My parents met in the states after they immigrated from Mexico. My mom is from a ‘rancho’ called Paramuen in the state of Michoacán, the Western side of Mexico. My dad is from Culiacán, the capital city of Sinaloa, the Northern side of Mexico. I was born in Santa Ana, California and I have fond memories of the place where I grew up. I think the best memory I have is the family bond that we all had in the apartment complex where we lived. In S.A, this apartment building was known as “El Pentagono,” the “Pentagon.” I’m not quite sure why, I mean it wasn’t shaped like a pentagon precisely but it definitely stuck.
I remember that our apartment complex was right underneath the water tower that now reads “Downtown Orange County- Santa Ana.” “El Pentagono” consisted of eight units total. Four on the top and four on the bottom and there was a huge palm tree before driving into the parking lot of the apartments. Everyone that lived in that apartment complex was Mexican. So I began to read, write, and speak fluent Spanish at a young age. We were all one big family. When someone cooked a traditional Mexican dish, those that most Mexicans don’t cook on a daily basis, they would share it with everyone. Pozole, or posole as some write it (pork stew), menudo (beef tripe stew), albondigas (meatball soup), caldo de res (beef soup), and tamales were some of the things we shared in those apartments. On the weekends, I remember all the men gathering underneath the palm tree having a few beers and chatting it up. They would listen to banda and corridos too. The women would sit on a bench that was placed in the middle of the communal patio. They would play loteria, toma-todo, or poker while the children played soccer, tag, rode bikes, roller skated, flew kites made out of plastic bags and strings (hence, my love for kite flying), or played an improvised game of tetherball with a soccer ball in a plastic bag tied around a stop sign. It was also at this location where all the women (moms) taught all their kids how to play their card games as well. We had so much fun! At times we would bet money too. I know it seems like something that probably should not be taught to a 7-year-old child but those are memories that I will always cherish. When my parents and our neighbors got paid they would all pitch in and we would have carne asadas. Each woman would make a dish like rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, marinate the meat and the men would be on grill duty.
I think we all reminisce about our childhood at some point in our lives. For me, when I think about the place where I grew up, there is always something that grounds me and humbles me. My family was not well off. My parents worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. We lived paycheck to paycheck but we had all we needed. I was happy and carefree and best of all my family was together. It felt like I was part of a loving family unit. The family unit that I never thought would disintegrate so soon. But I’ll save that story for another time.