Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
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.Published in