Hispanic Heritage Month :: Food and Family


Hispanic Heritage Month is always so exciting to me!

I grew up in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood. It was uncommon to not speak some sort of South Valley slang and even substitute some of our English words with Spanish words. Most of our parents speak Spanglish.

“Margo, sientate aqui!” That’s what my mom would say when I couldn’t sit still. It means, sit down right here! Or as I now tell my kids, “Sit your butt down, right now.”

We consider ourselves Chicana through and through. We have no real sense of where our ancestors came from, but we are pura Chicana. Pure Hispanic. Until one day, I found out I was actually more Native American than Spanish. 35% to be exact. Thank you, Ancestry.com. Mestizo, as they call it. My new-found identity did not change the beautiful culture that we Burqueños possess.

Hispanic heritage is culture.

Sunday Night Dinner Outside

One thing I love about Hispanic families from my era is a strong community and a sense of loyalty.

We are always there for our family and friends, even when they do wrong. Little Jesusito stole a candy bar from the store? He may get a spanking, but he is still loved. My friends or family do stupid things, and I tell them, “You are crazy, but I still love you.” The same happens when I make poor choices. My friends are quick to tell me that they don’t agree, but they still love me.

Hispanic Heritage month

We grew up with super tough skin.

Talk about getting roasted for every decision. I remember I wore this red dress to my friend’s house, and I never heard the end of how crazy I looked. “What are you wearing? You look like you belong at the rodeo.” And so on.

If you are from Albuquerque, you’ll appreciate this. “Oh si, you think you’re all bad because you moved away and got all fancy? I know who you are. I know where you came from.”

My friends and family are beautiful, but boy are we tough. Hispanic heritage is having friends who can push you around, but you still are the first one they call with devastating news.

Hispanic Heritage month

The woman is usually the matriarch, and the man is typically out in the yard or house fixing things. I know that sounds stereotypical, and it isn’t supposed to. It’s my experience. I show up at any of my Grandmas’ houses, and they immediately ask what I want to eat. It may be that I am too flaquita (skinny) because that’s all I hear. But then when I get a belly, I’m getting panzona (chubby). Can’t win in a Hispanic household. Ha ha!

All jokes aside, our family is the most important. And food is a close second. We go to Sunday night dinner almost every Sunday at my Grandma Aggie’s house. She and my Auntie Berna work tirelessly to feed us all. The menu varies, but for the sake of this post, I requested a New Mexican spread. And boy, did they deliver. Red Chile Enchiladas, Fideo, Calabacitas, Arroz Con Leche, y Natillas.

Hispanic heritage is food and family.

Traditional Hispanic Dishes

This weekend my immediate family and I went to our family ranch. My grandpa is the definition of hospitable. He loves to host, and he is a walking history book. This man grew up on the ranch and taught me everything I know about it. I learn several new things every time we go. We ran into some random hikers on the drive across the highway. They were quite inquisitive, and grandpa gave them his number to book a stay at the ranch so that he can host them and teach them more than our 5-minute meeting allowed. We enjoyed our time and he even roasted some green chile on the woodburning stove at 10:00 p.m. Because what New Mexican doesn’t add chile to their meals? I mean, duh.

Gramps Roasting Chile

In my eyes, Hispanic heritage is defined by food, family, quality time, loyalty, and hospitality. Being Hispanic is having family and friends that show up at the drop of a hat. People that watch your kids when you have a last-minute meeting. People who don’t knock and just show up at grandma’s house. Being Hispanic is showing up for your friends when they don’t answer their phones. When they are seriously needing someone, we show up. It’s being annoyed that everything is so last minute, yet rescheduling everything to show up for the important milestones. The people in the photos I’ve added have been influential in my upbringing or journey to adulthood.

These are my people. Burqueños, New Mexico True.

The Tapia Clan at Juliet's First Birthday

The Panas/Padilla Clan

Originally published October 2019.

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