Rayme Rossello, Chef-Owner of Comida Cantina, on Practicing Gratitude in Rural Mexico
My mother, who’s a nontraditional minister, lived in San Cristóbal in Chiapas, Mexico, for 10 years. I was probably 28 the first time I celebrated the holiday down there with a friend and a bunch of locals she knew, including these women that she worked with from the Catholic diocese. And we had a really eclectic Mexican-American Thanksgiving like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
My friend had that horrible family tradition of canned green beans with shoestring potatoes on top, and we brought down canned cranberry sauce; I made some sort of pumpkin galette. But we also had tamales, roasted chicken, black beans, mashed sweet potatoes… We had a great big salad, even though it’s hard to find lettuce down there, because my mother has some friends with a farm. And we drank margaritas! The meal wasn’t about eating too much and falling asleep on the couch; it was about telling stories and singing songs. My mother speaks Náhautl as well as Spanish, and she translated for everybody at the table. I remember a young woman telling us how she’d come to live with these nuns after leaving her tiny hometown to get some education… Everything down there is so completely different than it is here. The level of what people have and what they make do with is incredible.
The day after Thanksgiving, we went to a small nearby village of probably 150 residents. There had been a massacre there in the 1990s; mostly women and children were killed. And my mother led a commemorative event - to find the good in all of it, because that’s what people there do, a lot better than we do. I don’t think I stopped crying for 48 hours.
On the way to the village, we got pulled over by the Federales; they had checkpoints in and out of San Cristóbal. My mother, doing the work she was doing, was always concerned with them hassling her. Guys dressed in green fatigues with machine guns - that was memorable!