The last thing on my mind when I immigrated to the United States from Mexico was the sustainability of the environment. All I thought about was my desire to go back so I could play with my friends and I wondered if I would ever taste the same kind of tortillas, nopales and other home cooked meals. As I constantly reminisced, I realized I was integrating some of my family member’s practices into my 11 year old life. To this day I still remember my grandparents and the rural life style we had then. My grandmother had chickens and grew her own food, and my grandpa was an albañil /’handy man’. My parents and I lived with them and other extended family members, so sharing was a must. When I was younger my mother would always find time to be with me and teach me through her own, very subtle, ways.
The objects I bring connect me to them and to her. Scissors (or a knife for her) were required with any kind of project or activity we did. I used to collect dolls of any kind, especially Barbie dolls. Buying their tiny clothes was expensive for us, so my mom showed me how to make them different kinds, from shirts to dresses to pants. Even though she never learned to use a sewing machine she knew how to sew by hand. I developed my fine motor skills and learned how to use scissors as I cut along the fabric. My mother is very “crafty”, she showed me that we don’t need to buy everything new, when we can make it from things laying around the house. We can do all sorts of things with a nice pair of scissors and imagination. When I wanted to draw with stencils, she wouldn’t buy them for me. My mother made them by cutting the design on a poster board. When I wanted to stamp something we would cut a potato in half and carve the design we wanted. Then with food coloring, we would dye the potato and use the vegetable as a stamp. We would also cut 2 liter plastic bottles and create animals with them. I remember we made a piggy bank once, remolinos, and little decorations for the house. We also used the cardboard tube left over from toilet paper for different things. I remember we cut different ones to make a mouse for a class project. All of this taught me to reuse materials, recycle and use creativity.
My grandmother, from my father’s side, was the same in that sense. She never wasted anything. She would always say “que tenemos perro, o que?” which we did, we had a dog, but that was her way of telling people to finish all of their food. She would also say that “nosotros no necesitamos el dinero, pa’ que? si todo lo tenemos aquí en la tierra y lo tenemos que cuidar.” I still think she is right, we have all we need on this earth and we need to value and care after it. I remember that to me it seemed so peculiar the way she would crush eggshells and put them in the soil for her plants. I was confused back then because I didn’t know they served as fertilizer- which she didn’t buy. Like I said, she had chickens and she collected the eggs from them, made meals for us and break the eggshells afterwards to place back into the earth. To this day I still try to honor everything they have shown me and now know how vital families are to environmental sustainability.