I am proud to be Chicana with a familia that radiates past biological connections. Many Chicana familias are like that. Here’s what I mean. I grew up with godparents, uncles and aunts, who never were biological family members. I didn’t know that until I was older. They came over often for dinners and parties. The way they first knew my parents was simply due to happenstance. They were Mexican immigrants and happened to live next door or worked with my parents and at some point, they became more than friends. As well, growing up, I learned that other “friends” were considered “familia” because they were present often for gatherings, both personal (weddings/funerals/first communions/baptisms) and not so personal (weekend gatherings). I grew up hearing them discuss politics, literature, Mexican and U.S. immigration issues with passion and humor. And when there were difficult situations (earthquakes, world crises, etc.), the phone would ring a dozen times or the house would be filled with “familia” who wanted to be together to help, to talk, to eat. No one made appointments to come over. They just came over. And my mother was ready to feed anyone who arrived because she loved doing that—not because she had to do it.
As a result, my mother was known for her cooking. I was very fortunate to grow up with a mother, a woman, who loved to cook the best Mexican dishes and not the usual kind you get in restaurants—but unusual and delightful creations. She gave me the passion to create in the kitchen. Little did I know that much later in my life, the passion she passed on to me would serve me well, as I continue to joyfully create dishes that are nourishing, healing, and dare I say—powerful! And like her, I so enjoy having the house filled with people, feeding them my latest culinary creations. But first—back to “la familia.”
My mother is on home hospice now. It was exactly a year ago that we did the same for my father. He died last March. Their decline has brought “familia” back to me. As I have begun to notify (like I did last year) friends and “familia” in Los Angeles and Mexico about my mother, I am being reminded of the influence my mother had on so many people. My mother and father had many friends. Many! And in these last weeks, the friends who I've contacted, have called me “hija” and have repeated the word “familia.” They have talked about how they cook my mother’s recipes. This past Christmas, for example, my own daughter made a huge batch of my mother’s Chiles Rellenos. And back in Los Angeles, my cousin Angelina, told me how grateful she is to have my mother’s enchilada recipe. “This recipe is like no other,” she said. More importantly, my mother has been a life force for Angelina—assisting her, encouraging her to go to school. She is now a family therapist, and my mother is extremely proud of her. And there is Abelardo who continues to remind me of my mother’s strength, inner power, and brilliance he has always admired. The “inner power” Abelardo talked about was also what he called a “sixth sense.” He says Chicanos—“tambien tienen una pata” in other dimensions (plural!). “You have that,” he reminded me. “Don’t forget to be in those other dimensions.” He’s right. As my parents have moved/are moving fully into “other dimensions,” I know, because of them, my world is large because they taught me that familia is not an insular entity. And as they transition, their energies move within and outside of me, to others, to you as you are reading this.
I continually write about decolonizing oneself from this society that places a premium on the “individual”—every one for her or himself. That is not our way. I’ve been working hard and successfully while connected to a number of Chicanas –all working to “decolonize” our diets (thank you to comadres, Luz Calvo, Catriona Esquibel and others!). Decolonizing the body, the spirit, and the mind is where the Chicana/Chicano community is headed. I see it happening with us and it brings me hope.
In this Nuevo Año de 2016, I salute our La Bloga familia and am deeply grateful to be “related” to Michael Sedano, Olga Garcia, Xanath Caraza, Melinda Palacio, Lydia Gil, Rene Colato, Ernest Hogan, Manuel Ramos, Rudy Garcia, and Daniel Olivas. And I salute you, dear La Bloga readers!
¡Orale gente! ¡Adelante en 2016!