Category Archives: Cultura y Historia

My Uncle Spock

By Estela (Probably Part Vulcan) Caballero

Even though the show always said Spock was Vulcan, I was sure he had some Mexican in him.  Side by side pictures of Spock and my dad beg the question, “Might they even be brothers?”  Don’t go nuts Trekkies, I know his mom was human and his dad was Vulcan.  Spock was a weekly visitor into our home.  Sure, it was just a show but we only had three channels, maybe four if we made my little brothers take turns holding the square shaped antennae just right.  The good shows were something we looked forward to.  It’s hard to explain to someone who can’t remember a time when you couldn’t pull up your shows, anything really, at any time.3665471071_0f59d3e248_b

Before I could tell time, I used tv shows as a reference. An old broken watch rested among my most treasured belongings in the corner of the closet.  As my mom would hurry out the door after making us food to eat while she was at work, she would ask me to recite the schedule of what she needed to make sure I did while she was at work.  I would quickly retrieve my watch from the closet and tell my mom not to worry, I knew what time everything needed to happen and show her I had my watch. If the potato processing plant she was working at needed extra people to cover the next shift, they would give employees little or no notice, often waiting until the last hour to tell them it was their turn for mandatory overtime.  There were no cell phones to call and check up on us during her breaks.  We didn’t always have a working land line.  “When________ ends, make sure you check you’re brother to see if he needs to be changed” or “Make sure you brothers and sister go to bed after ________.”  The only time I saw my mom sit still was when she was driving–  that didn’t seem to count since she was driving.  Aside from that, she was on the move always preparing and readying.  She rarely spoke of her own childhood and would quickly change the subject when I asked her how she learned to tell time or what her favorite shows were when she was my age.  I came to understand that I should stop asking.

Star Trek was a marker and it’s possible the reason those old shows occupy a special place in my memories was because they were sometimes the only constant in rough waters.  Spock helped my dad learn English and he inspired me to think in a new way.  He gave my mother comfort. She knew his visit to our home would ensure her youngest got a fresh diaper if her oldest forgot.  I was the keeper of time and in charge during those hours but I was still a child, a relentless day dreamer and my mother knew that better than anyone else.  Spock helped a little Mexican girl watch over her brothers and sister.  A mental map would activate at the first sound of the theme music reminding us all of our pre show duties.  One brother would go grab a bottle for Buddy, the baby.  My sister would drag a large heavy blanket from the room and we’d all climb on after it was stretched close to the rickety table holding the tv.  Certain shows warranted a temporary peace between us and this was one of them.  In order for peace to be real, all of us had to like the show.

The baby  was named Buddy by my father.  Just before my mother went into labor, we were watching a Jerry Lewis movie with a suave character named Buddy Love.   Buddy was number five and by then both my mom and dad had several chances to draw a line in the sand over who would chose the name.  They already had two boys and two girls and Buddy didn’t sound too bad.  She worked all the way up to the day Buddy was born and her maternity leave would last little more than most people took off over the holidays.  She was tired and had only enough energy to firmly convey Buddy was fine but my dad was pushing his luck if he told the nurse Buddy’s middle name was Love one more time.  I was happy his name was Buddy.  When people asked why we called my chubby littlest brother Buddy or “Booodgie” as my dad’s family pronounced it, the story would bring laughter even if they had heard the story many times before.  My mother and father would laugh.  As things went from bad to worse, as they too often do, I would try to retell the story and break the harshness permeating everything from the air to their looks at each other.  Even the silence sought refuge from the heartbreak of a family breaking apart for good.

I learned to tell time that year.  Spock and I grew apart for a time.  The possibilities learned in those days as the keeper of time never left me, even as I eventually joined the masses at the factory myself. I found little comfort in the cell phone tucked in my lunch bag. It was night and my tiny daughter should be sleeping.  At lunch time, I didn’t eat.  I was certain I could work 20 years and still not feel right eating my lunch at 2 am.  Instead I sat there and remembered sitting in front of the small screen, a tattered blanket became a magical carpet.  I got to travel through space and go where no man has gone before.  A rapt audience sat quietly on the floor in front of the tv and couldn’t wait to see what strange new worlds were waiting.  Anything was possible, that’s for sure.

As you can see, Spock is probably at least half Mexican and/or my dad is half Vulcan.  Don’t go all Mendel’s cross pollination on me.  The way it happened or percentages don’t matter–  look at those eyebrows.  I couldn’t photoshop it that close even if I wanted to. Live long and prosper–  and dream.  Dream big, then do it.

Spock Nacho and Spock Buddy

 

 

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Another brother– Jaime Spock with my dad.

 

 

 

Spirit

There isn’t a stove so I couldn’t make pancakes even if I wanted to.  Yesterday, I was seated at the most lovely restaurant eating pancakes and hoping it would be more than pancakes.  I was hoping somehow, it would be home.  It wasn’t.

For those of you who are part of the 4utu community, you know that part of my Sunday morning routine is to watch Britain’s Got Talent auditions while making breakfast.  I love hearing the backstory that accompanies those who shine on stage.  A few of these videos have become akin to old friends.  My heart longs for the smell of pancakes made with love as I listen to these stories in the background.  If you love pancakes, this is dedicated to you.  If you love stories that can take you back decades in the span of a few minutes, this is dedicated to you.  If you love, this is dedicated to you ❤

Mexican Mole: Unrelated To The Badger

By Estela Caballero

First, no moles (rodent kind) were used in the making of this chicken mole.  No moles, that I know of, are used in the making of any mole.  Just wanted to clear that up so you don’t spend valuable time trying to spot chunks of chopped up mole in these pictures.  For anyone wanting mole that calls for real mole– hey, who am I to judge– just look up a recipe for mole and substitute chicken with mole, badger or any other kind of meat you fancy.

Chicken Mole is a common Mexican dish.  The mole refers to the thick sauce the meat, usually chicken, is swimming in after it’s cooked.  The chicken is fully cooked before being put into the mole sauce.

You can buy mole sauce in a tall glass jar in the grocery aisle that stocks most other Mexican food– or you can make it from scratch.  The ingredients above are part of what went into the beautiful mole sauce my mother in law made for us.  She combined that with ingredients from image below.  I had no idea fried corn tortillas were part of the mix.

Oaxaca and Puebla are most often credited with oldest and best mole recipes in Mexico.  If you taste a deep dry chocolate flavor in some mole, it is probably in the recipe.  Peanuts are a staple in making mole sauce.  The sauces I’ve tasted have a smoky soft chile flavor.

My father’s side of the family is from Aguascalientes, a small state in Mexico with beauty, industry and agriculture.  No claim to the roots of mole.

My husband’s side of the family is from Michoacan.  A state of beauty and strength.  Michoacan has rich history, culture and is presently reclaiming it’s future.  While it may not have claim to the roots of mole, it’s getting a run for it’s money with my suegra’s version of their famous platillo.

We usually eat mole with a side of Mexican rice.  Sometimes we sprinkle queso fresco or queso cotija, different kinds of cheese, usually grated, over the mole and rice.  Dress up your plate as much as you want.  My mother in law is an artist with a plate and sides.  Finely sculpted wedges of avocado will stand at whatever attention she commands.  She will frequently wake up before any real early birds and chop fresh vegetables destined for a jar of water and vinegar to soften them up and flavor them for fresh chiles in vinegar.

I’m a messy eater and a C+ cook.   I don’t dare try to recount the careful pasos de mi suegrita (steps of my mother in law) or the recipe.  I’m trying to convince her to let me record her and post to share with the world.  Not there yet!  She’s amazing and has agreed to take any questions from the WordPress familia.  She was in amazement that her fine embroidery had drawn attention from all around the world.  I showed her the stats page on my behind the scenes blog pages.  I told her that each number by the flag represented someone who had seen her work.  She was in disbelief.  This humble woman who lives to serve had never imagined she would live to see the day her work was admired outside the small town in Michoacan where she lived, loved and toiled.

Who’ll Tell The Story

Dear friends and family,

As you and those you love step into a new year, find your wings, fasten them tight and fly ❤

Estela

In the years before children

Lose wings

They do fly

To them the impossible

Impossibly bright

Vision gives way

Not a change

Not a light

Pray gentle creatures

Run far, farther

Fly

In the time before crows

Grew legs, only to climb

Departing sweet senses

Dull and unkind

What choice, now a mother

A sister of sight

Heart sinking sorrow

Inevitable flight

Who tells the story

Connect

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Feel that bit of fabric

Fingers along a face

See what is before you

Goodbye

This is not a race

I can’t rely on memory

See there?

Ah, yes

His face

A kindness that went unnoticed

A love too often late

Estela

Oscar by Estela

There is an ignorance I miss.  I really just traded it for a different type of ignorance.  I went through the time in life most go through.  Who am I?  Why are we here?  Why am I here?  I understand that we will each find our own meaning and definition and that it’s ever evolving.  During the time of young searching, I wondered what it meant to be Mexican and American at the same time.  I can’t say Mexican American in front of some of my family unless I want to have fun.  They ask, isn’t Mexico one of the America’s?  Does United States have a monopoly on the use of “America.”  Depending on the day, I will drag it out or quickly agree.

The same conversations and pushes come up with others about what to call ourselves or others. It’s insane but I imagine necessary.  I am a human but when I fill out employment applications or even the forms to enroll children in schools, that’s not one of the boxes offered to check for self identification.  I personally call myself Mexican.  I don’t feel that this takes anything away from the country I grew up in and love.  Truth be told, I have never crossed the border in my life.  I was born here.  I don’t like the term Mexican American–not because of the combative but intelligent family member either.  It’s the Cheech and Chong song that killed it for me.  I can’t hear or say the term without starting the endless play of the song in my head.  Seriously.  I don’t have such a clear cut explanations for chicano or latina. I am not one of those people who can tell you about the roots of my people beyond my abuelita y bisabuela.  I didn’t know that Cinco de Mayo wasn’t really celebrated that much in Mexico or why some think it’s a hidden self hatred to not embrace a label deemed politically correct.  I learned about the bracero program in school even though some family lived it.  It wasn’t a story they cared to tell.  It didn’t define them.  The other stories they shared did.  The reverence they had for a mother, the appreciation of life and tales of undying spirit.  I define me– well me with some help from Cheech.  I’ll be singing that song all day now.

My father was straight from the rancho.  My mother’s family had crossed over a generation before and identified more with the Tejano identity.  I grew up and married someone straight from the rancho.  I don’t know how to make flour tortillas, my Spanish was a hot mess until recently and some of my kids didn’t refine their Spanish until they completed the classes in high school.  We eat posole for Thanksgiving and we choose boxing over UFC– most of the time.  When I wanted to know what it really meant to be Mexican I went to the place I went for everything else.  The library.  My inquiries led me to Oscar Lewis.  I was concerned because I didn’t know what pulque was because it seemed integral to the identity according to the Sanchez family.  I thank Oscar and now appreciate his work for more than just that first glimpse into what one Mexican family looked like.  It helped me find my own answer.  I stopped searching for the unknown because it was just me.  I know what I am.