Anita was born 1944 and raised in San Ysidro where she lived with her father, mother and three sisters. She attended San Ysidro Academy where she remembers being only one of two children who were from San Ysidro. The rest came from Tijuana in order to attend school.
Anita remembers the children used to tease her about being Mexican, but not speaking Spanish. Both her father and grandmother were upset by these statements since, in fact, they were one of the pioneer families of San Diego.
Anita attended Mar Vista High School, graduating in 1963. From there, she spent some time at Southwestern Junior College training as a secretary. She married Ismael (Ike) Isidor Cota in 1967, had a daughter, Laurie-Ann, and became a homemaker. They lived in Chula Vista, Escondido, El Cajon and Santee.
For a time, Anita was the Chairperson for the California Pioneer Families, a group that met at Old Town.
Anita’s Father John Ishmael Argüello (b. 1918 in Nestor)
John is a descendant of the Argüello family whose ancestors came to San Diego when the area was still part of colonial Spain. John went to Sweetwater High School. He married Felecita Silvas (also known as Tilly). She was born in 1920 in Del Mar, part of another well-known ranching family. John and Tilly built a house behind Maria Teresa Arguello on West Park Street in San Ysidro. John became a crane operator, while Felecita remained a homemaker.
John’s father was Francisco Argüello. He was a rancher who had probably inherited his property in Baja California (around Tijuana). His ranch was towards the famous racetrack. Anita suspects that Francisco’s father was the son of Santiago Argüello.
John’s mother was Maria Teresa Argüello Argüello (b. 1879).
Francisco and Maria Teresa were distant cousins, something which was common during those pioneer days.
Census records show that Maria Teresa lived in Monumentville while she was a baby. Her father was Jose Antonio Francisco Argüello (b. 1818) and her mother was Natalia Yorba. Jose Argüello remained a rancher and was 53 years old when Maria Teresa was born.
It was precisely her father who was the son of distinguished Santiago Argüello and Maria del Pilar Salvadora de Ortega, who owned Rancho Tijuan which covered most of the South Bay from Chula Vista to the current city of Tijuana.
Francisco and Maria Teresa divorced after having 11 children together. (The ranch is no longer there.) At first, Francisco remained on the ranch while Maria Teresa moved to San Ysidro and was well-known within the small community. Anita tells the story that her father, John, was frequently kidnapped by Francisco and taken back to the ranch. After a day or so, Maria Teresa would come to get him, but John didn’t want to leave because he enjoyed the ranch life.
According to her obituary, Maria Teresa lived for many years at 155 West Park Avenue, San Ysidro. She was a former employee of the Hotel del Coronado. She was also a member of the ladies auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 8063, which was named after her late son, Sebastian Argüello. Her son, a member of the Army Air Corps, was the first person from San Ysidro killed in World War II. He died in March 1945, while on a mission over Germany. Maria Theresa was also a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church.
Anita’s Mother Felecita (Tilly) Silvas (b. 1920 in Del Mar)
Felecita’s mother was Anna Silvas. The family never spoke the name of Felecita’s father. He had some English heritage, but not much more is known.
Anna’s parents were Benito Silvas and Jesusita Castro. They owned a ranch in Del Mar and were one of the first dairy owners in San Ysidro near Beyer Blvd, which used to be right next to the immigration office.
The Jewish Connection
According to Laurie-Ann, Anita’s daughter, there is a strong chance that the Argüello’s were of Jewish descent. This was never talked about in the home and would have been considered taboo. It is unknown whether they were Ashkenazi or Sephardic, since an unknown Argüello was possibly from Russia. The Silvas side of the family had Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
Laurie-Ann explained that she came to an understanding that her family was Jewish through their cooking. Judaism was never practiced in the home. Anita went to Catholic school and her family practiced Catholicism. However, Laurie-Ann said that Tilly would, for example, soak the chicken for an hour in salt water. That’s a kosher tradition. Although they did eat seafood, they would never mix meat and milk. They would also never eat pork. Laurie-Ann recalled that in kindergarten, she went to a friends house and ate pork. When she returned home, her grandmother Tilly was angry and had a fit about eating unclean meat.
The Argüello family name spans much of Spain, Mexico and the Southwest today. Having had many children, their descendants are widely dispersed and it’s unclear what ethnicities the families were, except that they certainly had very mixed identities. They also owned properties that whittled away over time.
(Interviewed: September 15, 2016)
Laurie-Ann Cota (January 1, 1971 – September 28, 2016)
Laurie-Ann Cota was born January 1, 1971 and passed away September 28, 2016. She was the only child and daughter of Ike and Anita Cota.
Laurie-Ann was born in San Diego and attended Grossmont High School. She went on to Grossmont College where she graduated with honors and earned a scholarship to UCLA. There she earned her B.A. in Women’s Studies with a Minor in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. She went on to Claremont G.U. where she earned her Masters Degree in Jewish Studies, Interpretation of the Bible. She had completed two years of her Ph.D. program and was beginning her third at the time of her passing.
Laurie-Ann traveled to Egypt, Turkey, Israel (Tel Aviv 3 times), France, Germany, England and The Netherlands. Laurie-Ann was a member of the California Pioneers Family along with her mother and father. She leaves behind a cousin, Jason John Arguello and an aunt, Norma, as well as a number of loving friends. Laurie-Ann will be missed by all who knew her.