Juan Aldama, Chihuahua, Mexico

Aldama relative to Texas and New Mexico

Juan Aldama is a small town (pueblo) in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua that was home to three generations of the Vielma family between 1800 and approximately 1850. The town originally was established by Spanish colonists in the 1670s, who engaged in cattle ranching and agriculture. Franciscan missionaries arrived in 1697 and established the San Jerónimo mission to convert Conchos y Tarahumares indians that were native to the region.  The town remained a small, primarily mission pueblo throughout the 1700s but nearly ceased to exist following a significant attack by rival Apaches in October 1769.  Some 50 people were killed and another dozen were taken prisoner during the attack, leading to a general depopulation of the Spanish pueblo, although the actual San Jerónimo mission continued relatively unscathed.  To cement their hold on its northern frontier provinces and protect against further Apache attacks, the Spanish administrators prioritized the fortification of towns on or near the Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In 1783, the Spaniards began to repopulate the area to include a small military garrison.  The military commander set about rebuilding the original mission chapel and renamed it San Carlos Borromeo, in honor of the then Spanish king, Carlos III

San Carlos Borromeo – oldest church in Aldama

The first Vielma to spend time in San Jerónimo was Antonio Vielma, who was attached to the Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras.  The company spent several years patrolling the internal northern provinces — primarily fortifying presidios in Chihuahua and Coahuila — and eventually was assigned to San Jerónimo, where Antonio’s son Francisco was born in January 1801.  Antonio remained with the company, leaving Francisco behind with his godparents to be raised in San Jerónimo.

Presidencia Municipal de Aldama

Francisco lived most of his life in San San Jerónimo, marrying in 1823 – two years after Mexico achieved its independence from Spain.  In 1826, the newly established government of the state of Chihuahua voted to change the name of San Jerónimo, naming it Juan Aldama in honor of one of the early leaders of the Mexican independence movement.  As the town continued to grow in size, it eventually required a larger church to serve the population.  In 1876, construction of the San Jerónimo temple began on the plaza mayor (town square), opposite the Presidencia Municipal (town hall) and was concluded around 1897.

San Jerónimo temple (present-day)

Francisco and his wife Dolores had at least seven children, all born in Aldama between 1824 and 1843.  At some point around 1850, and for unknown reasons, most of the Vielmas uprooted from Aldama and settled 250 miles north in Guadalupe Bravos, right on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.  Today, Aldama is a charming interior town with a population just north of 25,000.  The town continues to rely mostly on agriculture and benefits from its close proximity to Chihuahua City, capital of Chihuahua State.  It is also an important stop on the main highway between Chihuahua City and the Mexican border city of Ojinaga, providing access to the U.S. state of Texas.

Monument to the heroes of Aldama