It causes me great sorrow to say, that this afternoon, at about 5:30 PM, I suffered a huge loss. Mami’s oldest sister, Maria, passed away, after a long struggle with emphysema which was further complicated by other issues.
Tia Maria was a pretty incredible woman, not to mention a dynamo in the kitchen. Papi would race to her house around the holidays for her pasteles en hoja, and her red beans were so good you could eat them with bread alone…her recipe for Arroz con Dulce is in my book ! She had a very dry sense of humor, and was quick to give solid advice (on my sixteenth birthday, “Girl, you want to open your eyes and close your legs!”), was incredibly independent (she kept her own house with chicken, turkeys, and house dogs) and tilled her own expansive yard (with banana trees, mango, pomme rosa, grapefruit, achiote bushes, gandules, and even yuca plants) made her own meals, and always had the foresight to send a plate of whatever to a neighbor in need. I can remember many times as a hungry college student, making a pit stop in her house on Essex St. on the Lower East Side, and having her set a quick place for me at her table. I could always count on Tia hooking me up with rice, beans, and some of her great pollo frito or carne guisada.
Tia never traveled much, she was always a “mujer de la casa”, but tonight she’s making a heck of a trip…and when she gets there, I want her to say hello to a very good friend of hers, and a very special person to me. Tia, tell Abuela that we miss her and we love her, much as you will be missed, now…thank you for your kindness, your guidance, and your love, and may God bless you and grant you light.