1.. Mama’s Likes, Hobbies, interests and passions.
Mama had three passions: cooking, crocheting and her family.
Mama loved to crochet. She crocheted several dresses for Raquel, Nani, Jazz. when they were little girls and even crocheted pink window dressings with little cats for Ashyleinde’s room. She loved making baby blankets for all of the grandkids and great grandkids. With a little suggestion from Lu, she made baby blankets in “anticipation” of the great-grandkids to come – she made 3 blankets for Lu’s grandbabies. She crocheted placemats and even queen-sized covers for our beds. Whatever her project (baby blankets, queen-size covers, little doilies), she made with all her love. Sometimes we’d see a project she started and were a little ‘surprised’ with the color combinations…but when she finished, the result was beautiful.
Mama could take over any kitchen and was the equivalent of Michelangelo in the “cocina”. She was the best chef that any of us will ever know.
She cooked her unique recipes that nobody will ever replicate: tamales, tortillas, costillitas in her homemade green salsa. Her secret! For tortillas, It was a "puño" of salt, baking powder, manteca (later substituted with vegetable oil) and water. A couple of us girls practiced making them with her but Lu was eventually the only one to make them. Her son, Lale helped her "amasar" the dough because she couldn't make just a dozen – she was used to feeding an army….for each meal. When anyone visited, they knew they could always grab a bag of frozen tortillas because she always had a stash in her freezer. One visit would send you home with jars of her home canned tomato sauce, chili, nopales, jelly, and fruits.
It was the same when making tamales. It was a "puño" of this and a "puño" of that. But you had to be careful when she said "puñito" because that is less than a "puño". Again, Lu makes tortillas and tamales using Mama's recipes - a "puño" of this and a "puñito" of that.
As a testament to Mama’s cooking, son “Mayo” says: Imagine an Early Saturday morning. You’re in a deep sleep and something tugs on you, wanting you to wake up but you’re so restful, you go back to sleep. Again, ,,,,,,,,,,,there’s that tug! You begin to smell something wonderful – a wonderful scent! You finally wake up knowing what it is and it’s waiting on the kitchen table - A mound, sometimes two, of freshly homemade tortillas, a molcajete of red chile del arbol. Brothers and sisters having those tortillas, smothered in chile for breakfast - HEAVEN! Thanks MAMA for those memories. I’ll still take that same breakfast over any other.
It was quite a site to watch Mama make her amazing mole. We couldn’t believe what a big pots she needed when she’d cook…cuz she wanted to make sure there were leftovers for everyone to take home. Son-in-law, Don, saw the list of ingredients and asked “Do you need all those and that big of a pot!” She looked at him and put him in his place. Restaurants anywhere cannot beat Mama’s mole. Best mole we all ever had in our lives and fear we’ll never have good mole again.
And she LOVED her Presidente margaritas, on the rocks, light salt, in a mug, with green olives. She’d have one, maybe two…but “no more because of the salt which is not good for my high blood pressure”. She was always interested in tasting the latest cocktails that grandson Agustin and daughter Linda concocted. If she liked it, her comment was, “Oh Boy” as she smacked her lips and smiled. Here is a cold, cold one for you MAMA.
Mama was always very busy and enjoyed cooking for her family and friends. She made the best chicken mole ever, which will forever be the standard all moles are measured by her family. Daughter Nena has the recipe, which she will share for a good price. We all remember her devotion to La Virgen de Guadalupe since we spent time with her at church and mass. She tended to her garden and flowers which she named and talked to as if she was talking to one of her grand-babies. No wonder they grew so beautiful.
2.What will always remind me of Mama (scent, recipe, foto, movie, place, etc.)
So many pictures will always show her humility and her strength. The smell of great food walking into the house was her way of saying, “Welcome home; I love you”.
She loved cartoons. If she was home by herself, the TV would be left on a cartoon channel. Or, she would watch novelas. However, she took the novelas personally and would even get depressed with the hardships portrayed, to the point that, Agustin (her eldest grandson) told her “no more novelas, Mama; you know “NO ve las”- “do not watch them” (in English).
3.A few words that describe Mama.
Unconditional love. Once she gave you her heart, it was yours for life. If you joined the family through marriage or as a girlfriend/boyfriend to her kids, grandkids or great-grandkids, you were still in her heart after a divorce or breakup. Friends of any family member ended up referring to her as “MAMA”, so she said it was beautiful having sooooo many children.
Mama was emotional, tender, tough, gentle and harsh. She loved her family with a passion that would often make her cry because “I love you to much” as she would say
Mama was strong, faithful, traditional, loving, influential.
4.What was Mama’s Life’s work or career?
First of all, Mama’s life’s work was her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She prided herself on raising her family, was a staple in her community and at St. Anthony’s church in Oakley where she cooked food for church events and fundraisers. It was because of her influence that grandchildren were confirmed and made their first communion – something she lamented was not done for her grandbabies.
Secondly, Mama was a farmworker and not a stranger to working 10-16 hours and so proud of her work ethic. After a long day in the fields in 100+degree weather or freezing, she got home to take care of her family – laundry, making lunch for the next day, etc. To get an idea of her stamina and work ethic: Working in the fields; thinning tomatoes, sugar beets (with short and long hoe); picking walnuts, cherries, plums, strawberries, green beans, apricots, peaches, apples, cucumbers, planting and picking tomatoes, picking and pruning grapes, cooking and ironing for others, a restaurant cook. Mama also helped cook breakfast, lunch (delivered to the fields) and dinner every day to feed some 200 to 300 “braceros”; Her and her husband, said those in their care were NOT going to eat sandwiches if they had to work hard in the fields.
One summer daughter Lu worked in the lettuce fields with her "deswellando" with the short light hoe that Mama picked showing Lu what to do. The "mayordomo" noticed the hoe Lu was using and wanted to take it away from because he said she needed a bigger, heavier hoe. Mama would not have that. She gave him a piece of her mind and told him to check Lu’s row to see if it wasn't done right and that if he took the hoe then she would throw hers at his feet and call it a day. Mama would tell Lu she reminded her of a "pollito" as Lu followed her up and down the rows of lettuce working. Lu worked with her on the tomato machines and at the end of the first day, she cried because she saw how tired Lu was commenting that she would never forget seeing the toll it took on her children. Sometimes we worked together – a sizable “crew” picking walnuts, cherries, apricots, lettuce, grapes…..anything in season. Mama hated to see her kids work like slaves (as she put it) in the fields and encouraged education as a way out.
But no matter how little money there was, her kids were always stylishly dressed, in clean clothes and well groomed. That’s why the latest trend of tattered jeans (todos rompidos) annoyed her. She’d say, “Ni que anduvieran en el fil” (as is they were working in the fields). We were her pride and joy.
5.Mama’s religious/spiritual connections.
Mama was a devout Catholic and believer of La Virgen de Guadalupe. She said her prayers every night and made sure to include every single one of her seven children, ten grandkids, and fifteen great-grandkids, in addition to friends and acquaintances she knew were in need of faith, strength and love. Whenever something positive happened in our lives, it was thanks to Mama and her prayers….she MADE things happen because Someone up there saw her big heart and true faith by which she pleaded for her kids. When she told us “everything will be OK; just have faith in God, and I know everything will work out”. The thing is, we always believed her.
Mama was a God fearing Catholic of the highest order and that made her fun. She loved all things religious and Catholic.
6.Mama’s favorite songs, artists, or hymns.
Mama loved Mexican music – mariachis, boleros, rancheras. She loved to listen and reflect the mood of the songs – sadness, joy, love.
In the summer of 1977, Agustin (grandson) was 7 years old, sitting on Tia Soco’s lap on the front porch of Mama and Papas house, when a song came on the little portable radio. The was song was “Son Tus perfumenes mujer” by Carlos Mejia Goday. As Mama, Soco and Agustin sang the song, he took liberty and changed the lyrics. Now Soco and he always messed with each other in a comedic way was also very special. The lyrics and title were “Son tus perfumenes mujer” and he added “de tus patas”. I never heard Soco and Mama laugh so hard. Papa came around the corner from checking on his chillitos when they told him what Agustin had just done. And the laughter bubbled again and lasted a while. It is a memory of a time and a place with a group of souls that meant the world to Agustin.
7. General Statements:
Grand-daughter Ashyleinde: Mama, thank you for the beautiful family you have given us and for your unconditional love. I am proud to say that you have been a big part of the woman and mother I have become today. Thank you for everything that you did to help me and my boys. We will miss you and everyday and love you so much.
Grand-daughter Lauren: Mama, I consider myself so fortunate to have spent the first 14 years of my life with you. You have taught me the importance of family, how to have pride in my home, and the importance of integrating my culture into my life. You have helped form me in the person I am today, and you helped build my foundation. I will always be grateful for you love, your lessons, and the sacrifices you made for your family. Te amo.
Daughter Linda: I would love it when Mama and Nena would come visit us. It was such a treat for us to have them at our home in New Mexico. During her time at my house she would always cook our favorite foods. Tamales, mole, costillitas con chile, nopales, salsa roja, salsa verde con chile negro. Her way of cooking for us came from her heart. She knew how to nurture us thru her cooking. To this day, I still have a tupperware of mole in my freezer. I haven’t wanted to eat it cause I wanted her to come back and we could eat it with her. Nobody, absolutely nobody beats my Mama’s cooking!
I remember Mama on one of her many visits when she and Nena would come see us in Taos. Mama and I shopped at the Plaza for souvenirs. It was time for lunch and of course we ordered our margaritas with salt and green olives at The Gorge (her favorite place). Our conversation was deep, full of laughs and tears. We got up shopped some more went back to the bar for another margarita. As we were lost in conversation, I received a call from my work asking me why I wasn’t there to teach my yoga class! To my embarrassment I had no excuse so I told them I was having too good of a time with my mom and I forgot about teaching. From then on before going out, Mama would confirm that I didn’t have a class to teach. Sharing that afternoon with Mama will forever be with me and I will cherish it forever.