Atenogenes Vargas Marin was born the first son to Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos on July 16, 1901, in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico. The eldest of nine, he was an adventurous soul and family lore says he was named from a Greek calendar that Candelaria and Mariano had.
At 13, he decided he wanted to join the Mexican Revolution, so he ran off to water their horses when Pancho Villa came through town. Candelaria was firm that he was not to join and sent Mariano after Atenogenes to drag him back home.
Three years later, Atenogenes was off again, this time hopping trains and essentially backpacking into the Western United States. Atenogenes stepped off the train in the U.S. for the first time outside the new jail that had just been built in Gilroy, California. He continued on as far as Montana, where he ended up out of money and hungry from not having eaten for three days. It was freezing cold and a (in his own words) “white man” took pity on him.
After a time, he returned to Mexico, where he ended up working as a policeman, and then he eventually immigrated to California with the rest of the family in 1925. There, he worked as a machinist’s assistant, a Merchant Marine, and in a candle factory in the Mission District of San Francisco.
He married Alma Reyegonda, who was haunted by a tragic past for much of her life. When she was 18, she played Ding Dong Ditch on her mom. They lived in a two-story apartment at the time, and the second time her mother came downstairs to answer the door, she fell down the stairs and suffered a broken neck. After two weeks in the hospital, Alma’s mother passed away.
As was popular during the era, Atenogenes and Alma liked to drink and stay out late. Before long, they had three children: Art Vargas, Rose Vargas, and Carmen Vargas, all who still live in California.
On a trip to Ameca in 1972, Atenogenes sought out his old stomping grounds and found his long-lost aunt, Maria Marin, who was sitting alone in her home, which lead to a heartwarming reunion. Cousin Carmen has kept this photo of them for some years:
Atenogenes eventually died of pneumonia in 1980.