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Diary Entry

Friday, Sept. 25, 2015

It’s been a very exhilarating morning to say the least. My little family ventured out on our own from Guadalajara to Purepero, Michoacan. I can’t say I was scared but I was a little cautious as we drove to the little pueblo. I had driven through Mexico so many times as a kid and never feeling afraid.  My dad was with us all the time and trusted he would take care of us.  This time it was different.  I was now a mother.  I had little ones I needed to protect if anything went wrong.  I was now their protector and my husband and myself had taken the role my parents had at one time traveling through the land.  Once we exited the city, the scenery began to change.  It became greener. There were corn fields for miles. It was such an awesome sight. Every so often the green land fields would be sun kissed with a variety of colors. Sometimes you could see burnt-orange specks that would flow like waves over the tall grass.  Other times there were hints of purple peeking through the brush as the rays from the sun peeked through the thick brush. Such a beautiful sight that only my eyes could capture.IMG_4762

Our ride to Purepero was so fun.  I would turn back to look at my kids and my heart would warm up.  We stopped at a little store to buy some “chatarra” for the road. They went crazy buying bread, chips, and drinks.  Our bellies were full the entire way.  I was able to tell stories I had from my visits as a child. They asked questions about the area.  They were wide-eyed until the sweet sound of music, the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the landscape cradled them to sleep.

2 hours later we had reached the outskirts of Purepero. The surrounding became familiar. The sporadic clouds began to get bigger, crisp and low. The sky was getting bluer and the smell of a distant fire had reached my nostrils. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply as the lost memory of the land rekindled the love of this place long forgotten. The town’s entry was no longer the same and we were confused how to enter. But soon enough we saw the old familiar road that led right to the center of town, the plaza. Driving in I remembered how I thought there might be a small chance I would never return because of the rumors of the craziness going on in Mexico. But there I was, driving through the narrow streets just big enough for one car. The familiar adobe walls of the plaza stores I frequently visited on my stays, were all still there. But I’ve been told that it no longer looks the same once I walk into the inner courts. That’s my mission for tomorrow, to check out the area and the changes time has made.

IMG_1344Once I drove past the plaza area I finally headed up to my Great-Uncle’s house.   The street and the outside of the houses still looked the same. I was happy about that. We parked and the kids and I looked around to take it in.  We began to walk up the street. I was feeling it. It felt good and normal. And just like old times, a head peeked out of the house I had always stayed at. Except this time it wasn’t my Great-Aunt greeting us with a big smile, it was her youngest sister.  It felt a bit strange at first but she was so warm in her welcome that the strange feelings quickly faded. It was the new generation greeting us now. But the old generation’s warmth was still there.   I walked in and everything looked like it did every time I visited. Everything appeared to be the same but deep inside I knew it wouldn’t be.  Then I stepped into the back and was a bit in shock to see that a lot of the property was knocked down and a new edification had taken place. The old room, bathroom and part of the kitchen had been replaced with brick walls. The same or not, I was where I wanted to be.  I headed to the back in hopes to see the familiar. I was on a mission to reconnect to an old tree that had been in the back since I could remember.  It always brought back  so many wonderful memories.  I knew that it would be the perfect place to do some writing and soul searching…

 

 

IMG_9421 Here is a popular and tasty dish!

The following recipe is for 5-7 people.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 Lbs. of Pork Meat (Shoulder Blade) or you can use riblets.
  • 1 Lbs. of Tomatillo
  • 3 Chile Serrano (1 more to make it spicy.)
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Salt

 

 

 
1.  Peel the tomatillo along with the Serrano Chile and boil for approximately 30 minutes or until the tomatillo almost falls apart.  (Cook well or it will come out sour.)

2.  Chop pork meat into 2″ chunks cutting the fat off and wash it.

3.  In a pot, cook pork meat in enough water to cover the meat.

4.  Add salt to meat (personal preference).

5.  Once the water dries up, add some lard or cooking oil to brown the meat to personal preference.

6.  In a blender add chile, tomatillo and garlic.

7.  Add chile mix to the meat.

8.  Add enough water to have some broth.

9.  Allow meat and chile mix to boil for 5-10 minutes.

Video on this dish:

http://www.abuelaskitchenofficial.com

IMG_0034Yesterday, I had this weird urge to cook something that had a nice blend of Indian spices with a “Mexican” twist.  So I conjured up a “EMPASOSA”,  an empanada/samosa (named by my daughter).  I started to think about how the spices I was using were used both in Indian dishes and in Latino dishes and how much I enjoyed that particular blend.  I started thinking back to a Chicano Studies class I took in college and how I learned of all the different cultural groups that came to reside in Mexico.

Generally, the word MEXICAN or MEXICO is associated with a short, stubby, brown guy with a huge mustache and an unmistakable accent.  The truth is, Mexico is so diverse in culture that to generalize us really just shows ignorance.  I have family members who have blue/green eyes and light-complected skin to having skin dark as night and everywhere in between.  If you travel throughout  Mexico, you will see these differences.  Not only does the skin and eye color differ but physical traits as well.  I can say this is the same of my fellow South-American brothers and sisters.

Recent studies have shown that the majority of Mexico’s foreign residents are from U.S. followed by Spain and Guatemala.  Recent immigration flow to Mexico has been from Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama  and Nicaragua.  But in the 19th Century (1800s) there was a huge immigration flow from France, who’s descendants are now scattered mostly through Jalisco and Michoacan. In the early 1900s, there was another immigration wave from France.  Many of those immigrants currently reside in Chihuahua, Guanajuato and Baja California Sur.

Mexico also had a large number of Chinese immigrants during the late 1800s to early 1900s.  President Porfio Diaz wanted to modernize the country so the Chinese came to build railroads and such things.  Their immigration was also documented in the early 1600s.  Currently, Mexicali and Mexico City have the largest Chinese communities in Mexico.  Arab immigration also took place during the 19th and 20th century.  The majority coming from Lebanon.  And let’s not forget that there is also a large Jewish population in Mexico.

Why even mention this?  To show that being Mexican isn’t about being brown, short and whatever other stereotype associated.  Having a Mexican heritage means being rich in so many ways.  We have so many influences that make us a unique blend.  I know we can’t forget our “Mexica”/Aztec/Mayan roots but the Mexicano is a beautiful blend as well.  We are all diverse and have so much to offer.  What’s so amazing is that it doesn’t stop there.  Those of us that have been blessed to be born in America have another blend of unique additions to our one of a kind culture.

Knowing all this, I can understand why I have this attachment to the mesmerizing sound of a Flamenco shoe hitting a hard wood floor as the beautiful blend of the Arab/Moor influence bleeds through the guitar strum of a tango melody.  I can understand my love for delectable Indian food.  Most importantly, I can understand my love for travel and knowing the world.

The food of Mexico has a nice mesh of all it’s immigrant influences.  But no doubt that the food of Mexico is unique, delicious and native to Mexico.  Thank you to all the cultures that have added to who I am today, a very diverse, rich, unique Mexican American.  Sounds flavorful huh? Oh the beauty of having Mexican heritage! ❤

Both of my parents were born in Mexico and at a very young age they entered the work force.  We all know that getting an education in Mexico can be hard if you are not part of the elite group.  But times are definitely changing.  I do see many young people in Mexico getting the opportunity for higher education these days.

I remember when I was a kid and old enough to stay home alone and watch my 2 siblings (well not really alone because family always lived in our back house), I would have so much fun.  My dad would go to work at 3:30 pm and my mom wouldn’t be home till 6ish.  3 hours of bliss!

My dad was a very strict man.  He thought our school homework wasn’t enough.  He said the education system wasn’t as good as all the other countries and we were behind everyone else.  So he would give us homework on top of our school homework.  I remember having to learn my multiplications in 1st grade, and the US map, Mexican map, and South American map in 3rd grade.  In 5th grade I had to learn the European map .  Not just the states but the capitals.  Not only that, but I also had to read in Spanish for a period of time and then read it back to him the next day with out error.  I learned to quickly memorize things using my short term memory.  So please don’t ask me any of this information now.  LOL  Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay… LOL I still remember.  Anyway, that was the ugly part about staying alone.  I guess it taught me responsibility because if I didn’t have my stuff memorized by the next day I would get a butt whoopin con la chancla!  Actually, I wish it was the chancla.

The bliss came when we would eat whatever we wanted, watch as much tv as we wanted, and played with our neighbors as much as we wanted.  3 hours seemed like a very long time in those days.  I remember taking sandwich bread and packing on the ice cream.  Anyone else ever do that?  My mom had gazillions of purses and they all had tons of change.  Those purses were everywhere.  I would stick my hand in them and it was like Christmas morning.  I would either ride my bike to the panaderia or send my brother to go bring us a stash of junk food (Now & Later of all flavors, chocolate, chile saladitos, and chips).  This was almost a daily ritual.  The other activity was T.V. Oooooooh I loved watching cartoons!  I was willing to get a beating from not memorizing my states just to watch T.V. until my dad caught on.  So he did something about it.  He would take and hide the T.V. wire.   It taught me how to be sneaky and get away with it.  LOL I would find that wire and enjoy my usual shows.  Until one day he wondered why the T.V. was hot to the touch without a wire.  Ooops!  Got caught!  He stopped taking the wire off and would just disconnect it and coil it in different directions and pass it through different things.  I figured out that it was boobie trapped.  Because of that, I developed a photographic memory. LOL  I still managed to watch it.

It’s obvious that my parents wanted a better life for me, for us.  They wanted to make sure that our future wouldn’t be as hard for us as it was for them.  They still managed to instill in us a work ethic and a drive to do more than is expected.  I always tried my best even thought most of the times it wasn’t enough.  Not sure if it was for fear or because somewhere along those lines, their speeches, advice and example worked on me.  But both my brother and I have managed to make something of this life.  It’s not easy being a kid from immigrant parents.  There is so much we have to go through to succeed but because of their hard work, dedication and drive to make a better future for us, our struggle has been lessened.

So, Mexican-Americans, Chicanos, Latinos, Hispanics:  Do your parents (ancestors) a favor, honor them with how you live.  Make something of yourself.  Stop wasting time feeling sorry for yourself or blaming others for where you are at today.  Don’t let their struggle be in vain.  Don’t let their fight for you be wasted.  Make them proud.  I doubt they did it just for themselves.  If not, then do it for you and your generations to come.

 

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Me on the left. 😉

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.photo 5(1)

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.