Atanacia was born in Tucson during the period it was part of Mexico. She was the daughter of Juan Santa Cruz and Manuela Bojorquez. She was raised by her aunt Guadalupe Santa Cruz de Martinez after her parents died. Atanacia was married on 27 May 1863 at the church at San Xavier del Bac to Samuel Hughes. The couple would have 15 children. Late in her life several historians interviewed Atanacia about life in Tucson in the 1850s and 1860s. She died from an intestinal obstruction at St. mary's Hospital.