Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, otherwise known as ‘Doña Tules’, ‘Madame La Tules’ or simply ‘La Tules’, was one of the most infamous women in the history of New Mexico. Born in the Mexican state of Sonora in 1800, Barcelo moved north to the village of Tome in what is now New Mexico, but at the time was part of Mexico, with her family in 1821. She married late, by traditional standards, at the age of 23; two years later, in 1825, she and her husband, Manuel Antonio Sisneros, established a gambling operation at a mining camp in the Ortiz Mountains, near Santa Fe.
A decade or so later, Barcelo bought a lavish gambling hall and saloon on Burro Alley in Santa Fe, aptly named Barcelo Palace, which soon became a favourite with the fashionable society of the regional capital of Nuevo Mejico. No mean gambler herself, Barcelo was particularly skilled at Monte – a card game played with the traditional Baraja española or ‘Spanish deck’ – and reputedly made vast sums of money from her clientele. During the Mexican-American War, from 1846 to 1848, U.S. forces occupied Santa Fe and, paradoxically, while acknowledging Barcelo for her influence on the local population and even accepting her offers of financial support, treated her with a level of contempt.