El Paso historian Cleofas Calleros was born in Chihuahua, April 9, 1896. His family immigrated to El Paso in 1902. He received his formal education from Sacred Heart School where he graduated the eighth grade in 1911 as valedictorian of his class. After taking a course in bookkeeping at Draughton’s Practical Business College, Calleros pursued the rest of his education on his own, reading books, taking correspondence courses, and living on the Mexican-American border where he witnessed elements of the Mexican Revolution firsthand. Throughout his youth, he and his family were very poor. To earn money, Calleros worked for a dairy, sold newspapers, collected bottles, and clerked for the Santa Fé Railroad. He also worked in a print shop, learning to print and bind books by hand. In 1917, Calleros lied about his citizenship to serve in World War I but got his citizenship a year later. He served with distinction, earning a Purple Heart when he was wounded in action.
Calleros spent 42 years doing social work as the Border Representative of the National Catholic Conference Department of Immigration in El Paso. It is reported that he participated in over one million immigration cases that involved passports, U.S. citizenship, and permanent residency issues. He also assisted in the return of “repatriated” American citizens from Mexico. Calleros was also a dedicated civic leader in El Paso. He was involved with the building of the Cristo Rey monument, El Paso Boy’s Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Chihuahua State Historical Society, the Western History Association, and the El Paso chapter of the Knights of Columbus, to name only a few.
Calleros also devoted himself to working as a local historian. He wrote historical articles for the El Paso Times and collaborated and coauthored books in an effort to preserve the history of the Catholic Church in El Paso as well as chronicling the history of the Tigua Indians. The Tiguas named Calleros an honorary Adelentado because of his literary efforts to help them gain national recognition. The tribe invited him to join them at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for Texas’ centennial celebration where they also made then President Franklin D. Roosevelt an honorary Cacique.
Calleros died on February 22, 1973. He is buried in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery with military honors. His papers were donated to the UTEP Special Collections Department by his daughter. According to Laura Hollingsed, the “collection reflects his diverse interests and talents and his involvement with many civic, religious, and business organizations and institutions from about 1915 through 1973.” His papers include letters, case files, scrapbooks, clippings, literary manuscripts, and dozens of photographs dedicated to the Tigua Indians.
Cleofas Calleros Papers MS231
Interview with Cleofas Calleros by Oscar J. Martinez, 1972, “Interview no. 157,” Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.
Guide to MS231 Cleofas Calleros Papers. digitalcommons.utep.edu
Texas State Historical Association, A Digital Gateway to Texas History. www.tsaonline.org
Calleros chronicled history of El Paso church By Janine Young \ Special to the Times
Army photgraph by Fred J Feldman ca. World War I (1914-1918) http://yearbookdigital.com/historical/el_paso_boys_wwI_a-c.htm
All other photographs courtesy of UTEP Special Collections and the Cleofas Calleros Papers