Encinas Family

Albert, Margaret, and Eddie Encinas outside the Chacon House on McQueen Road, 1941

In the early 1920s, Sonora, Mexico, suffered from extreme poverty that plagued many Mexican mining communities of that era.  Without a secure government for the people, Sonoran mining settlements were economically depressed and villages were continually raided.  The families of Manuel Encinas and Cecilia Romero decided to escape these conditions by following migrant farm work from Nogales, Mexico through the cotton fields of Arizona.  Workers labored in the fields chopping both cotton and weeds and picking cotton.

In 1931, Manuel Encinas and Cecilia Romero were married in Chandler.  Manuel and Cecilia had four children:  Eddie, Albert, Manuel, Jr. (who died in infancy at six months) and Margaret.  Manuel filled his children with colorful stories about his homeland in Mexico. He told them about their grandfather who owned a cattle ranch in Sonora and died at the young age of 32.

Manuel Encinas planted cotton, alfalfa, milo maize, barley, corn and soybeans.  He also worked for Dr. A.J. Chandler’s Agricultural Improvement Company until it was sold to the Bogle family farm.  Their simple frame house near McQueen Road and Chandler Boulevard had no electricity or running water until the 1950s.  Without the convenience of indoor plumbing, the family drew water from a well.  For more than 50 years, Manuel and Cecilia lived in this modest home.  In 1989, Manuel passed away at the age of 93.  Cecilia still lives in Chandler today.

During the 1940s, the Encinas sons attended Winn School for Spanish-speaking Mexican children.  The school’s English-speaking teachers reprimanded students if they spoke Spanish.  During the school year, the brothers picked cotton with their parents on the farm.  The young boys sometimes made money by shining shoes. 

When the brothers were teenagers, they would hang out at the “Sip and Bite” restaurant after Chandler High School football games.  Eddie and Albert remember a particular game where a young African American classmate on the Chandler High School football team scored the first touchdown.  The excitement of his achievement was diminished when he was not allowed inside the restaurant to eat the celebratory steak promised to the football player who scored the first touchdown of the season.  Eddie stood up for his friend and as a result, the football player was allowed to walk inside the building and eat his meal.

The Encinas family members were dedicated parishioners of St. Mary’s Church and attended mass at the original site in downtown Chandler.  Mexican Catholic families shared a common bond with other Catholic members of St. Mary’s Church.  Eddie attended Cleveland Elementary School for one year.  After that, Manuel and Cecilia paid 12 dollars a year for Eddie, Albert and Margaret to attend St. Mary’s Catholic School from fourth through eighth grade.  After two years of military service, Albert attended Arizona State University to pursue his dream of earning a degree in secondary education. 

Eddie served eight years with the United States Army and 15 years with the Air Force.  In 1955, he was drafted and went to basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey, California.  His first assignment was the Artillery Division.   Eddie later specialized as an “Early Warning” Radar Operator.  In 1957 Eddie returned home and married Carol Wells.  Eddie and Carol have three sons and two daughters.

Albert Encinas and his wife, Sylvia, were been married for 39 years.  Albert and Sylvia volunteer their time to the community’s efforts in preserving Chandler’s historical roots.  Sylvia passed away in September 2006.  Shortly thereafter Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School was named after her.  A project they were involved with is shaping the future of San Marcos Square where Mexican families pioneered the original downtown Chandler community.

Updated by Eddie Encinas

Biography Research Submitted by Mary Polanco-Gerlach & Diane Brown

1950 8th grade graduation from St. Mary’s School. Eddie Encinas front row, farthest left