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:
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