Duenas Family

Philip’s paternal grandparents are Felipe Duenas and Esiquia Guerrero. Philip’s father is Epifanio Duenas, who was born in 1903 in Guanajuato, Mexico; and his mother’s name is Refujia Valerio, who was born in 1904, in Durango, Mexico. Philip’s maternal grandparents were Nicolas and Domitila Valerio. 

In 1917, Felipe, who worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, brought his family to Arizona, due to the Mexican Revolution. He continued to work for the railroad, as did his son, Epifanio, at the age of fourteen. Refujia Valerio and Epifanio met in 1925 in the Marana/Rillito area, and were married a year later. The Duenas family arrived in Chandler in 1926, recruited by the Harry Drain family who had a cotton farm there. Epifanio continued working for the railroad and lived in a boxcar converted into a home for workers. He worked at Maricopa and Kyrene, and eventually settled in 1933 at a place called Serape. Philip, his son, also worked for the railroad from 1947 to 1951, on an “extra gang” that replaced railroad ties.

Philip was born on a farm at Arizona Avenue and Elliot in 1928. Philip remembers there was a farm owned by Dr. Chandler, at Arizona Avenue and Elliot Road known as “Chandlercito,” where he worked as a water boy during the sugar beet harvest. At the age of twelve, Philip earned $1.50 per day. Philip’s brothers and sisters include: Margaret, Ascencion, Rita, Domitila, Jessie, Andres and Esiquio. He also has a cousin, Manuel Rubalcaba, who lived with the family. 

After 1935, Philip mainly lived with his grandparents in Chandler on Hidalgo Road, although the rest of his family lived in Serape, near Chandler Heights. The Duenas home had dirt floors and did not have running water. The family obtained water from the Boswell cotton gin across the street, and got electricity sometime in the late 1930’s. Some of the families that lived in the neighborhood on Hidalgo included the Rael, Aguilar, Medina, Rosales, Montano, Rodriguez, and Baldenegro families. The neighborhood kids were very close-knit and they would spend their time playing games such as baseball.

He went to the Cleveland School in Chandler, while his other siblings went to Goodyear School. There were not many Mexican students at Cleveland School at that time; most went to school at Winn School, Goodyear School, or to St. Mary’s School after 1942. Philip then went to Chandler High School and graduated in 1947. In school Philip played football for a few years and baseball for one year. After high school Philip worked at a number of agricultural jobs including baling hay, picking cotton and driving a truck for the Bogle Farms. He also worked at Capitol Casting foundry for 31 years. He started as a laborer and ended his career as an inspector. Philip also has been involved in Chandler’s political arena, serving on the City Council from 1972 to 1979. He was appointed after the death of former councilman and boxing star Zora Folley. Philip married Ruth Mendoza in 1950. Born in 1930, Ruth had known Philip since childhood. Ruth began working as a teacher’s aide at Denver School (now San Marcos Elementary) in 1968. Philip and Ruth have four children, Anna, Sally, Patsy, and Katie, and eleven grandchildren. The Duenas family has lived on east Buffalo Street since 1973. Sadly, Ruth passed away in 1996. Philip has many special memories in Chandler.

Esiquia Duenas and her sister, 1916
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.92


Refugia, Tilly, and Epifanio Duenas, 1943
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.93