Moncivaiz Family

Wedding of Esperanza Vidal and Meliton Moncivaiz, 1941

Well respected. Hard working. Deeply rooted. The life of Esperanza Vidal Moncivaiz has been defined through her very close family. Daughter of Cristina Espinoza and Miguel Vidal, Esperanza came to Chandler in October, 1920 from Sonora, Mexico, with her eight siblings to work in the cotton fields that characterized the community at that time. Four generations of the Vidal family, including Vice Mayor Phillip Vidal Westbrooks, have since lived in Chandler.

As the cotton harvest season slowed, finding other ways of supplementing the family income became a necessity. Esperanza’s father, Don Miguelito, as he was known in the neighborhood, traveled as a musician throughout Arizona, bringing Mexican folk music to areas such as Miami, Douglas and Bisbee.  

When Esperanza’s family first arrived in Chandler, they settled in the Ocotillo neighborhood. The Vidal family lived on very modest means in a small adobe room with no indoor plumbing, electricity or appliances. With her father’s handiwork with pieces of wood, the family added an additional room and a shed to their living quarters. Esperanza fondly recalls how her mother excelled at saving money. With her savings, the family bought their first home in 1926, located on Saragosa Street in what is now Historic Downtown Chandler.

Religion was important to Esperanza’s family. As there was no Spanish-speaking church in Chandler, Don Miguelito, who was also a proficient bricklayer, got busy. With the help of his children and others, the family made hand made bricks and built the Free Methodist Church which still stands today at 501 S. Arizona Avenue. Esperanza recalls the joy and happiness everyone felt at having a part in building the church.  Her father often studied the Bible and served as a lay pastor for the congregation. Esperanza’s experiences with the church served her well when her mother became ill and passed away when Esperanza was only 18. Her faith helped her through the difficult times when she now supported her younger siblings as both a sister and a mother. Although she had to leave high school in the tenth grade to care for her family, Esperanza continued with her religious studies. She moved to Los Angeles for three years where she attended Bible School and worked as a missionary in hospitals and prisons.

Soon, she would meet Meliton Moncivaiz, her husband of 63 years. They married on July 5, 1941, and raised 13 children. Although Meliton, age 87, also spent many years working for Chandler businesses such as Wright’s Market and Smitty’s, his most rewarding memories are from the years he served as the Pastor for the church on Arizona Ave.  He and his family also traveled regularly as missionaries to Mexico visiting the sick and those in prisons.

Esperanza’s memories of Chandler are steeped with family ties. And although she has lived through huge changes on Arizona Avenue, she looks back at the early businesses and remembers the pharmacy that still sits at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Boston Street. Dr. A.J. Chandler Park was a huge grassy knoll in front of the San Marcos Resort, and one of the earliest Basha’s Supermarkets was located on East Boston Street.

And while businesses come and go, the importance of family is the mainstay in Esperanza Vidal Moncivaiz’ life. The community has grown, but her early memories of Chandler remain alive in the historic buildings and landmarks that surround her neighborhood.

-- Mary Polanco-Gerlach and Kim Kaan

Miguel Vidal, father of Esperanza Vidal Moncivaiz, c. 1940