Today, my friend, the writer Cate Poe, living in Mexico, posted about Menudo & closed the post with the following memory:
“Brings back fond El Paso memories of New Year's Day at 'Buelis -- Abuelita Duran who the rest of the time ran El Jacalito.”
Now, I am not a fan of Menudo. Pozole, yes. But Menduo brings back a very painful evening in Paris, while still suffering jet lag, I allowed a Frenchman to order for me (it had always worked in the past) & he ordered tripe.
If it was a test, I failed miserably. The only lovely thing about the evening was the wine & a dessert of chocolate ice cream covered in a vodka sauce.
And I have not tasted anything with tripe since that evening.
The closing lines of Cate’s post that brought forward a memory were the words “Abuelita Duran” & “El Jacalito.”
I remember the first time I went to El Jacalito. I can’t remember if I went there with my family or with the family of a friend, but I remember a beautiful older woman greeting us & a beautiful young woman waiting on us.
And I remember that the food was sublime. Right in the center of the note.
And then I met Debbie Duran, the granddaughter of the owner of El Jacolito.
We were both in David Cohen’s English class. In those days, it was called accelerated whatever. Whatever, we were in an advanced class.
I may have met her before David Cohen’s class.
I may have used my ploy of “My friend Douglas would like to meet you” that was my way of introducing myself to people I found interesting. Douglas was a purple mouse pin given to me by my best friend from the second grade, Sue Ann McLauchlan. The introduction always resulted in a friendship.
However we met, my memory recalls a sprite of a young woman, with fiery copper hair (including eyelashes), deep brown eyes, freckles across her nose & cheeks.
And an amazing spirit.
I would have to ask her, but I think I remember Debbie Duran appearing at school in knickers & dancing with tap shoes across the walks that led to our classrooms.
After reading “Catcher in the Rye.”
The memory of that performance came to mind & caused me to reread J.D. Salinger recently.
But, the memory that came to my mind today, after confirming with Cate Poe that the Debbie Duran stored in my soul was the same Debbie Duran whose Abuela made Cate’s standard for Menudo, is this.
One day, during that English class with David Cohen, somehow the discussion led Debbie Duran to take a stand & speak.
She talked of her parents’ marriage, of a white woman marrying a Mexican. She spoke of how she was raised in two different cultures. And about how that experience enriched her life, how glad that she was born to the parents & the cultures that nourished her.
Not in those words. It was much more eloquent than I can quote all these years later. This is just my memory of what Debbie said.
A memory that has lasted all these years.
A memory that drives me when I deal with my niece Felicia Marie & nephew John Alexander. When I so want them to embrace their identity & rejoice it its richness.
Their Mexican heritage descends from a mother, grandmother, & a great-grandmother born in Texas. And a great-great grandmother who never learned to read or write, but managed land, raised & sold livestock.
When I look at my niece & nephew, who are so much more Ettinger than Castillo in features but so Castillo mixed with Ettinger in coloring & so both Castillo & Ettinger in spirit, I think of that magnificent young woman with red hair, freckles, & brown eyes, standing up to tell her story.
Who danced across the walks of Coronado High School.