Category Archives: Historia

A Little Political History for Heritage Month

Here’s a video in 3 parts featuring Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez (Professor Emeritus of History, UT Arlington) on Los Nuevos Americans–The New Americans. Given twelve years ago at Kingwood College, Gutierrez touched on the History of brown people in Texas and the US, political history, and population estimates. Given the new census, this a good foundation on where we’ve been and where we may be. And, given the attack on truth-telling regarding history (Critical Race Theory), it might be better to learn from brown scholars. And it might help you learn why the Trump era happened and why it must be stopped. Enjoy!

QEPD – Gregg Barrios

I’ve known about Gregg Barrios for a long time.

The former Crystal City educator impacted a lot of students’ lives, mentoring so many kids who became leaders in their respective communities, taught students during the 1969 Crystal City Walkout, and was even the print communicator of La Raza Unida Party with the newspaper, La Verdad. Of course, I wasn’t even born and/or was very young during this part of his life. But he left his mark on Cristal and I learned about it.

Beyond Cristal, he impacted even more lives as a journalist, writer, poet, playwright, cultural critic, and recognized literary figure. To call him a genius and a force of nature doesn’t do him justice because he already knew he was both. Gregg passed away suddenly last week.

He is being remembered by many on his FB page–so many stories. I’ll forever be proud of being included as “Dos Centavos” in the acknowledgments of his poetry work, La Causa, as I had shared some of his works and linked to many of his writings in Texas Monthly, LA Times, and the San Antonio Express-News on DosCentavos.net as a way to support him.

I wrote a lot about his play, Rancho Pancho, which he debuted in San Antonio in 2008, staged in Provincetown, MA at the Tennessee Williams Festival, and finally, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque to rave reviews . It was during this time when I finally met him. It was during the trip to catch Rancho Pancho in New Mexico when I found out he had mentioned me in La Causa, which really touched my heart.

Rancho Pancho is the story of Williams’ tempestuous relationship with South Texan Pancho Rodriguez. Racism, classicism, the nature of superior/subordinate relationships, and the influence of Rodriguez on Williams’ work are just a few of the themes touched on in this play.

And my nephew was cast in the play as Pancho just after he graduated from university and as he was headed to LA to begin his professional acting career. So, needless to say, I became quite the follower of Gregg’s work and exploits as he kept in touch with my family over the years.

On October 15, 2021, Gregg was to be honored by San Antonio Writing Center, Gemini Ink, at their annual Inkstravaganza with the Award of Literary Excellence. So, I’ll steal from them the bio they used on Gregg:

Gregg Barrios is a first-generation playwright, poet and journalist. He is also a graphic digital artist and film-maker. His award-winning plays have been produced in San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Albuquerque, Provincetown, and New York City. He has received a Rockefeller Grant, a Mark Taper – CTG Fellowship, and an Artist Foundation of San Antonio Grant for his theater work. The San Antonio Current has called him “A Texas Treasure.”

Barrios’ journalism has appeared in The New York TimesFilm Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSan Francisco ChronicleFilm CultureLos Angeles Times, and the Texas Observer. He is a former books editor and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He was a founding editor of the local Spanish language daily Rumbo, and an editor of La Verdad, the Raza Unida Party newspaper. Barrios received a USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship in 2013, and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2015. He received a Golden Gavel for his literary work from the Texas House of Representatives, and was the 2015 Fall Visiting Writer at Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently serves on the executive board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Barrios credits his time at Andy Warhol’s original Factory as transformational. He made an experimental film, BONY (1967), with/about Warhol “superstars” poets Gerard Malanga and art critic René Ricard. He later collaborated with Warhol on a Nico music video. His short film Desperately Seeking Dionysus (1968) was part of the Velvet Underground NYC exhibit in 2018. Excerpts from Barrios’ original Bowie-inspired rock musical Stranger in a Strange Land (1976) were featured in Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists… exhibited at Blue Star Contemporary, also in 2018. In 2019, the Austin Film Society honored Barrios for “bringing film culture to Austin through Cinema 40 Film Society” that he founded as a UT student in 1965. Recently, his digital photography was part of the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture at the Centro de Artes exhibition for the New York Foundation of the Arts. 

Barrios has written four poetry collections: Air-Conditioned Apollo (1968); Healthy Self (1979); Puro Rollo (1982); and La Causa (2010). His poetry has appeared in Hecho en Tejas, Latina Magazine, Harvard Review, Aztlan and Vietnam, Fiesta en Aztlan, New Orleans Review, and Home Front: An America at War Reader, Lowrider, and El Quetzal Emplumece. An anthology of his poetry “My Life: The Poem I Never Wrote: New & Selected Poetry 1968-2021” (Hansen Poetry) is scheduled for publication in 2021. 

Barrios served in the USAF as a combat medic during the Vietnam War. He appeared in “Telling SA,” The Tobin Center’s theater production, and on the PBS national broadcast of San Antonio veterans. He was a Harvard Fellow in 2017 and a Yale Fellow in 2019. Recently, he endowed Urban-15’s Mega Corazon with the Gregg Barrios Beautiful Words Prize for the Best Poetry Performance. His new play “Hard Candy: The Life and Times of Candy Barr” will premiere at the Gregg Barrios Theater at Overtime in early 2022. 

No doubt, there was much more for Gregg to accomplish and more lives to impact. I only hope the projects he was currently working on are continued to their completion.

Gregg Barrios, ¡Presente!

QEPD – Ruben Cubillos

There were some good articles and tributes posted yesterday for Ruben Cubillos, Tejano Music advocate, graphic/visual artist, and performer, who passed away over the weekend. I never got to meet him, but I knew and appreciated his work. We also became FB friends and I partook of some of the intense and productive conversations he would start on the state of the Tejano Music genre.

Regarding articles, check out Tejano Nation and Joey Guerra’s piece in the Chron. My FB friend and Austin PR exec Paul Saldana also had one on FB.

If you’ve ever bought a Selena tee, poster, album, or anything with her logo, you owe it to Ruben Cubillos. Ruben put Tejano music imagery on the map, developing concepts and images for Tejano music album covers when the big record companies were finally investing in the genre in the early 90s. Bands like Mazz, David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, and Selena enjoyed his top-notch and creative concepts, which added much value to their albums.

Along with his professional PR career and his career as a vocalist with the legendary Latin Breed, he was also an advocate. Always willing to offer up some advice to up and coming musicians, he never candy coated it. He was quite honest, especially when it came to how a band should develop their image. Especially during the forced break during the pandemic. But he was also an advocate.

Ruben was one of the leaders of those demanding the HoustonRodeo bring back Tejano music acts after it decided to concentrate on regional Mexican and banda acts. Beyond this, the protests were also about pay parity for Latino acts, equity in distribution of scholarships given from the thousands of dollars made from sold out concerts, and more diversity in rodeo committees. Well, Tejano is still missing from the line-ups, the undocumented are still passed over for scholarship money, even though that’s who attends the banda music concerts, but the message was sent to the rodeo people and Ruben was one of the chief advocates. All the rodeo people did was whine that anyone would complain.

Anyway, Ruben was one of the good ones in an industry that has historically been taken advantage of by corporatism, whether it came from Miami-owned radio stations, LA-based record companies, or corporations who used it to make a buck. When the profits slowed, the genre was cut-off and left to die. But much was learned and the music and culture continues. And Ruben is one of the reasons it continues.

Gracias, Ruben.

OMG! That Girl Looks Nothing Like JLo!

And that’s how some of the negative “fan” reviews began this weekend about Selena: The Series.

Once you get other little things out of the way, like, there are no mountains in Matamoros and Tejano dancers dance around the dance floor and not in one spot on the floor, well, the rest is an actual attempt at a biography of a struggling, yet short, and ultimately successful career that achieved much in terms of musical quantity and quality.

For folks whose love of Selena started at Amor Prohibido and Carcacha, or worse, for those whose love of Selena started at Dreaming of You, there seems to be disappointment in the series. For those of us who lived in the 80s and enjoyed 80s, big haired, weird outfit wearing Selena, this series has definitely been a treat and even a respite from current realities.

For those of us who have been fans of the genre for a while, we’ve enjoyed the mention of other artists and events that many of us experienced, such as the importance of the Tejano Music Awards. Whether folks want to accept it or not, there is a lot of history in this genre of music and I really appreciate an attempt to put it out there.

Now, I wasn’t going to be “that fan” who binged it. I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can, so, I only watched the first three episodes, thus far. But some of the criticism has been vicious. Some call it sanitized and white-washed. Others are blaming the patriarchy. Some even blame Netflix. I don’t really see any of what is being criticized in this regard. I’m just trying to enjoy some entertainment that touches on a little history about my culture.

Maybe people don’t want to see Selena’s family’s struggles. The food stamp scene brought out some emotions from me. The scene where the restaurant closes because of the economy tanking hit home with me, too. The scene where Abraham tells his kids that it’s OK to ask for help from the government as he paid his taxes was a speech I heard from my own Pop when we were struggling and I told him about what school kids would say about families on food stamps. It hit home.

The slow ascent to success that Selena went through was also important. Having to find an indie record label to produce, record, and distribute her music without much promotion was tough enough, but the struggle to come up with good songs and dealing with unhelpful songwriters was very telling about what Tejano bands have gone through in their careers. You can’t become a YouTube sensation when Al Gore hadn’t even invented the internets. Hell, just keeping the van and trailer running is something that still occurs in the present-day Tejano business. Showing Selena as appreciative of those that came before her (Laura Canales) was heartfelt, at least as a scene in the show.

The first three episodes provided a good foundation about Selena and the importance of her family in her success. Some of the criticism that the series is all about the dad and brother seems a little whiny. This was a family business. Selena was the main talent, but they all played a part in getting this business started, so, the story needs to be about all of them. I was even appreciative of Suzette’s struggles as a non-musician turned instant drummer for the band and the criticism from within the band as they discovered drum machines and electric drums to get the sound right. Without Abraham’s experiences in his own music career as a What Not To Do List for Selena’s career, and AB’s own struggle to become the family’s musical director, there is no Selena.

Let’s remember that even Beyonce started as a family business and that’s what it is now.

Anyway, I’m enjoying it. The early recordings featured, like Dame Un Beso, or her sped-up version of La Bamba, makes me miss my Tejano cassette collection and the GPX boombox my parents bought me at the Carrizo Springs Wal-Mart.

I’ll keep watching it. Watch it for entertainment or watch it for a little history about a Mexican American icon. But if you are watching it for a different take on the “washing machine” scene from the movie, then it may not be for you.

Selena: The Series Has Captured My Interest

Twenty-five years after the murder of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, her fandom continues to grow, including fans who weren’t even born during her days on the stage. No doubt, Selena, the movie, did a lot to bolster the icon and spread the fact that she existed. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

When I heard of Selena: The Series, I didn’t know what to think. After the movie, what else could be said? Well, for those of us who grew up with her music, watched her in charity softball games, or even stayed around after her early shows, we knew a lot more could be said that hadn’t already been said.

The Selena I remember was thirteen years old, opening for La Mafia at the Crystal Ballroom in Crystal City. My sisters had come to visit from Austin and took me to the dance as the designated bailador for them and their friends. Of course, we knew who La Mafia was. They’d been around for a few years and their innovative, brightly lit, and loud stage shows were already nipping at the heels of bands like Mazz, Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos, and La Movida.

The place was packed, obviously, but the radio ads hadn’t made mention of an opening band. As a thirteen year-old kid myself, I became interested when I saw a fellow teenager getting up on stage wearing some shiny purple outfits, along with a bunch of young musicians. When they started to play, they had the same professionalism as the other Onda Chicana bands I’d seen, except they were young. Then, the vocalist began to sing and that was it for me. A trip to the K-Mart in Uvalde a few weeks later had me buying one of her cassettes recorded on an indy-label. A few weeks later, she was on Johnny Canales.

In the early 80s, there weren’t many female vocalists that drew big crowds, except for Laura Canales. Stories abound about how badly Laura was treated by promoters and managers and other musicians as she was growing into her career. Selena’s story also tells of her struggles with the pendejos who didn’t take her seriously. Because of my sister’s love of music, I was quite the fan of Laura Canales, too.

There was one guy who was the best promoter of La Onda Chicana at the time and that was Johnny Canales. Canales put bands like Mazz, Laura Canales, Roberto Pulido and so many others on the map through his TV show, El Show de Johnny Canales. And when younger bands like La Mafia, La Sombra, Los Chamacos, and Selena came around with bigger and brighter stage shows, Johnny was at the forefront of promotions–even taking the bands on tours to cities in the Mid- and Northwest where his syndicated show was popular.

So, when I hear the stories that the new Selena netflix series was going to include scenes with actors int he roles of Laura Canales and Johnny Canales, I thought, “Finally!” More of the history of the music and culture is being told, rather than the sensationalized and Univisionized versions put forth through bad chisme talk shows, and yes, even the movie.

So, I’m happy that the show is happening. On top of that, it’s great to see more brown folks on screen, too. I’ll start watching this weekend.

Tejano Nation has more.

QEPD – Maria Jimenez, Leader and Activist

Maria Jimenez, 3/15/2011 – Texans Day of Outrage Rally

I was saddened by the news that local civil and human rights activist, Maria Jimenez, had passed away after a battle with cancer.

This bio on Chicana Por Mi Raza points to some of the history Maria made. No doubt, it was her stories about the Houston side of La Raza Unida Party that put a lot of the history in perspective. It wasn’t just about the local Cristal stories that I grew up hearing from my parents, but about something bigger. The best advice she ever gave me, based on my political campaign work at the time, was to never forget that the work is about addressing the issues and keeping the personalities involved accountable.

Throughout my twenty-two years in Houston, I’ve known many young activists and leaders of all walks of life who proudly point to Maria Jimenez as having been their mentor, shero, and supporter. It is the work of these newer organizers today that proves the impact Maria had at so many levels.

My heartfelt condolences go out to Carlos, Stalina, and Maria’s family–actual and causa-related. May we all gain strength from the memory and results of her good works.

Re-Living History

I noticed some Tejano music nighclubs are getting ready to re-open. It’s too damn soon! I even read that Grupo Intocable, one of my favorites, is going to have a “drive-in” concert out in the boonies in Poteet, TX on my birthday. They all say CDC guidelines will be followed, but do you trust people to follow? And what can these places do to enforce them? The federal and state government won’t even enforce it. No, thanks! Stay home.

I saw the lifted tweet-turned-meme below and decided to rewrite it in modern day Vato. Enjoy!


Lots of raza in the club waiting for the Hometown Boys to take the stage. I’m out here in my car watching the scene like I look at the marranitos being made at the panaderia, but chale, I ain’t going in. I can drink a six pack at home and not get the ‘rona. ~ 2020 Rewrite in Vato speak.

COVID19 in a Small South Texas Town

Here is your daily reminder that Greg Abbott and the Republicans are awful, evil people.

I just saw a Facebook live press conference of the leaders of my hometown/county reporting 4 COVID19 cases. The school district has shut down its food distribution program because of a positive test result. As they try to get ahead of it with contact tracing, medical care, quarantine, and providing the people with the latest information, they are basically fighting against Greg Abbott’s lack of concern for poor and struggling communities.

These elected leaders are urging people to stay home, use masks, stop traveling out of the town (which is difficult for those with medical appointments in Laredo or San Antonio), keep out-of-town relatives from visiting (some cases were apparently traced back to a traveler), and continue to follow CDC guidelines. The worry in their voices was palpable.

Good people are reporting get-togethers of 10 or more people out of concern for themselves and others. The townspeople, my friends and relatives, are worried and they are doing what they can, which is commendable considering that Texas leadership is purposely failing Texans.

My community has a lot of health issues and an aging population that is at risk. It doesn’t help when local leaders are trying to protect their communities, yet, Greg Abbott just shirks his responsibilities and shows us he just doesn’t care and offers up conflicting rants and misinformation on Fox News, while being lauded by the Trump administration.

My little town and county have around 7,000 and 12,000 people, respectively. I live in a metro area of 7 million and our local leaders struggle with bad Texas leadership, too. And the fear and worry are strong here, too.

My hometown and county is among the poorest in the nation and heavily uninsured. If one can’t afford to travel 10 miles to the next town’s hospital for COVID19 testing, they must wait for a monthly mobile testing unit that opens for eight hours for one day. The fear is only compounded by the wait.

Although I write about this because I worry, I can also say that I am not surprised by what Trump and Abbott are doing. I’m more pissed off at those who made an electoral choice to keep Abbott by either voting for him or “not voting” for the Latina Democrat because she didn’t “sound” like the leader they wanted (“sounds” like coded language, there) and they guessed Abbott wasn’t that bad. One can argue about not voting period. Hey, I get it. After decades of fighting for candidates, I can say that I’m pretty cynical about most that I simply do not identify with.

But in times like these, how our elected officials respond has everything to do with politics. It’s the difference between one State Representative who uses his contacts to gain access to masks and PPE to distribute to those in need versus a US Senator from Texas who just wants a haircut and makes a show of it. It’s the difference between small town leaders going on Facebook Live to practically beg people to put the people’s safety first versus a Governor who uses TV to whine about leaders who put the people’s safety first. And it’s the difference between a County Judge and a District Judge who make decisions based on facts versus Republicans who make decisions based on profit and hate. Voting matters!

Give Us The Tortilla Recipe!

Well, I received a few requests for the flour tortilla recipe that I use. I’m sure you can find a recipe anywhere on the internet, and some may look familiar to this one, yet, folks tell me they didn’t come out right or they were in the shape of a football or Texas. Well, it can happen.

The key to tortilla making is confidence! And the ability to laugh at mistakes and salvage what you can. (And a heated tortilla press!) In other words, funny-shaped tortillas are still edible! Just get a pat of butter and go to town on them.

Anyway, the recipe passed down to me and the siblings by Flora Medellin and put on paper by my sister, Toni, is this:

Homemade Flour Tortillas

2 c. flour; 1/2 tbsp baking powder; 1 tbsp salt (to taste); 1/2 c. shortening (to taste); 3/4 c. hot water.

In a deep bowl, mix dry ingredients. Cut in vegetable shortening, with pastry blender, butter knives, or fingers, until mixture resembles medium/coarse cracker crumbs. (I have also used 1/4 cup of canola or vegetable oil instead of shortening). Add hot water slowly to form soft dough.

Knead the dough until well blended and pliable. Form dough into 12 small rounds. Roll out each round with a rolling pin, or flatten with a heated tortilla press, to desired thickness (1/16 to 1/8 inch).

Cook on nonstick griddle on medium/high heat until done, flipping occasionally. If tortilla puffs up while cooking, do not attempt to flatten (it might cause a steam burn), just keep flipping until done. Serve immediately or allow to cool on flat service covered with a tea towel before storing.

So, Friday is your shopping day to buy the ingredients. Wear a mask and gloves, and avoid people. Get to it. Then, Saturday morning, it’s time to make the tortillas. You have a weekend project for DIY Tex-Mex!

Tortilla-Making In The Time of COVID19

Hey, all. Apologies for not posting much lately. I’ve been living the stay-at-home, physical distancing life for more than a few weeks to the point where I haven’t even cared to write about politics, or anything, much. Our federal and state leaders are failures, but we’ve known this about republinuts forever. Our local leaders are doing the best they can while dealing with failed leaders above them who only want to appease their wealthy buddies and nutjob supporters.  Still, I know the local leaders are trying despite those who attack and whine in order to score political points, rather than save lives. Kudos to County Judge Lina Hidalgo, especially, for leading instead of showboating.

Still, being at home means worrying about tasks that must get done–for work and for home. We need to stay healthy and survive by flattening the curve. It’s especially scary for folks I know who are immune-compromised, elderly, or uninsured. The fact that Republican leaders like Trump, Abbott, and Dan Patrick are hell-bent on putting these groups at risk is disturbing. And it’s also risky for everyone else. A few “no death” days are not enough to re-open the economy, but if the curve is starting to flatten, it means stay-at-home and mask orders actually work. 

I know we’ve been told to support our restaurants and their new “to-go” business model, but, other than to pick up a few things at Kroger or Aldi’s, I’ve stayed home. The future for restaurants is dim as reports about closings and future closings increase.  That said I can’t say I’ve done my part to help the restaurant situation, but things are uncertain all over, including my own livelihood and small business. So, I’ve been cooking a lot more than usual.

Yes, there have been lunches comprised of frozen pizzas and some processed meats during these last few weeks, but I’ve taken to making good meals right here at home, too. Why? Because it’s a money saver! (Sorry restaurants!) I don’t know how long this disaster will last, and Trump and his ilk have been complete assholes when it comes to saving peoples lives and even beginning simple mitigation early on. Their continued corporate giveaways continue to prop up the wealthy who aren’t going to do anything to create or save jobs. So, I’m staying home and I’m making my own meals for the foreseeable future.

I swear, it’s the spirit of my mother, Flora, that seems to overtake me every now and then. I was always good at cooking breakfasts. Whether it’s papas con huevo or chorizo con huevo, I’ve fed my siblings good breakfasts whenever called to do so, so cooking for myself isn’t anything new. But it’s happening on a daily basis, now.

There’s a good chorizo (the Cacique brand in a tube that costs $1) that Kroger sells that is hardly greasy (by Chicano household standards) and with fewer fillers than most. Or, get a big Russet potato for 68 cents, chop it up or even slice it up and then fry it in a little bit of canola oil (even better with bacon grease and Tony Chachere’s to spice it up) and the papas con huevo come out pretty damn good, too. For all those who say their first trips post-lockdown will be to Tex-Mex restaurants, why wait when you can DIY at home today! Add a pack of HEB flour tortillas or La Banderita corn tortillas and you’re set! (Salsa made from serrano peppers, tomatoes, and a bit of garlic and onion and you’re really set!). It’s great with coffee on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

During the first days of this disaster, I couldn’t find any bags of pinto beans to make at home on one of my excursions. My last trip to the HEB on North Gessner (Spring Branch) had me buying up some cans of HEB branded refried beans with jalapeño. They’re actually pretty good and they are made with lard (HEB really does know their stuff!). Kroger has the cans of Ranch Style pintos, too. Here’s a tip: Fry up some bacon and then throw the refried beans in there to make some tasty frijoles refritos with the grease and bits of bacon. Great side dish! Add some cheese in it and make some amazing bean and cheese tacos. It won’t replace making the beans yourself in an olla, like Flora did all her life, but at least you won’t go hungry for Tex-Mex.

For a few days, there seemed to be a bread shortage, too. Even the $3 per loaf kind! The Kroger’s sugar free one which I prefer was also missing, although, it’s there, now. So, I walked around looking for some flour–nothing! But there were two bags of wheat flour and packets of yeast, so, I brought them home. I was proud of myself for baking a simple, easy to make sugar-free wheat bread. It reminded me of my mom and dad making a pan loco in our fireplace (because the oven didn’t work) during those cold, winter days. Panic buying be damned, I thought! I can do this!! I did find some regular flour a couple of weeks later, too.

During Week 2, I was hit with the cooking bug again and thought about my Mom’s Mexican arroz. Fry up some white rice on a thin coating of canola oil until it browns. Add some chopped onion so it gets toasted, too. Add some salt and a can of tomato sauce, chicken broth and a bit of water and let the stuff boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or so. Then you fluff it up so it doesn’t stick and add some filler (meat!) to it. It is no longer just a side dish, but a meal! I had never tried to make it because I try to avoid complex carbs and knowing that I can make it could lead to a bodily disaster again; still, it came out pretty damn good. All those years of watching Flo in the kitchen paid off on this one.

On a Sunday, my newsfeed alerted me to a Catholic mass being livestreamed from my hometown of Crystal City. Sacred Heart Church was the one that I avoided as a kid–at least the indoctrination (Catechism) classes and all the sacraments. Still, I had a Mom who I joked prayed more than the monjitas (nuns), so, I still feel some weird connection to the church. Anyway, Sacred Heart’s priest, Father Silos, provided some extremely comforting and hopeful words at my mom’s memorial service in 2016. I knew he had something good for this Lockdown Sunday homily and so I watched it, listened, and even felt it. That dude is good!

I felt pretty good afterwards, which for someone who avoids religion (and church) religiously was a bit shocking. Suddenly, I felt the spirit of Flo envelop me. I took out the flour, the baking powder, some salt, and canola oil (sorry, no lard) and mixed up the dough and came up with a dozen homemade flour tortillas. Yes, memories of Flo and Pop did appear as I sifted the ingredients, added the hot water, kneaded the dough, and made the testales (dough balls) before rolling them out.

I hadn’t made tortillas in years. And recently, I’ve begun making corn tortillas using the Maseca Nixtamasa since they’re healthier and even better when they’re homemade. These flour ones, though, they complemented the baked chicken and frijoles refritos I made for lunch. I saved up a few tortillas to have with melted butter as a snack, too. When I made them back in the day, I’d get my Mom’s goat by telling her that mine were as good as hers only to make her begrudgingly agree as she added, “Ya te puedes casar.” (“Now, you can get married.” In other words, “Get outta my house!”)

Honestly, this current disaster we’re experiencing has revived all sorts of memories for me. Experiencing an overtaxed supply chain today is no different than growing up poor in South Texas in the 1980s. Back then, there was plenty of supply, but not enough money to buy it. But we survived it all–as a family. And I can’t forget those who are going through this today–those who have suddenly lost jobs and income. Those who work the gig economy. The musicians and fellow DJs who are suddenly livestreaming on social media with their Venmo links in full display. It’s painful and brings up memories of struggle that are both sad and happy.

When Pop’s disability check would arrive, we would stock up on flour, beans, rice, eggs, fresh bacon from the Benavides family’s store so we could save the bacon grease, lard, and ingredients to make salsa. Every now and then, we’d get a good cut of round steak to cut up and to mix into the Mexican rice or fideo my mom would make. All the stuff we bought, Flo would make it last. And one cooking session would amount to two meals, sometimes. This was especially helpful at the end of the month. I think I learned well from my Mom and Dad, except, instead of surviving poverty today, it’s about staying home to avoid crowds and avoiding COVID19. But I can’t forget those who are with nothing, and therefore, give a few bucks that I can to the Houston Food Bank. Either way, it’s about survival. And it’s still about making sure my family stays fed and healthy by physically distancing from the world as much as possible. A month in, we’re not out of the woods, no matter how much Trump and Abbott want to pretend it is from their well-secured, taxpayer-stocked cocoons. We must stay home, and if we go to the store, wear a mask and gloves.

I’ve noticed many of my social media connections doing a lot of restaurant pick-up, margaritas to-go, and I think I even saw someone picking up horchata-flavored cold brew to-go. (That’s too damn fancy! And weird!) And that’s great. The restaurants and their workers need help. And if you’re able to afford it, go for it! As for me, I’ll keep on cooking. And I’ll keep on stretching my pantry and my dollar because the future really is uncertain at all levels of society. And if it brings up some cool memories about survival that were made during an equally uncertain period in your life, then you’ve just reminded yourself that you can make it through this period, too!