José María Redondo is one of Arizona’s most famous and accomplished citizens. Born 1830 in Sonora, Mexico, Redondo left an upper-class lifestyle at the age of 19 to mine for gold in modern Southern Arizona and California. He was a natural entrepreneur and businessman and after a decade of overseeing successful mining operations, Redondo took his acquired wealth to a sparsely populated area just off the Colorado River to a small town named Colorado City, now known as Yuma, Arizona.
Redondo saw potential in the fertile soil of the river valley and purchased land to operate an experimental farm, the San Ysidro Ranch, where he earned a reputation for growing unusual (sugar cane, barley, pecan) as well as commonly grown (corn, carrots, melons) foods. The San Ysidro Ranch was also a large cattle operation (beef & dairy), which dovetailed nicely into Redondo’s in-town businesses, which included a vegetable market, butcher shop, bakery, saloon, mercantile store, flour mill, river ferry transport, and hearse services.
Redondo is affectionately known as the Father of Irrigation in Yuma and was the first grower of Colorado River lettuce (now a $3B annual Yuma County industry), as well as a host of other foods and crops. He was also the first to incorporate industrial ice making technology in Yuma to chill produce on outbound rail cars so as to keep the vegetables fresh en route to both Arizona and California markets.
In 1864, Arizona became a US Territory and Redondo became a US citizen. He proudly represented his community in the 1st, 7th, 8th, and 9th Arizona Territorial Legislatures and was responsible for changing the name of Colorado City to Yuma and for successfully promoting Yuma as a site for a Territorial Prison. In 1878 Redondo was elected Mayor of Yuma, a post he held until his death from smallpox at 48 years old. To quote from his obituary in the Weekly Arizona Miner, June 28, 1878:
“José María Redondo was perhaps the leading citizen (of Yuma). Enterprising, honest, and gifted with more than ordinary intelligence, (his) loss to that community is greater than would have been that of any other citizen. He led an active and useful life, befriending those who needed help, and always the first in every laudable enterprise”.
Information written by Mary Redondo Loroña in “Redondo A Yuma Legacy”
Blog post written by: Jason Mihalic