Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Dream of a Sunday Afternoon

 

We’d planned to have an early dinner at a fairly decent Mexican food restaurant, part of a chain called Abuelo’s. In addition to learning that “abuelo” means grandfather, I learned about a mural in the restaurant that I’d seen a dozen times but had never really looked at. And the entire experience was delightful. (The picture below is the original.)

First, the waiter was a pleasure. He was young, friendly and attentive, without being overbearing or annoying. As we waited to order, I looked at a mural that filled one entire wall of the room. I’d noticed it before, assumed it was a clever depiction of folk art, but gradually began to realize that it was filled with distinct and unusual characters.

When the waiter returned to our table, I asked him if he knew anything about the mural. He said, “it’s funny that you ask because we were just talking about it the other day. I think it’s a historical painting of Mexico . . . but let me ask the manager about it.”

That he was curious himself and went to find the manager, in a chain restaurant no less, pleased me. After his “historical” comment, I looked more closely. There was a man with military medals on his jacket; a group of people seeming to look down into a grave; a skeleton/woman in a wedding dress with each arm linking into the arms of a man and woman.

Just then the manager came over. She was a bright-eyed, young and beautiful black woman, who could have been a model. Her long curly locks and her smile added to her charisma. She immediately sat down at our table and was pleased that we had asked about the mural.

It turns out that the mural was an interpretation of a mural made by Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozo and David Alfaro Siquieros. She explained that it reflected the themes of the political party of that time in Mexico. Here is a partial description :

This fifty-foot fresco takes the viewer on a Sunday walk through Alameda Park, Mexico City’s first city park that was built on the grounds of an ancient Aztec marketplace. The large mural represents three principal eras of Mexican History: The Conquest, The Porfiriato Dictatorship, and The Revolution of 1910. In chronological order starting from left to right we meet numerous prominent figures from Mexican history. In the center of the mural is Diego Rivera at the age of ten being led by the hand by the Dame Catrina (“La Calavera Catrina”), a skeleton figure parodying vanity created by the popular Mexican engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada. The well-dressed gentleman in a black suit and derby hat is Posada, who stands on the right of Dame Catrina and gallantly offers her his arm. Posada was highly respected by Rivera, who claimed him as one of his artistic luminaries and teachers. Posada’s narrative style was an extremely influential model for Rivera’s mural painting.

Frida Kahlo, married for many years to Rivera, also appears in the picture. (She stands to the left of Dame Catrina.)

As Ashley, the restaurant manager, told us about the mural her joy in sharing with us was contagious. She even gave us a printed description of the piece.

I was especially moved to realize that in spite of many visits to this restaurant, we had mindlessly eaten our meals without curiosity or appreciation of our surroundings. History was displayed artistically right before us. An artist or artists had spent many hours to create this testimony to a vibrant period of Mexican history.

* * * *

Just as intriguing was the story I discovered later of the founder of Abuelo’s, James Young:

Abuelo’s owner James Young never would have imagined when he immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan 38 [now, 46] years ago, that today he would own 41 Mexican food restaurants in 15 states.

Born to Chinese parents who fled to Taiwan to escape communism and civil war when he was just a child, Young is the very essence of the American Dream.

He began working part-time at McDonald’s for $1.90/hour in 1975, and later bought out a taco stand to start his business in Lubbock, TX.

* * * *

We live amidst great stories every day of our lives. People come from all over the world to find a place for themselves in this country. Some only notice the limitations and acquiesce to them; others see opportunities and run with them.

It’s easy to get caught up in the humdrum routine of our own lives. Or we can look around us, and appreciate that there is great beauty, fascinating stories, and admirable accomplishments right in front of us. People who take risks, who create beauty and contribute to this great country.

We all have much for which to be grateful.

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  1. Kay of MT Member

    Remarkable painting and story. Thank you Susan.

    • #1
    • February 23, 2020, at 12:44 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Bryan McAllister Coolidge

    Susan Quinn: It’s easy to get caught up in the humdrum routine of our own lives. Or we can look around us, and appreciate that there is great beauty, fascinating stories and admirable accomplishments right in front of us. People who take risks, who create beauty and contribute to this great country.

     

    So true!

    Great story. Thank you for taking us along on that path of discovery.

    • #2
    • February 23, 2020, at 12:55 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    I do know that Rivera joined the Mexican Communist Party, and suffered from the idealism that many artists accept. But I love his art, and appreciate the talent he brought to the world.

    • #3
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:05 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: Abuelo’s owner James Young never would have imagined when he immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan 38 [now, 46] years ago, that today he would own 41 Mexican food restaurants in 15 states.

    Only in America would a Chinese man own a chain of Mexican restaurants . . .

    • #4
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:08 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Here’s what Mr. Young said in an interview:

    Q: If you could give international students at Texas Tech a single piece of advice, what would it be?

    This is a great country. There is a lot that can be learned beyond what any University can offer. In my experience, values of Christianity–such as those exemplified by the moral philosophy of the Golden Rule–have done much to make the United States the great country that it is. I would encourage international students to learn all that they can about the culture of this country and embrace the opportunities that it offers. The American Dream is still attainable if one has ambition and the willingness to work hard. On the way to realizing your dreams, remember to stop and encourage others along the way.

    James Young

    • #5
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  6. JoelB Member

    If McDonald’s had paid a living wage, Young could have stayed with them instead. ;-)

    • #6
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:16 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    JoelB (View Comment):

    If McDonald’s had paid a living wage, Young could have stayed with them instead. ;-)

    Double-like! Thanks, @joelb.

    • #7
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:18 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. Stad Thatcher

    JoelB (View Comment):

    If McDonald’s had paid a living wage, Young could have stayed with them instead. ;-)

    Exactly. Sometimes you have to get hungry in order to want to move up . . .

    • #8
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:26 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    If anyone would like to celebrate an immigrant that you know, or know of, please do so!

    • #9
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:32 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. PHCheese Member

    I have a Korean friend who’s family owned and ran one of the better Chinese Restaurants in LA for years. His family escaped North Korea during the war. He claims to be the first Korean to receive a division 1 football scholarship. I guess it’s true, he is to big to argue with.

    • #10
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:44 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. Bryan McAllister Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    If anyone would like to celebrate an immigrant that you know, or know of, please do so!

    Many in the US have some kind of immigrant story. One in my family is my mother’s father. Born in Germany in 1911. He and his older brother emigrated to the US in 1928, I believe – the beachhead to help siblings and parents escape the economic catastrophe of post-WW1 Germany.

    He found odd jobs despite the Depression, learned English, and was successful in helping the family. He strove to be able to turn a pun in English, as this would affirm his success in learning the language, (and prepare him for being a dad … with Dad jokes). He also successfully wooed an Australian immigrant and was engaged, but she answered a call to serve her church and left the country – putting the marriage on hold.

    So, he went to college. His success as an undergrad propelled him forward to earn a PhD from Stanford. And, yes, his girlfriend returned, they married, and raised a great family.

    • #11
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:56 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. Bryan McAllister Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    This is a great country. There is a lot that can be learned beyond what any University can offer

    These are great reality checks – hearing from real people, and their unfiltered perspectives. Great follow up to the post!

    • #12
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:59 PM PST
    • 1 like
  13. harrisventures Coolidge

    Abuelo’s is great. I had to have a root canal several weeks ago, and I needed something that was easy to chew. Their shredded chicken enchiladas were just the ticket.

    Quality is always consistent, wait staff are always attentive. 

    5 stars.

    Oh wait, this isn’t the Yelp review site is it?

    • #13
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:59 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  14. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Diego Rivera also painted the Detroit Industry Murals…two panels show workers at the Ford River Rouge plant, other panels depict advances made in various fields, such as medicine and new technology. “Rivera was truly amazed by the technology and modernity of Detroit’s plants. Although intrigued with the auto industry and its related elements, he also expressed an interest in the pharmaceutical industry.” He spent some time at the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical plant in Detroit as part of his research. The mural also had religion/science crossover themes.

    Some people considered it blasphemous and wanted it destroyed. Edsel Ford, who was a patron of the Detroit arts community and of Rivera in particular, insisted that it be saved.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Industry_Murals

    (There is a theory that Edsel Ford deliberately stirred the controversy to increase interest in the mural and museum ticket sales. This seems most unlikely to me)

    Commie that he was, Rivera had some appreciation for industry, which makes him different from our present-day Progs.

     

     

     

    • #14
    • February 23, 2020, at 2:01 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. PHCheese Member

    I inherited this painting from my mother. She bought it on a trip to California in the sixties. She referred to it as the Huddled Masses Painting. It’s a supposedly a group of Mexicans huddled to keep out of the rain at a street market. Not quite a Rivera but it’s mine.

    • #15
    • February 23, 2020, at 3:32 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  16. E. Kent Golding Member

    If anyone ever goes to Detroit, go to the Detroit Institute of Arts and look at the Diego Rivera murals. They are phenomenal. Great Art, and great look at the early auto industry and the culture that resulted in the UAW. The rest of the museum is pretty decent also. Well worth your time.

    Sorry David Foster, your post is better than mine, but I posted before I read yours.

    • #16
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:31 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  17. Jon1979 Lincoln

    I’ve been out here in West Texas long enough now to still think of Abuelo’s as the Lubbock sit-down formal Mexican restaurant, and Rosa’s Cafe as the Midland-Odessa sit down informal Mexican restaurant (though apparently the first one was in San Angelo). Maybe sometime in the future, Young can open an Abuelo’s in New York at Rockefeller Center, so they can confuse the progressives upstairs at NBC News about the Chinese capitalist from Texas running a Mexican restaurant chain bringing back artwork from a 1930s Communist to the building.

    • #17
    • February 23, 2020, at 6:54 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. The Reticulator Member

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    If anyone ever goes to Detroit, go to the Detroit Institute of Arts and look at the Diego Rivera murals. They are phenomenal. Great Art, and great look at the early auto industry and the culture that resulted in the UAW. The rest of the museum is pretty decent also. Well worth your time.

    Been there, done that. The main branch of the Detroit Public Library with its Burton Historical Collection (historical archive) is just across the street, which is the main reason I have sometimes been in that part of the town.

    • #18
    • February 23, 2020, at 7:09 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. The Reticulator Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    If anyone would like to celebrate an immigrant that you know, or know of, please do so!

    The British celebrate the immigration of William the Conquerer in 1066. We don’t have any success stories like that, although some might argue for Barack Obama as a case in point.

    • #19
    • February 23, 2020, at 7:21 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Manny Member

    I’ve never come across an Abuelo restaurant. If I do, I will have to try it now. What impresses me about Mr. Young is that he had respect for the Mexican culture, enough to glorify its culture with their artwork. He could have just put some general decorations of Mexican decor, but he went the extra mile. I really admire that.

    • #20
    • February 23, 2020, at 7:29 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Skyler Coolidge

    Susan Quinn: Born to Chinese parents who fled to Taiwan to escape communism

    And yet he puts up art by a prominent communist who hosted Leon Trotsky when he was fleeing from Stalin?

    I don’t like his art and I especially don’t like communists, regardless of their talent in art or lack thereof. I don’t find it uplifting to celebrate communism.

    We have at least one Abuelos in Austin. It used to be good, but our last couple of times there have been lackluster. I hope they improve again. I had thought their mole enchiladas were nice.

    • #21
    • February 23, 2020, at 8:46 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Skyler Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I do know that Rivera joined the Mexican Communist Party, and suffered from the idealism that many artists accept. But I love his art, and appreciate the talent he brought to the world.

    Hosting Trotsky is more than just “idealism,” and being artistic is no excuse for promoting a murderous ideology.

    • #22
    • February 23, 2020, at 8:50 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. James Lileks Contributor

    Why does Mexico get a pass when it comes to colonialism and the occupation of indigenous lands? Is their history not as sin-soaked as ours, and hence are they not an illegitimate state built on occupation and Eurocentric privilege? Never quite figured that one out. 

    From the mural description:

    The adjacent figure is Frida Kahlo in a traditional Mexican dress holding in her left hand the Yin-Yang symbol of duality taken from Chinese philosophy, which also represents the duality from pre-Columbian mythology

    Whole lotta appropriating goin’ on here. I think it’s time for some protests. Restaurant Chain, DO BETTER. 

    • #23
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:17 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  24. The Reticulator Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I do know that Rivera joined the Mexican Communist Party, and suffered from the idealism that many artists accept. But I love his art, and appreciate the talent he brought to the world.

    Hosting Trotsky is more than just “idealism,” and being artistic is no excuse for promoting a murderous ideology.

    I don’t know that the mural promoted an ideology, though. If it does, I missed it.

    Otherwise, writing it off because of those connections is getting to be a lot like antifa going after white supremacist connections.

    • #24
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:21 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Skyler Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I do know that Rivera joined the Mexican Communist Party, and suffered from the idealism that many artists accept. But I love his art, and appreciate the talent he brought to the world.

    Hosting Trotsky is more than just “idealism,” and being artistic is no excuse for promoting a murderous ideology.

    I don’t know that the mural promoted an ideology, though. If it does, I missed it.

    Otherwise, writing it off because of those connections is getting to be a lot like antifa going after white supremacist connections.

    Everything Rivera did promoted communism. That is what he did. So did Frida, that hideous troll who was equally unskilled in art.

    Communism excels in using popular art, music and other pursuits to break into a society and begin to disrupt it and control it. Does anyone remember how they have recently tried to take over computer gaming and science fiction writing? That wasn’t arbitrary. Communism must be resisted everywhere, not just the ideology but also the work of its adherents. When you glorify their work, you end up legitimizing them and their ideology. Rivera’s work is hideous in my opinion. It is garish and tasteless. Frida’s work is grotesque, as was she; not because of her disfigurement, but because of her personality and her taste in clothing and how she prepared her face. She revelled in grotesque.

    Comparing my dislike for communism to Antifa’s asocial and violent disruptions of society is perverse. I have never disrpupted traffic or participated in a riot. I have said that I don’t like [these*] artists. I think your attempt to conflate my principled stand against communism with vile thugs is exactly what the communist movement wants and it is exactly their goal when they promote disruptive “art.”

    *edit, left out a critical word

    • #25
    • February 24, 2020, at 3:02 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Everything Rivera did promoted communism. That is what he did. So did Frida, that hideous troll who was equally unskilled in art.

    There’s no point in debating the artistic style; art preferences are personal to each one of us, and we can disagree. I would add that not “everything” Rivera did promoted communism. Here’s one example that didn’t, and there are others. But your comment brings up another important issue: do we condemn an artist’s work because of his or her beliefs? Since you hate artists, that may be simple for your to answer. But I’ve heard Dennis Prager state that he likes Richard Wagner’s works, even though Wagner was a Nazi an anti-semite. I have to admit that it might depend on the specific artist and the work, but I can’t say I would condemn any artist based on his or her beliefs.

    • #26
    • February 24, 2020, at 5:42 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Suspira Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Abuelo’s owner James Young never would have imagined when he immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan 38 [now, 46] years ago, that today he would own 41 Mexican food restaurants in 15 states.

    Only in America would a Chinese man own a chain of Mexican restaurants . . .

    And only in America would the son of refugees from Communism decorate his capitalist business with socialist art. Frankly, Rivera’s work always had too much an odor of Stalinist art for me.

    • #27
    • February 24, 2020, at 6:10 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Abuelo’s owner James Young never would have imagined when he immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan 38 [now, 46] years ago, that today he would own 41 Mexican food restaurants in 15 states.

    Only in America would a Chinese man own a chain of Mexican restaurants . . .

    And only in America would the son of refugees from Communism decorate his capitalist business with socialist art. Frankly, Rivera’s work always had too much an odor of Stalinist art for me.

    And isn’t wonderful that he lives in a country where he can choose to put up any type of art that he wishes. I wonder if he knew the theme that was in some of Rivera’s art?

    • #28
    • February 24, 2020, at 6:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    I just found this interesting bit of information on Rivera; I haven’t been able to substantiate it yet . . .

    He was thrown out of the Mexican Communist Party (not for the first time) when he objected violently to the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact, and soon afterwards he started feeding information to the Americans: he supplied lists of Communist infiltrators high within the Mexican system and reported 60 political assassinations by officially-ordered death squads. He warned that Communist refugees from the Spanish Civil War had been trained by Moscow to set up cells on the Mexico-US border and infiltrate north. He told Washington that the Nazis and Soviets were jointly increasing their influence in Mexico and that the Mexican Communist Party was being financed largely by sympathisers north of the border. Only the fact that the Americans took much of Riveras information with a pinch of salt dissuades one from using the terms secret agent or spy.

    • #29
    • February 24, 2020, at 6:22 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Skyler Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    even though Wagner was a Nazi.

    Wagner died in 1883. He was not a Nazi whatever other failings he may or may not have had.

    • #30
    • February 24, 2020, at 6:35 AM PST
    • 3 likes