Coming home from work I decided to do Sofrito. This is staple in Spanish cooking. The cilantro, culantro, garlic and onions meshed together in a blender is a must if you want your food to have that kick, that flavor, that sabor! Every time I make it (yes fresh not store bought) I make sure the music is blaring. I always believe this happy vibe is necessary because energy is a big part when making sofrito. Halfway done the smells in the kitchen become intoxicating. It automatically brings me back to my mother.
When I starting to live on my own it became evident how much I was my mother’s child. Being the oldest child in the house one of my responsibilities was to learn. I learned many things from her by just watching. I don’t think I really sat down and asked her how to cook. My mother was a great cook. When the holidays would come around people would come with ingredients and pay my mother to make arroz y gandules for their holiday get togethers. Then there was how in our youth she would get the family together to make pasteles. Mommy would be making the meat while someone cut the green bananas for the masa. Then there was someone who cut the papers and strings to roll the pasteles. She had us set up like an assembly line at the table. Each person was in charge of a task. No one got up either. If you chose not to help you didn’t eat it was that simple. This process would take us to the wee hours of the night. The best part was waiting for the first batch to get cooked which usually was after midnight.
Now as a man of age I see how I live and run my home and mommy is all over it. Growing up it never dawned on me how much mommy was not a housewife. She never really was into cleaning. That was left to my step-father, my brother and I. Mommy just kept on making money on sewing machine. The woman worked 7 days a week putting in an easy 12 hours everyday. She did get up to cook and in my house there had to be rice served and cooked every day. My father had to have it. It was staple at the table. If there was no rice my step-father didn’t eat. It’s now in her old age that my father cooks. With her diabetes her taste buds have gotten bland.
Mommy always had a way of running the show. She took no shit from anyone. She spoke her mind at all times and she had no filter. If your feelings got hurt in the process most of the time Mommy would end it with a- oh well! She never denied where she came from- Una campesina de Puerto rico y que? She didn’t care how people looked at her. She came from Puerto Rico to New York with a vengeance and succeeded. I do believe that had she had more education than just the 2nd grade she had things would’ve turned out a lot more differently. If you ask me she did pretty damn well supporting her children, paying rent and the bills, clothing us and still being as present as she can be. My mother did a lot better than most woman do now with a college education. Her truths she kept to herself. It would be the main reason why she handled life always with a beer in her hand or the bottle of Bacardi. It never occurred till I got older to ask her where she came from and it happened when I started writing my memoir. One of the hardest things I have had to do was ask my mother what she went through to get where she got. After hearing her life story not only do I respect her more but I also understood why all my life she always said to me that she would never go back to Puerto Rico. That she would have to be dead because that is the only way she’d go. It also made sense why she was the way she was with her demeanor and taking no shit attitude.
I visited Puerto Rico a few years back for the first time before asking about her life. This trip to Puerto Rico really solidified my reason to write my memoir. I must say I fell in love with the island. It’s just beautiful. I loved everything about it even the weather though I caught way too much sun. I tried to find pieces of me as I was there. That was one of the main reasons I went to the island. I wanted to know where my color came from being that most of the people in my family are light skin. Where did my height come from being that the majority of my family is small. I wanted to step in my mother’s footsteps. I wanted to walk down the same dirt roads she did. For the life of me I couldn’t picture why she wouldn’t come back to this island. When I finally found out it was very understandable. It shocked me to know that a lot of what I went through she also went through and to be honest at a crazier extreme. Knowing this bit of info about my mom only made me understand I can never make excuses. That in this lifetime I need to at least try once to make dreams come true. Her reason for living and getting success were unstoppable. She didn’t allow her lack of education deter her. She came to Nueva York with no english and illiterate. She pushed foward till it happened. It made even more proud to be Puerto Rican.