Both parents were Mexican citizens, met in the U.S., served in World War II, returned to education after childhood, and were voracious readersYesterday, in a post titled "1145 Words about Chile", Middle Tennessee writer Mack of Coyote Chronicles reminisced about his "countless hours" eating taquitos growing up, which all began with mother's taco stand:
Half a century ago, my mother operated a successful taco stand located in East Los Angeles. Eventually, she sold it to her sister, who parlayed that small business into a high volume Mexican food restaurant on the edge of the San Gabriel Valley. It wasn’t really a “sit-down” kind of joint, as patrons were required to order at one window, and pick up their food at another. In fact, for most of my life, the place didn’t have tables. My Aunt built her business on three items; taquitos, (seasoned beef or chicken tightly rolled into corn tortillas and fried to order) and red or green burritos. I remember countless hours sitting at my aunt’s feet as she rolled taquito after taquito. In front of her was a stack of warm tortillas, and a stainless steel pan with chicken or beef. She would roll 20 or 30 of them, then reach down and hand me one, un-fried, of course, and I would quickly gobble it down. They were soft and flavorful and I ate thousands of them growing up. Lately, I have been making them for my family, and the kids love them.(Read the whole post, about cooking with chile, here.)
Mack's parents, both of whom were Mexican citizens who served in World War II, are an intermittent subject on his blog. In a heartfelt 2007 Mother's Day post, Mack said, "If I could choose any set of parents for another go-around on this Earth, I would pick you and Dad every time."
More about Mack's mom from his Mother's Day 2007 post:
My mother arrived in this country in a shoe box, crossing over from Mexicali with her parents and older siblings. She grew up poor, worked as a migrant fruit picker, until she met and married my father, and started a small taco stand in East Los Angeles, after working in the factories during WW2. She had an 8th grade education, yet read voraciously. Eventually, she returned to school and became a vocational counselor to our growing Vietnamese community. She raised four children, lost one as a newborn.In April of this year, Mack wrote about his father:
[She] was the type of woman that, if you showed up at her door at 3:00 a.m., she would make you feel that your visit was the highlight of her day, because it was. My mother loved unconditionally, I think this fact alone made her the most Christian person I ever knew, yet I can’t recall her ever setting foot in a church. She loved everyone like family. I mean everyone. Our house was always full of people, friends, family, and strangers, even, though I believe no one ever felt like a stranger for long in my mother’s home. She would happily cook for 1 or 100, it really didn’t matter to her. When I came home from school, or later, when I would just drop by to visit, she would head to the stove, and warm tortillas with butter magically appeared on a plate.
My father was not a happy person. Sure, he had his moments, and the rest of the family never really knew how to deal with him when he was uncharacteristically joyful. He was explosive, violent, moody and reclusive. Until he returned from WWII, he had little education. His father died when he was young, probably from a combination of hard work and alcohol consumption. Not much is known about my father’s youth, the few stories passed down (almost always from his brother) portrayed him as a serious young man, prone to brooding and violence. I’m pretty sure that he never knew how to show his love except by providing, which he did well. He was detached, yet controlling.Some other Hispanic Nashvillians who could share memories of California are Conexion Americas' "Orgullo Hispano" award winner Miguel Gonzalez, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority President & CEO Raul Regalado, WLLC-Telefutura Channel 42 General Manager Eric Alvarez, Nissan Americas' Hispanic employees including Jaime Ortiz and Stephanie Valdez Streaty, one-time Nicaraguan prisoner Eric Volz, Vanderbilt professor Lorraine Lopez, former Metro Schools director Pedro Garcia and his wife Priscilla Partridge de Garcia, sheetrock hanger Jose Ramirez, and clothier Manuel.
Almost all of my memories of my dad at home are of him sitting in his chair, reading. He read everything. He spent so much time in the local library that, when he passed, the library dedicated an entire bookcase to my father’s memory.
I have spent much of my adult life wondering what it is that drove him. It was, I’m sure, a source of great pride that he went to college after the war (The G.I. Bill was and is a beautiful thing) and earned a degree in accounting.