Friday, June 08, 2007

more than making tortillas

I had a request to see this quilt, Tortillas para Mama, from a new friend. She commented on the detail picture and wanted to see more, seems it evoked memories of her mother so I decided to share it with all of you.

I had forgotten how much this work meant to me since its been away from home on tour for several years now. Its part of the traveling exhibit featuring art quilts from the book I Remember Mama by Karey Patterson Bresenhan. Its a beautiful book featuring artists work and their stories.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of the traveling exhibit and book. Its always nice to know that the work speaks to people especially since in some areas finding work that speaks to cultural traditions are rare.
This work honors the Mexican/Mexican-American/Chicano families and artists. To serve as a reminder of their experiences and loved ones.To challenge us not lose the things that make us unique as a culture, but to share with others as we dismantle misconceptions about our passion for preserving and promoting tradition.
As a diversity trainer, community activist, and artist I often encounter those who have lost that connection to tradition. We each have something that is a part of the core of who we are passed on for generations, most times its unspoken. Maybe its clothing, holiday foods, music, dance, gardening, or a home remedy.
I believe that its in the holding onto the old and integrating the new traditions to share where we create community with one another. Many grassroots activists and artists can testify that often times its the kitchen table conversations where great ideas are born. I believe that relationship building within families, friends and community become stronger when you create together and in my case share a tortilla.
My Grandfather would often say don't go visiting someone empty handed and there is always room for one more at our table. I hold steadfast to the meaning behind his words. The actions he modeled for me as he created a loving authentic community where we could explore new people, ideas, and ways of being.
Tradition and ritual can create a sense of belonging, teamwork, and can provide security in a sometimes unstable world. So I say carry on the traditions, make new ones, share the stories and remember we are all part of the ever changing fabric of this country.

Here's the story that goes with the work:

Making tortillas is one of those time-honored traditions and for me it meant that the family gathered there was lots of conversation and perhaps a visitor or two. I remember standing on a chair to reach the kitchen counter covered in flour. Grandmother and Grandfather Nunez, who was a wonderful chef, tried to teach me. Then my mother had a try, but somehow my oddly shaped bread never looked as beautiful as the ones shaped by their loving hands. My memories are strong. The sounds of the soft dough patted in their hands, the noise of the rolling pin on the table top or kitchen counter, flour everywhere and that wonderful smell. I remember eating them warm, with butter. We would each have a turn and each one would come with a story or lesson.
As I grew older I would pray for help to the Great Tortilla Goddesses so that I would be given the gift of how to make my tortillas look pretty. Well I guess its the artist in my but mine never came out round, but they still taste great when I do have time to make them. Now with my daughter, son, and grandson I call them creative shapes, trying to pass on the tradition of lovingly made warm tortillas and sharing time in the kitchen together.

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