ATTRIBUTION: ROMALDA LUGO TAYLOR
LIVED: 2/7/1881* – 6/14/1949
FORMER STREET NAME: Vine Street
Romalda Lugo was a respected matriarch among the Agua Caliente people. Born to Juan Lugo and Appolinaria Patencio, her mother went to live with her husband on the Cahuilla Reservation as was the custom of the Cahuilla. However, Appolinaria and her husband returned to Palm Springs following an outbreak of smallpox.
Romalda lived her life during a period of great change in Agua Caliente life. She was one of the first Agua Caliente women to marry a non-Indian. In traditional Cahuilla times, a couple would have lived on the husband’s tribal plot, but in this circumstance it was not possible. Such a precedent brought to light new questions in regard to land ownership, tribal membership, and inheritance.
Further contributing to a paradigm shift in tribal life, Romalda became active in redefining tribal government. She joined a faction of tribal members who felt that the traditional clan leadership model was outmoded and that their non-Indian advisor, Purl Willis, was leading the tribe in the wrong direction. Previously, leaders had been responsible for all economic decisions, but now some members of the band felt that a more inclusive form of leadership was required. This faction also supported land allotments and sued the government for the right to own individual parcels of the reservation, moving away from communal property. They ultimately succeeded on both issues.
Romalda served her tribe as an elected member of the tribe’s Executive Committee, working to manage and develop the affairs of the Agua Caliente people. During the allotment court cases of the 1930s, Romalda acted as an interpreter for Cahuilla-speaking tribal members. Her daughter Lorene (Lena) Lugo later became chairman of the Agua Caliente Band – one of the first women in the country to hold such a position.
* the 1926 Mission Agency Census disagrees and lists 1885 as the birth year.
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