Year In Review: Angelica, A Telenovela

It is the year 2036 and the New Mexico State Legislature has just concluded. Following one of the most successful and productive sessions in recent decades, I am sitting at my desk on the third floor of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, reviewing a stack of documents. With staff coming in and out of my office, delivering last minute memo’s and messages, I begin to reflect on the last month, preparing to sign off on a comprehensive and balanced budget—the first of its kind in the state.

“Bipartisanship at its finest,” I thought.

This moment was incredibly special. Not only was this one of the best sessions I had participated in, but just last week, “The Tortilla Kid—A Novel,” was named  the best Chicano Literature book, ever.

“If I were George Costanza,” I thought “I’d say that things could only get worse.”

“Madame, Governor.”

I looked up from stacks of paper at the desk,

“Yes, Miguel?” I said.

“Your mom is on line 1.”

When I first started this blog, it was an opportunity to not only gain some

Angelica at 4 years old.

writing experience, but it was an opportunity to set the record straight about my mom and the Jesus tortilla. Because so much has been written about her in the last 38 years; some good, mostly bad, I felt compelled and a personal responsibility, to make it right. In fact, just last week I got an email from a gentleman asking if they could use my mom’s story for an upcoming show on the history of food!

But with this blog, I also promised some “coming of age” stories, and to be honest, I have not necessarily held up to my end of the bargain. But truth be known, there is so much to tell and I will do my best this coming year. That is my new years resolution.

As the youngest of the family, and born into this life surrounding La Tortilla, I have always wondered about whether my life would have been different had the tortilla never happened. I asked my mother this question awhile back. But I will leave that story for another time.

For now, I would like to think that this story, this life–was all supposed to happen, in this very way. It made my mom who she is today at 75 and it has made me who I am. For better or for worse.

IMG_4352Since this is a “year in review,” there are a few things to share about 2015 in order to get this party started. More importantly, you must also understand the kind of relationship I have with my madre. We are very close. I share everything with her; all my thoughts, hopes and dreams. But no matter how much she loves and believes in me; my work and commitment to community, social justice and to writing, none of it will ever make her as happy as seeing her youngest daughter married and with children.

Cue novela theme song, written and produced by Pepe Aguilar

I am turning 37 years old this year.

I researched the number 37 to see if there was any significance and the only thing I found, according to Wikipedia, is that 37 is “the number the average person answers when asked to guess a number between 0 and 100.”

I thought that was important to mention since we were on the subject.

Unlike my mother, (and most Mexican mothers) aging is not an issue for me. In fact, for most of 2015, there were times that I would respond enthusiastically with, “I am 38 years old!,” when someone asked how old I was. Fortunately for me, (and maybe I should thank the super powers of the La Tortilla) I have been told as of late that I look 28, so there’s that. But as my mom likes to remind. I am NOT 28 years old.

I recently left my job to consult and have committed to part-time writing.

Because, well…I gotta make that “best ever Chicano Literature” book happen, ju know?
When I told my mom my plans, she made the sign of the cross and said she would be praying a rosario for me.

I am, in fact, running for office.

Two weeks ago, I officially announced my candidacy for Governor of….just kidding. But seriously, I am running for an open House seat in the New Mexico State Legislature. I am incredibly honored to have this opportunity to run. It is something that I know I will be great at.

Full disclaimer:  Because this blog is about my “coming of age,” there may be some talk about my experience with the campaign, but it will never become political.

It will be more about, like the time I told my mom I was running for office.

My mom is super old school. In twenty years, when she is 95 years old, I will be floating on air because I am serving as Governor of New Mexico as well as holding the position of “internationally renowned Chicana author.” Meanwhile, my mom, will more than likely remind me that I am 58 and still single.

Years ago, any mention of my marital status would have bothered me. I could be shaking Senator Barack Obama’s hand at a gala he was speaking at in Washington, DC (true story) and the only thing my mom would ask about was,

“Oye, y no conocistes a alguien?”

“No mom. I didn’t meet anyone.”

Nowadays, I just let it slide. In fact, it happened again a few weeks ago when I finally mentioned to her that I had some big news.

Her eyes lit up and she smiled.

“Mama! Voy correr para la Casa de Representantes!”

“oh.”

To be clear, it is not because she is not excited. The only thing my parentsMom and I and the capilla have ever really known is familia y trabajo. They were married early in life, had a handful of children, all through hard work and esfuerzo. So they expect their children to do the same. I totally get it.

I mean, come on? It could be worse. I could get the ol’ response of,

“Como que vas a correr para oficinia? Lo que debes hacer es poner te a trabajar! Mira!”

Which leads me to the next part of my story.

The story of how I met someone. Kind of.

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Dear Mikaela: In Life, Sometimes Boy Bands Are The Only Thing That Matter.

Today’s post was prompted by my niece, Mikaela, who this week started her freshman

Stolen from my sister, Corina.

Stolen from my sister, Corina.

year at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Snapchatting with her and following her mother’s posts on Facebook, I couldn’t help but become a bit nostalgic about my own college experience.

College was complicated. I must admit that despite my intense desires to leave Lake Arthur, moving out to Las Cruces to attend New Mexico State University did very little to satisfy my soul. I. Was. Miserable. So miserable that by the end of my first semester I had a 1.75 GPA.

Yes. You read that right. 1.75. Shocking, no? By the holidays, I was convinced I would not return. But it was my dad, Eduardo, who at Christmas said, “nomas dale otra vuelta.”

So I gave it another whirl.

11036951_10155794163075066_3766554014080469254_oReturning the following spring semester, I knew it would be a challenge academically, but I also had some suspicions that my problems were related to a bit of an identity crisis. Who was I? And how the heck was I going to find myself?

One day, I was leaving the financial aid office, having just signed off on that loan I knew I would pay off as soon as I got that high paying job post graduation. I was heading down to the Virgin Vault…I mean, the Women’s Residence Center, room 3130 (yup! I still remember my room number), when a young woman, with a cheery disposition, approached me.

I can’t quite remember the exact conversation, but what I do remember is that I tried really hard to shake her off. But she wouldn’t leave me alone. What felt like hours, were really just seconds, because she finally made mention of Free Pizza. Tonight. Near NMSU Duck Pond.

She had me at free.

And that’s how they getcha.

It’s weird, because until tonight, I hadn’t really thought about it, but this pizza party was a complete game changer for the next three years. Now, if you know me well today, you’re going to be shocked to learn what I am about to share, so I hope you’re sitting down.

This was the night I joined Campus Crusade for Christ, aka Cru.

Here’s a quick spiel: “What began with college students in 1951 has turned into the largest international Christian ministry in the world.” And during my time at NMSU, I did not quite understand what that all meant. Instead, it was a vehicle for me to “kick it” with some new people, whatever they believed in.

Remember, I was searching for an identity and I was really craving community.

Look, I grew up Catholic…”Hay-soos” and I were cool. I mean, I was then and am now, the Tortilla Kid! “Accepting” Jesus Christ in my life seemed simple to me. I had been forced to do that since birth!

Except that it was not quite that easy with this “Cru.” I recall having a map drawn out on a

Guess who?

Guess who?

napkin at Corbett Center, visually describing how my relationship with God, through Christ, worked. As a visual learner, I thought it made sense. But as someone who hasn’t totally trusted the establishment, I couldn’t fully commit. In fact, the sinful secular life I was accustomed to, was politely being questioned.

For example, my love (and obsession) for the Backstreet Boys was looked down upon. When I told my crew of bible study friends that I was driving 12 hours to see BSB perform at the Pepsi Center in Denver…wait, when I told them that the Millennium album track, “The One,” could maybe find some heavy rotation on KLOVE…my faith was put into question. Was I really a Christian? Should I really be attending those Thursday night praise sessions at Hardman Hall?

The fact of the matter is, I was never truly “all in” and yet I chugged along. Remember that thing about my identity crisis? That was part of it. I thought I had to force myself to be someone that I was not. I honestly felt that these people were my real friends. But it was not real, because I was never entirely true to myself. The only way I can describe it is through motion pictures. My life with Cru was similar to the early part of the movie when Lindsey Lohan’s character on Mean Girls is embraced by The Plastics.

Spoiler Alert: That, too, ended eventually.

So to my dear niece, Mikaela. College will be the experience of a life time. It will change your life forever. And take it from your tia, if staying true to you or finding yourself means joining a “Cru,” then God be with you.

(Just don’t drink the kool-aid. It, too, has way too many artificial flavors)

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“Writer’s Block Is Only The Failure Of The Ego…Said Someone Important.”

Last week I received a message from a reader, commenting that he had taken the time to Blank Spaceread all of my blog posts and was wondering why on earth had I not written anything since my last post in April. Essentially, he called me out for being a flake…in a nice way, of course. Coincidentally, the Cosmo magazine I was reading last night, had a quiz that asked, “How Flaky Are You?”

I scored really high on that quiz. (and not in a good way) 

There is no real interesting reason for not writing other than I have been super unmotivated. In other words, “lazy.” Since April, I have been overly consumed with work, friends, unsuccessfully navigating the dating scene, traveling a ton, and spending a lot of time with my dog, Lennon. There has been plenty to write down, believe me, and I have actually journaled quite a bit. But it has been tough to transfer it to this platform.

I turned 36 during this, I don’t know… “lethargic” period and this mulling over whether or not I should be a writer and “actually sit down and write” was an added feature to my summer of turning the page to, yet, another year of life. I feel better now, (despite what that last sentence may have told you) but around May, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety about a lot of stuff, including turning 36. This anxiety got to be even more overwhelming, especially when I would take the time to consider putting it all down on paper…er, The Tortilla Kid. Because of course, we, and by we I mean “writers,” must document everything!

But I couldn’t bring myself toThe Burning of The Journals do it. In fact, (and pardon my ego for assuming that I have a legacy to protect), all I envisioned was hundreds of years from now, someone reading through my writing and shockingly gasping the way my mom does when I curse in front of her or when I respond negatively to her statement of, “Ay, nomas ponte a resar!”

Truth be told, the Sunday after my birthday, I had close friends actually come over to my place to participate in a ritual of “the burning of ALL the journals” because somehow that was supposed to make everything better.

I even chickened out of doing that.

So here I am. Writing, yet again.

To be continued…

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The Fonz Once Said: “Assumptions Are The Termites of Relationships.”

As I have written before, my mom has managed to survive depression and anxiety.Mom and me From a young child living in poverty in Mexico, to the move to the United State in the 1950s, to falling in love with an alcoholic, to raising six children…to the santo Jesus Tortilla. My mom has managed to survive. But she never really sought mental health care and really attributes her surviving, to her deep faith in God. All the while though, she, like many in our culture, carry this badge of honor about not needing therapy, describing it with bold words of:

“Como que voy a ir a ver una consejera? No estoy loca!” 

Ay, Maria!

And so even writing this post, feels a bit…icky. Although my therapist sent me home with some homework this week, writing about my first session on my blog wasn’t part of the deal. However, when I first started The Tortilla Kid, I really wanted it to be as raw and as real as TTK could get.

So here I am modeling raw and real…for what it’s worth.

cropped-img_5367.jpgI live a pretty happy and “normal” life (whatever that means). I have a job that I love. I have a very supportive family. I have many great friends that I trust and care for, near and far. I am highly motivated and involved in my community. I belong to some pretty kick ass circles that have helped me further my professional and personal journey in life.

Get this: People actually care to know what I think about stuff. Like, people actually seek me out for my opinion.

Imagine that.

And yet, if we’re being truthful here, I don’t always feel as fearless as I would like. That’s exactly what I shared with my therapist this week.

When I was an 8th grader in Lake Arthur Schools, I got moved up to varsity sports and one of my first

Angelica at 4 years old.

Angelica at 4 years old.

basketball games with the varsity team was against Dexter’s JV in Dexter. My cousin, Amador, who was always such a superb athlete, was visiting at the time and came to my game and I was really excited. One, because I was such a show off and two, I just loved the game and I was really good at it. During one of our drives down the court, I had the ball and as the defense approached me, I turned on my mad dribbling skills, did a quick jook, cross dribbled, ball between my legs and then down the court and up for a beautiful lay up. Within minutes, my cousin and those in my family, sitting in the stands and watching the game, started yelling out “no fear.”

It’s a memory that just came to me as I journaled and it became the perfect metaphor for what it must have felt like to be fearless.

Fast forward to about twenty years and, well…things are a little different. The fears one has as a young 13 year old, are not quite the same for a woman at the age of 35. And while my life is not as complicated and complex as a 35 year old, Maria Rubio, I do have a lot of unpacking to do.

IMG_0713Today’s fear’s consist of becoming crippled by depression and anxiety. Growing up at home with my mom and spending more time in the doctor’s office with her then in school, is a constant reminder of what could potentially become of me. There is this fear that I live too much in my head and not enough time spent on my soul which then leads to ignoring my intuition, which then jeopardizes healthy relationships I have built in my life. And despite being unique, special, divine and awesome, there are my insecurities that put all of that into question. There is this fear of subjecting myself to too many false assumptions I create in my head. Scenarios I make up for every facet of my life, that are not even real, and yet overwhelm my chance for real inner peace.

It’s pretty exhausting.

So how cool would it be to dribble down the court of life, penetrating through fears and to come out with the winning layup of peace, tranquility and objectivity? Meeting with my therapist this week, she made it sound like it was that simple.

I cried a lot on Thursday during my first session. Mostly because there was just a lot to unpack.IMG_4352 But I also cried because I knew my mom will never get to experience this sort of self-care. I thought about how different her life would be. How much healthier her 75 years of life could have been, had she just sat down and talked to someone about her own fears; living with illnesses, the challenges of being in love with an abusive alcoholic and raising six children, in extreme poverty, pretty much on her own. And then there was the tortilla. 

Embracing therapy as a positive and seeing it through the lense of adventure, is scary…to say the least.  But my new mantra, as of Thursday is:

Be patient.
Be cool.
Be positive.

Wish me luck.

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TTK Takes NYC 



I’m sitting inside the New York City Public Library and I’m in love. Besides it being the sanctuary I needed from the outside chaos brought by St. Patrick’s Day, it is the space I also desired in order to write today. I’ve not done much writing in awhile, but today I’ve been truly inspired. 

I’m traveling in NYC alone and had a free day before I attend a convening tomorrow. I’ve not spent this much time alone with myself, in unfamiliar places, in a really long time. Getting lost in the city has been the greatest thing for me so far. Writing in my journal, I note, 

“I’ve just experienced an overwhelmingly emotional and reflective moment, sitting inside with others around me, as they too, write and imagine.”

I was really worried about traveling to New York this week. Trips like this have never been scary to me or have never created such anxiety. In fact, I used to look forward to these getaways, hitting the pavement of concrete jungles, waking hours upon hours, exploring and searching for new adventures and experiences. 



But prior to my arrival, I was beginning to worry that I’d begun to lose my sense of adventure and spontaneity. 

My biggest fear in life is to inherit my mothers depressions and anxiety and have them suppress my passions for life. It’s something I think about daily and quite frankly, it scares me. Today, I realize that my inner self is much more powerful than that. 

After being in NYC, just under 12 hours, I realize that I haven’t lost that girl. The spirit inside me that has always gravitated to adventure, exciting opportunities and taking risks, still resides in me. I just needed to bring her out for a little spin. 

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The Tortilla Kid’s 2014 in review

Thank you to all of my readers this year. The idea of sharing my life publicly, was incredibly daunting, but it was your positive feedback that kept me going and going and going.

In 2015, I plan to continue to write and share more. Please continue to come back and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thanks again!

A

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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For A Catholic, Jewish, Chicana, December Is A Month Of Miracles.

I have shared a lot of my life with many of you throughout the last half of this year.

Angelica at 4 years old.

Angelica at 4 years old.

Although this blog was intended to share my own personal experiences through the lense of the Jesus tortilla, I have actually shared more of ‘it’ and my mom than I have of myself. This was not intentional. It just kind of happened. Normally, I have no problem sharing in a public space (Just ask my family and friends. Being the center of attention is not a problem for me at all). However, perhaps subconsciously, I have kept from spending too much time writing about myself…until today.

If you know me well, you will have read the title of this post and have had a good chuckle. On the other hand, if you have no idea who I am, you’re bound to ask, “what the hell is she talking about? Is that even possible?”

To answer your question, it is possible. I am living proof. Just read on.

First, it is December and it is a month of miracles. I will get to that shortly. But where does the Catholic, Jewish, Chicana come from, you might ask?

Every single one of us has a personal identity. A concept we all develop about ourselves that evolves over the course of our lives. My identity is a unique one (and my siblings will jokingly laugh about it) but nonetheless, it is mine. But before I get into that, I’d like to share some miracles with you.

La Celebracion de Nuestra Virgin De Guadalupe 

2014-12-16 21.37.21

A candle of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe is lit up in my home in Las Cruces.

On Friday, December 9, we celebrated Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. By we, I mean most of my family and Mexican friends. I’m sure there are a lot of non-Mexican’s who celebrate La Virgen de Guadalupe, but for the purpose of today, I’m just going to stick with my community of Mexicanos. For those of you who don’t know the story about why we celebrate La Virgen de Guadalupe, I will try to explain it as concise as I can. La Virgen appeared to Juan Diego at the hill of Tepeyac on December 9, 1531, just outside of Mexico City. A native of Nahuatl, Juan Diego was asked by this vision of La Virgen to build a church on this very site, in her honor. After Juan Diego informed a local archbishop, Juan de Zumarroga, the archbishop insisted that Juan Diego return and ask the lady for a miracle to prove her identity. La Virgen de Guadalupe not only came through with one miracle, but she came through with three miracles. The first was healing Juan Diego’s uncle, the second was asking Juan Diego to gather rare flowers at the top of Tepeyac, where flowers never bloom, ESPECIALLY in December and finally, to arrange those flowers in his tilma (cloak), where the cloak would later be opened up for the archbishop, with roses cascading to the floor and the fabric of the tilma having the image of Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe.

And so it is.

2014-12-16 19.28.16

Fesitival of Lights, or Hanukkah celebration at my Rabbi’s home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Latkes and donuts for dinner.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights

On Tuesday, December 16, was the first night of Chanukah (Hanukkah) “The Festival of Lights.” It is an eight day Jewish holiday, commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks in the second century. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, which occur at any time from late November to late December (Hanukkah falls on the 25th of Kislev in Hebrew calendar, but different days in the calendar most of us use. This year it fell on December 16th)

The festival is observed by lighting the nine branch menorah. The Shamash, which is usually above or below the rest of the eight, is used to light the eight candles, one additional light on each night of the holiday. When the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and Judaism was outlawed by the Greeks, a large scale Jewish revolt, lead by Judah Maccabee, took place against the monarchy and was successful. It lead to the liberation and rededication of the temple and Hanukkah commemorates this event.  When the temple was cleansed, oil was needed to light the menorah in the temple and needed to burn throughout the night. However, the story goes that there was just enough to burn for one day, but it burned for eight days instead. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. In addition to blessings recited each night, potato latkes and donuts are eaten during this holiday, which are food items that are fried in oil, representing the miracle of the menorah.

Surprise! I celebrate both of these holidays (insert face palm)

The December celebration of La Virgen is a major part of my cultural identity. My mother, Maria, is a big part of the reason why I still commemorate this celebration every year. For the record, it is not because we pray to her directly, (although I do talk to her quite a bit) but she is symbol of all that is good and wonderful about our culture and our faith. The second celebration of Hanukkah is part of my spiritual identity. The rituals and beliefs I have gravitated to overtime, ever since I was a very young adult, have lead me to gain a deep desire to learn more about the Jewish faith and its people. Judaism has also provided me with a great sense of understanding of how I can become more balanced and centered in my own spiritual life. Attending temple, reciting Jewish blessings and reading from the Torah, all share a wonderful place in my journey.

Confused yet?

And then there is the miracle of the Jesus tortilla. Sure, it’s not just like the miracle of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe or the Festival of Lights, but it’s my own personal reminder of mom’s own little miracle tortilla.

I am a Chicana that was born into a Mexican family that has always been devoted and faithful to the Catholic faith. We grew up literally twenty yards from the front door of the Catholic church in Lake Arthur. Despite all of that, this Chicana has gravitated to the Jewish faith for most of her young adult life, never really knowing where it all came from. I actually never met a Jewish person (that I know of) until I was 22 years old.

It’s not complicated. It’s just my life.

Mom prays inside the church of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe in Lake Arthur.

Mom prays inside the church of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe in Lake Arthur.

In this spiritual journey, it somehow accompanies my cultural identity of connecting with La Virgen. She’s a big part of my life. Not so much because of her symbolism to the Catholic church but more so for what she has done for my community. She symbolizes our abuelitas, our tias, our madres. She’s the mujer we look up to. She also reminds me of my mom. While Our Lady of Guadalupe has no flaws, my mom does and yet that is what makes her so special. She is a woman of faith.

Can the two beliefs combine as one? No. They can’t. But can I live out my life with the values of both and hold on to a deep sense of self? Yeah. I think I can.

Last night, as I lit the menorah, celebrating the first night of Hanukkah, it was a very

Mom and I in the dining room of my childhood home in Lake Arthur, where the Jesus tortilla lived for a very long time.

Mom and I in the dining room of my childhood home in Lake Arthur, where the Jesus tortilla lived for a very long time.

special moment for me. It could have easily been two worlds colliding, but instead it was a feeling of peace I hadn’t felt in a long time. As I called my mom on the way home, sharing my evening of celebration, it was nice to hear her voice of encouragement, which isn’t always the case when it comes to this issue. This isn’t easy for her. Not at all. So I do not take it lightly when I say that this journey I do not travel alone, but it is a journey I travel with my madre. She is, in fact, la mujer de la tortilla, who is completely devoted to her Catholic faith, having hoped to instill the same discipline in her youngest daughter. Even though she may feel like she failed, she did not. She did instill in me discipline in faith…my faith.

Maria is a big part of my formation, which is one that is constant and evolving and one that I know she is privately proud of.

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Then There Was That One Time, When Someone Wrote A Song About Mom

The Jesus Tortilla, October 5, 1977.

Yesterday, the Jesus tortilla turned 37 years old.

The town of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, a community that never managed to have a small dot on a New Mexico map, would become the infamous village where a woman discovered the face of Jesus on a tortilla.

Thirty seven years ago today, my mother was on the breach of having her entire life turned inside out.

Last night, as I spoke to my mom, reminiscing over the last three and half decades, she nonchalantly mentioned that there was once a corrido written about her and the Jesus tortilla.

A corrido?!?

For those of you who don’t know what a corrido is, a corrido, according to Google definition, “is a popular narrative song and poetry form, a ballad. The songs are often about oppression, history, daily life for peasants, and other socially relevant topics.”

Corrido’s have also been known to tell stories and share news from community to community. Here are some examples:

The corrido written for my mom and the Jesus tortilla, is called “Reflejo Divino” (Divine Reflection) and written by the sister of one of my godmothers, Patricia Ibañez from Van Horn, Texas. I do not know who she is and I am not at all certain if she is alive or not. Unfortunately, my parents do not know much about her either. However, because of the 37th anniversary of the Jesus tortilla, I feel compelled to share the lyrics of this corrido, written by Ms. Ibanez, especially because my mom found it on the very day the Jesus tortilla turned 37 years old.

Coincidence? As my mom says, “sabra Dios.”

It is unclear what the music that accompanied the lyrics sounded like, but if you’re familiar with corridos, you might be able to make it out. Enjoy!

Reflejo Divino by Patricia Ibañez 

Cristo apareció en una tortilla,
A una mujer de nombre, MariaIMG_5470

Acabo de hacer

Que felicidad ahí en ese hogar
Que Cristo Jesus vino a visitar, y a purificar

Ahi esta presente, tal vez para siempre

En ese lugar, en ese lugar, se quiso quedar
El cinco de Octubre del setenta y siete, en esa mañana, en punto las seis

Estaba presente

Laguna de Arturo, tuviste ese honorIMG_5420
La familia Rubio a Cristo Jesus, feliz recibió

El divino rostro, ya me hizo el milagro
Doy mi testimonio, yo te doy las gracias
Mi pie ya esta sano.

La dicha tan grande para Nuevo Mexico
Por segunda vez, alla en otro hogar, dejo su reflejo
A la humanidad, su amor le mostró

Y en una cruz, y en una cruz, su vida entrego.

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A Leap Of Faith Is Always One Hell Of A Ride

#Rubiopalooza

#Rubiopalooza

My nephew, Eduardo, and his wife, Yessica, were married this past weekend — so #Rubiopalooza was in full effect. Not only was it a very beautiful ceremony, reception and dancing (oh my God, the dancing!) I also spent a lot of time talking with old friends and friends of family, listening to the wonderful things they had to say about The Tortilla Kid. So thank you all for reading.

To those of you still waiting to read it all in Español, my apologies. I think about translating my posts every single day but I just cannot seem to find the time.

But I promise, I will get to that soon. Very soon.

Despite all the happiness from this weekend, today, I have to admit, I woke up in a bit of a funk. In fact, as I was getting ready for my day early this morning, a tower of dishes that had been laying on a towel on the counter next to the kitchen sink, managed to collapse and I just left all the remains on the floor. As I type these words, the remanences of this plate are still there.

I am not sure what I am feeling, exactly, but when I mention these episodes to my mom, like I did tonight, she worries. A lot.

It's only a dish.

It’s only a dish.

Mostly because she doesn’t want me to feel this way, but also because she might feel partly responsible for why I feel like this periodically. Throughout the rest of the day, I did begin to feel better. I managed to feel super productive at work and made it out for some much needed exercise.

All in all, it turned out to be a good day.

But as I sit here writing though, I do think about my mom and all that she has managed to deal with throughout her own life, both with her illnesses and the challenges that surrounded her and then there was the Jesus tortilla. How was she able to survive it all? Was it really the strength she plead God for all these years?

As I have mentioned a few times, I am personally struggling with my own faith and have been for most of my life. As a 35 year old person now, who happened to grow up in a strictly Catholic household, living right across the street from Our Lady of Guadalupe and with very devout parents, it was confusing. I eventually fled Lake Arthur after High School in order to experience the world, but despite the adventures that come with moving around and traveling, I never could escape this thing we call faith.

When I left Lake Arthur to study at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, for example, I was immediately introduced to, what I would call now, evangelical Christianity. For those of you who have never attended college at a university, the first few weeks are much like rush week for sororities and fraternities, except that its religious clubs who are in full recruitment mode. They lure young freshmen with free pizza and soda, much like those credit card companies, who stake out kids outside student centers, handing out free t-shirts if you sign up for one of their cards, something you will regret as an an adult when you’re trying to improve your credit scores. (that’s another story altogether)

I was one of those Freshmen that this religious group convinced to join and wouldn’t you know it, the pizza worked. For about three years, I was part of this group of Christians who roamed the campus, believing that in order to have a relationship with God, you must be “saved.” But honestly, I never really truly believed it. In fact, I kind of felt like it was all just a joke. What kept me going, though, were the people I fell in love with along the way. It’s always the people.

It was the summer of 2000, right before the beginning of my Senior year of college and I was living in Rhinebeck, New York, just north of the city. I can honestly say that it was the summer of my own awakening. I met some of the most amazing people, experienced some real life lessons, and the people I met along the way not only didn’t look like me, but they also didn’t believe exactly what I believed in. In fact, the people that I met that summer were so diverse, I found it to be truly amazing. My whole world just lit up! I quickly learned and fell in love with this group of people, regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs, and it became, in my mind and heart anyway, a true reflection of my planet and that not one of us held the real truth. In fact, why couldn’t we all be on the right track?

For the next ten years after that, I did not really think about faith anymore. Ironically, after having had such an amazing summer, I spent the next decade thinking about how absurd this whole “faith” situation was, countering or debating the religious fanatics any chance I could, questioning it all of the time. Yet, all the while, as I traveled the world and lived in a number of cities across the country, I kept returning to the obvious reminders of my upbringing, of my own faith, which in my case was home. Gripping tightly to a rosary my mom had given me so long ago, each and every time I boarded that flight to somewhere, or whispering a prayer during moments of utter loneliness and despair.

Loneliness and despair is a place I found myself in today, except this time, prayer, hope and faith, did not feel so foreign to me.

My sanctuary.

My sanctuary.

For over a decade, I have wanted to write about the Jesus tortilla and my mom’s experience, but for some reason it never seemed like the right time. But after years of searching for purpose in my own faith, I seem to have found the space to write about it all. I really can’t explain it, but I know it is the right time. Now.

I do not know where I found myself today. I do not yet know what I believe nor do I pretend to understand what this all means. All I know is that I must not question anymore and just write.

Writing brings me comfort and being vulnerable, albeit publicly, brings me relief. Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lake Arthur brings my mom peace, writing these simple words brings me tranquility.

This is my sanctuary.

 

 

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Holy Mary Mother Of God, Pray For Us.

IMG_5470At around the age of 14, my mom was living in Dexter, New Mexico, having just immigrated from Mexico with her parents, Papi Cruz and Mami Dominga. It was also the first time she experienced life as a migrant worker, spending long days in the cotton fields along the Pecos Valley. One story my mom shared while she visited me last week, was about a particular night after work, when she went to bed early to only have Mami Dominga attempt to wake her up. As she shook mom, she said, “Nena, levantate! Te estan cantando serenata!” My mom, too tired to even open her eyes said, “dejame dormir!”

Mom was so tired during those long days that the idea of love wasn’t enough to wake her up.

Thank God! Imagine if she had woken up? You may not have a blog post to read today.

I went home to Lake Arthur this past weekend to spend time with the family and also to take my mom home. After two weeks of spending time with me in Las Cruces, it was time that she return to my dad and to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For over fifty years, my parents have lived in or around Lake Arthur, but it is Our Lady of Guadalupe IMG_5742where they have found real purpose and a sense of community and fellowship. Although my family has been a part of this congregation since my parents moved to this small community, it was not until after the appearance of the Jesus tortilla that my mom became more active in religious Catholic teachings and remembers my dad frequenting mass more often shortly after when he became sober.

While I pride myself in having a father that is the sole choir at Our Lady of Guadalupe (that’s actually not true now, but it used to be) mom and dad have both joined dozens of families in taking care and maintaining this small place of worship for many, many years.

But things are changing. As new families move into the community and become very active in Our Lady of Guadalupe, families that have been a part of this congregation for decades, are today feeling a sense of exclusion. This includes my mother.

I had no intention of writing about this at all. However, after spending time with my momIMG_5740 the last two weeks and watching her prepare for Sunday mass over the weekend, I feel compelled to write what I have observed closely and I am troubled. Our Lady of Guadalupe, a sanctuary where my mom goes to find peace and solace, is now a constant reminder of the rigid hierarchy that exists within the Catholic church. The tiny town of Lake Arthur, with its small, brown and white colored church on Broadway Street, is now facing a crossroads that it never had to face before and perhaps may never overcome.

While I am saddened by all that is taking place in this small congregation and I ache for my mom who feels utter disappointment and sadness, I cannot help but admire her and her faith.

As I shared these challenges today with clergy, my mom was easily described as this “rare creature,” who despite the archaic laws of the church, still manages, somehow, to hold on tightly to the foundations and teachings of Catholicism. Praying the rosary daily, loudly, whispering constant prayers to whomever is listening, and reading the same verses of the gospel over and over again, from a bible she has held in her possession for almost three decades, pages bounded by something as simple as silver masking tape. Perhaps she is that rare creature this clergy was talking about.

IMG_5396For the last few months, I have shared more and more about myself, my mom and my own faith and I can’t help but wonder.

For someone like myself, who does not know exactly what to believe in, it is becoming very clear to me that I am believing more and more in my mom.

Santa Maria!

 

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