The title to this blog post is funny, because when my sister, Rosy and my Mom were on Donahue, back in the late 1990s (still trying to find the video) there was always an opportunity for the audience to ask questions at the end of the show. During that time, all you see is Phil Donahue running around the place, trying to give the mic to whomever is about to comment or ask questions to those on stage. There is this moment on the show, that I will always remember where a young woman gets up, grabs the mic from Phil, looks right at my sister and my mom and says, “I don’t eat tortilla’s, but I’ll keep an eye out on my potato chips.” And then, she winks! I remember watching from home and as a teenager, being completed infuriated and yes, humiliated.
But more on that another time.
Friday morning as I had breakfast with a friend, she mentioned an unusual love of tortilla’s. Unusual because she’s an Italian young woman from New York, who now lives in New Mexico. The way she described this love affair with the tortilla made my dad’s seem like his didn’t mean anything.
It’s quite remarkable what a staple in Mexican cuisine can do to a person. But then again, the tortilla is pretty versatile. I mean, you can eat it with just about anything. Check out my cousin, Michael, pictured on the right. His love of the tortilla included a large dollop of ketchup and sliced cheese. Ew.
Then there is my dad, who has experimented with the tortilla in many ways. As my father becomes more “Americanized,” this fusion of Mexican traditional staples like the tortilla, with meals such as pizza, for example, become rather, well…interesting.
Yes. My dad actually put a slice of pizza inside a tortilla and ate it as the filling. Here on the left, for example, is one of my favorites. I love to cook and usually treat my parents to some new foreign cuisines. On this particular evening, I decided to make falafel for the first time. My dad decided to eat the falafel with a flour tortilla…and a jalapeño. Close enough to a wrap, I suppose.
The reason I share all of this is because there was no other food item that Jesus could have possibly appeared, other than a tortilla. The tortilla holds a special place in my family’s cooking. My mom not only made the best tortilla’s, but it was something you grow up having to learn to perfect. Furthermore, the tortilla is such a big part of our culture and who we are as a people.
In an Albuquerque Journal Magazine article from December 22, 1987, Toby Smith writes,
“many guests asked Maria about the face in the tortilla. A solemn-looking woman, dark-haired and hearty, Maria Rubio turned away no questioners, regardless of the hour. Smiling faintly, she explained in Spanish that the face was a message from God that he cared. God had delivered the message, Maria said, on a traditional piece of food so that people in predominantly Hispanic Lake Arthur could relate to the meaning of that message. “
Sharing stories about how my dad, or even my cousin Michael, enjoyed eating tortillas, demonstrates a correlation between the kind of nourishment this staple provides to many in our community and the spiritual nourishment my parents sought during the period of time in which the Jesus tortilla was discovered. I don’t know what would have happened had it appeared in a different form, but it was as if this was meant to be…at least for my mom and dad.
The Jesus tortilla can be a funny and quirky story, told by Hollywood over and over again. I’m happy that it’s brought so much pleasure and laughter to many throughout the years. I mean, sometimes we need a good laugh, right? But my intention is to share with you the many experiences that came from growing up in this family and how blessed we have been, regardless of how embarrassing it might have been for me as a young kid. My mom and dad pictured here, over twenty five years ago, provides me with so much comfort. Because it was a time in which so much good had happened and yet so much more to come.