member of the U.S. senate, and Secretary of State in President Lincoln's administration. Needless to say, the questions about the authenticity of the marriage came to a screaming halt. 

My Family - Mimi Klaiman
I don't even have black and white prints. They left Ukraine and Georgia (not the US Georgia) with their pants barely buttoned in their haste to get away from the communists and their crazy revolution. They were all Yiddish-speaking Jews. Does that help you with this family celebration thing?