Esthercita in Coahuila – Part 1

My arrival in Mexico was filled with great sadness; my mom had passed away.  She was resting peacefully at the funeral home, dressed in the elegant ensemble that she had worn to two family weddings.  Dear family, caring friends, and beautiful flowers kept pouring in at the visitation hall throughout the evening, and a simple service the next morning was the last rite before our final goodbye.  Although still trying to process what has happened, I am definitely grateful for some happy moments shared just a few weeks back, when I came to visit and to attend my niece’s wedding.

In this and a few future posts, I would like to share some of my mom’s stories and recipes from her childhood in Agujita, a small mining town in the Mexican state of Coahuila; when I myself was a child, I heard these and many other anecdotes, sitting with my mom in her kitchen, which filled my imagination with picturesque scenes of Mexico (and other countries) and inspired me to always strive to move forward, and never stop learning.  Thank you, mom!


In 1906, my grandfather arrived in Palaú, Coahuila, to work in the coal mines; this was near the end of one of the largest Japanese migrations to Mexico. After the Mexican Revolution War (1910-1921), in which he lost a plot of land he had bought with his savings, he moved to Agujita (present time photo at the top of this post), where he started again from zero, working at a general store.  A few years later, he had managed to save enough to open his own.  My grandmother arrived from Japan in 1926, already married to my grandfather in absentia, and my mother was born a year later.  After a while, they opened a bigger store on calle Comercio (Trade Street).  The original structure had a storage room next to the store front, with a few rooms and a yard behind, where my mom’s family lived.  A view of the same spot, in the photo below, shows the current structure, just a plain house with a front door and window:

Agujita 2 Comercio 344
House on Calle Comercio (Trade Street). This photo and the one at the top of this post taken by my sister, circa 2002.

Esthercita (Little Esther, my mom’s nickname) was active and very independent from a young age, known to walk herself to a neighbour’s house when she was three years old, carrying a packed meal and a couple of small bags of raw rice and beans from her parents’ store; the prepared food was her lunch, and the rest was for the neighbour, as payment for babysitting her while both her mom and dad worked.

My mom always loved sweets, and her favourite dessert was Capirotada, a bread pudding with cheese, which she remembered since her childhood as a traditional dish her mother often cooked.  My mom made it sometimes when I was growing up, especially during Lent, and I have introduced it to my daughters, the fourth generation to enjoy my grandmother’s recipe, as it was prepared in my mom’s hometown.


Agujita Style Bread Pudding Capirotada estilo Agujita

Click here for detailed description and photos

Click here for printable recipe

10-capirotada-estilo-coahuila-my-slice-of-mexico-e1524767742746

 

14 thoughts on “Esthercita in Coahuila – Part 1

  1. Querida Irene, siento mucho oir del fallecimiento de tu mamá, te acompaño en tu pena y la de tu familia. Como siempre le haces honor a tu mamá llevando sus historias a tus lectores y manteniendo vivas las tradiciones con sus recetas. Krysia

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  2. Irene,
    I’m so sad to hear about your loss. It sounds like it may have been sudden and unexpected.

    I was not aware of your Japanese heritage until now – your posts are so thoroughly Mexican-themed. Very interesting story.

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    1. Thank you again for your kind comment, Eilene. I am grateful that I had seen my mom just two weeks before her passing; she was frail and recovering from a hospital stay, but managed to go out for brunch a couple of times, so at her 92 years of age, it was unexpectedly sudden (cardiac arrest), but not completely unexpected, and she was in her bed at home when it happened, so that was a blessing.

      My dad was Japanese, too, so my ancestry is mostly from there, but I was born and raised in Mexico and have not been to Japan yet, so my life experiences are Mexican/Canadian, infused with a lot of Japanese anecdotes and background.

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  3. It’s hard to know the right thing to say really. It’s hard to lose your mom. The feelings will come and go in waves. The funeral with her friends and her family sounded comforting to be with them and know that they loved her too. She sounded pretty cool as a child — it’s not every kid who brings their babysitter their payment and she was doing it at 3. Your family history is very interesting too. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. It is hard; I appreciate so much to hear about the feelings, so I am reassured that it is ok to feel up or/and down, and also treasure them all as part of the process. I always enjoyed hearing her “slice of life” adventures, and it felt right to share a few. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mary!

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      1. I enjoy reading about her. Fits with the way your blog is — recipes as food as well as the interweaving of family, history and culture. You might find people bringing up the 5 stages of grief like it’s a set thing — I think it more defines the major emotions/mindsets that happen but the stages don’t necessarily happen quite sequentially. They overlap a lot. And sadness hits more later when the busyness of the funeral time passes, and you have more quiet time. The quiet time also gives more appreciation for them, for the memories they gave us, for the lessons taught us, for being so important in our lives. Yin. Yang. Like that.

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