Tortillitas de manteca Pa’ mama que esta culeca!
I grew up in a very conflicted home–of tradition vs the modern family. We were your regular Mexican family working it’s way up to the American dream. My dad came from a single parent home. His dad had died when he was 3 years of age. Soon as he was able to work, he did. His first paying job was as a shoe shine boy at the age of 11. He grew up into a hard working man. He left Mexico during the Brasero program in pursuit of a better life for his brothers and sisters. (I could write a book on the Novela he lived from the time he was 3 to the time he left Mexico.). Anyway, my dad was 21 when he came to the good ole’ US of A.
My mom’s first job in the states was as a house keeper at the age of 15. In those days, so long as you had a Mexican Passport you were allowed to travel in and out of the United States. Her, my uncle Chivo and my Abuelo would continuously get jobs in the states. It wasn’t until 1971 that they received their residency and the family was able to move to California. But my Abuelo’s only lived in California for short periods at a time and would go back to Mexico to live. Their last residency in Mexico was in the border city of Tijuana before finally making California their permanent residence.
My mom and dad met at their work place and later married. After they were married, they both quickly began their pursuit for a better life. My dad quickly became foreman for his company and my mom began beauty school. As we grew and as they had more responsibilities at their jobs, the traditional Mexican family unit was no longer traditionally Mexican. My dad had 2 jobs. He owned his own carpet cleaning company and did that from 8am to 2:30 pm. He would come home and get ready for his night job as the night shirt foreman. I remember getting home from school and he would be taking his power nap. I would make his lunch and by the time I was done he was out the door by 3:30 pm. A few hours later my mom would get home from work. She owned her own beauty salon and it was growing by the day. But she still made sure there was a home cooked meal for dinner every night. 90% of the time she would leave it ready before going to work. Sometimes she would leave a chicken out for me to put in the oven. I remember adding salt, pepper and lemon and throwing it in the oven. My friends would laugh at the mix of ingredients I would use. We didn’t have the regular Mexican breakfast with eggs, beans, salsa and tortillas or the fresh enchiladas dinner. That was rare and on occasion would happen on Sunday, the only day we were all home together. Most of the time the meals my mom cooked were Cuban, or stuff she would invent herself. She was surrounded by Cubans so it made sense. There was a time when she would be talking and a Cuban accent would slip out. The family even started calling her La Cubanita.
The only traditional aspects we had of a Mexican family was the language and values. I guess we were your traditional Mexican family living in the US. We frequently took trips to Mexico to see family and for vacation. I remember visiting my grandmother in Tijuana and someone would always make Tortillas de Harina. When my uncle Jose would make them they would come out sooooooooooooo delicious!!!! They were so soft, they would melt as soon as your front teeth would bite into them. I loved adding butter to the tortilla and rolling it up. It was the best!!!! But my favorite memory I have when making tortillas was with my Abuela. She would give me a ball of the tortilla dough and show me how to press it in my hands first. We would do it together and sing, “Tortillitas de manteca pa’ mama que esta culeca”. I remember having those same experiences with my mom but not too often because life here in the states was and is so different than life in Mexico. But she would also sing that song when we would make the tortillas. Such fun times. My kids haven’t had that experience yet. I think today I will make tortillas and sing them the song as they play with their dough.