When Nelda Ojeda Wyland found several Ojedas listed in local telephone books, she wondered if they might be relatives. They were, and that launched her into a search for other unknown members of her family's tree.
"Every time I am in a new city, I check the phone directory for Ojedas," she said. "It's almost a compulsion now. I'll call a few up."
Wyland, a bilingual program analyst with the United Planning Organization in the District, tells the strangers about her family and her plan for a party for Washington area Ojedas on Aug. 29 at the Wilson Center, 1470 Irving St. NW.
The idea for the gathering was triggered at a reunion of Wyland's family last month in Austin, Tex. It was the first such family reunion for the 12 children of her parents, Juventina and the late Cecilio Ojeda, since his death. Now ranging in age from 36 to 56, they are scattered throughout the United States and South America. At the reunion, Wyland, her brothers and sisters and about 300 other relatives decided to hold regional parties in an effort to include all Ojedas in their family tree. A major national reunion is planned for 1987.
Wyland is busy preparing for the District gathering, trying to track down Ojedas in the Washington area to invite them to the party. She said she suspects 50 to 100 relatives of the Ojeda family live in the District alone.
"In the metropolitan area, I've met some very nice Ojedas from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Uruguay and El Salvador," said Wyland, who was raised in Austin. "I've even traced Ojedas to Japan and Russia."
After talking to them about several generations of her immediate family and inquiring about common names, family origins and other information that only family members would know, she determined they many were relatives.
Wyland has found that sometimes she has more in common with people she suspects to be relatives than just a name.
When she met Naul Ojeda, owner of a Northwest Washington art gallery, she told him: "You look exactly like my brother."
"That's funny," he replied. "You look exactly like my sister."
An Ojeda family from El Salvador living in the District's Adams-Morgan neighborhood invited Wyland to dinner when she called. "I learned something new from them," she said. "We Mexican-Americans eat lots of tamales. Well, they eat tamales in El Salvador, too, but they're different than the tamales we eat. Delicious but different."
Wyland expects other Ojedas to share their families' histories and their native countries' food and music at the Aug. 29 gathering.
Besides finding relatives, Wyland, with the help of Ernesto A. Montemayor, director of the Hispanic-American Genealogical Associates in Bethesda, discovered that Ojedas played important roles in history.
Alonso de Ojeda, for example, captained a ship in Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the New World in 1493. Julio de Ojeda was a conquistador with the Pizzaro brothers in their conquest of Peru, while another man named Alonso Juan and Luis de Ojeda helped Cortez in his conquest of Mexico, according to Montemayor.
Wyland is bothered that the Ojedas are "losing" the family name through marriages and because the families tend to have more women than men. "There are only three boys who can carry the Ojeda name within my immediate family," she said. "But I have also explored this in the other Ojeda families, and they also tend to have more more girls than sons."
Wyland recalled a conversation with her granddaughter, Pilar Clarisa Reierstad of Brooklyn: "The little girl asked me, 'But why is the name Ojeda so important?' So I explained to her that I want her and her cousins and their children to be proud of the Ojeda name that's there forever in their family tree.
"I'm proud to be what I am. I'm Mexican-American. Now I'm Wyland. We have Hensens, Martinezes, Giardanos, Limones, Lundbergs, Herraras. But we're all still Ojedas, and that's what counts."