I will carry you here in my heart. You’ll remind me that come what may, I know the way

Alter Project: Honoring my Grandfather, Jose


            My alter is for my grandfather from my mother’s side, Jose. I decided to do it to honor my grandfather this year because he just recently passed away earlier this year inJanuary. Never had I made an alter honoring someone I knew. The year before, I made my alter honoring Frida so this year was completely different for me. This year was completely special for me. My grandfather was everything to me. He was my best friend, and my number one fan. We had such a close bond since I was little. My mom always tells me stories about how he loved being around me when I was a baby and I have so many pictures of us napping together when I was a baby.

My Grandfather was born April 22, 1929 in a small town in Mexico called Tanhuato. He was born during La Guerra de los Cristeros. He had to be baptized in secret because it was not permitted since it was during La Guerra de los Cristeros. He had 6 siblings, and he was the oldest of them all. He had to work as a young child because his father got sick of a deadly fever, although he did not die. He became the man of the house when his father got sick and had to work in order to provide food on the table for his family as well as pay for his father’s medicine. He was always a hardworking man. My grandfather meet my grandmother on a Sunday while he was strolling around his town. They dated for 4 months before getting married, my grandfather was 22 and my grandmother was 19 years old. They stayed in Mexico, where they raised 8 kids. While living in Mexico my grandfather became a butcher of his own store and became successful enough to where they could afford to hire help around the house. My mom always tells us how they would have maids and my grandfather would end up doing their work for them so that they could sit down and play cards with my grandmother and the kids. My grandfather had a big heart and he wouldn’t mind doing things such as that.

My grandfather was basically like my other dad, we called him Papa Jose which translates to dad and his name. When my parents got married and had me and my sister they weren’t very financially stable and my mom tells us how my grandpa would always come over and give her money so that she could buy us things and how he would always take us out to buy ice cream and go play at the park. My grandfather was the one who helped us migrate to the United States. Him and my grandmother had moved to the states brining my aunts, and cousins but my family decided to stay behind. After my dad’s job started cutting hours my parents decided it was time that we moved to the states in order to have a better life and more opportunities, and my grandfather was the one who helped us. I remember being a scared four-year-old leaving everything I knew behind but when my grandfather picked us up from the airport I knew I was home. Later my grandfather helped my mother gain citizenship and then my mother was able to help the rest of us gain citizenship. With the outcome of the recent election it makes me thankful that my grandfather was able to help us with our citizenship because if my mother would have never gained citizenship none of us would have, making it much harder on us. It also makes me reflect on the film Which Way Home that we watched, and how hard it is to migrate. My grandfather helped us so much and I am so grateful for that. I admire my grandpa so much; he was a strong hard working man who always provided for his family. When I was about 15 my grandparents moved in with us which was awesome for me because it meant I got to spend more time with my grandpa. We were like two peas in a pod, we liked the same things. We both loved food! I remember him making me the best carne con chili in the world and he would make it for me all the time since he knew it was my favorite. We would sit in front of the TV watching documentaries about animals. Now that he’s gone, whenever I find a cool animal documentary I get sad that he’s not around to watch it with me. My grandpa loved kids, I think that’s why he always loved being around all his grandkids. He was lucky enough to live to see his great grandkids. He unfortunately passed away before my sister had her first baby. He was able to see an ultrasound of Minerva and he was so excited and would say how she was going to be so cute. Minerva reminds us so much of Papa Jose, he always slept with his hands up over his head and Minerva does the same thing. She always smiles when she’s asleep and we always say that she’s smiling because Papa Jose is in her dreams. He had a drawer in his room with candy and he would always call me over and give me a candy and a hug. Just recently I was having a bad day and was really nervous because I was starting a new job, while I was digging through my purse on my way to work I found a lollipop which was his favorite candy, you could always find him eating one, it made me feel as if he was with me and that was his sign telling me that everything would be okay. He was always encouraging and knew that I would make something of myself. I would stay up late studying and he would always tell me to go to bed because I was already smart. I will be graduating in May and know that he is proud of me for everything I’ve overcome to get to where I am today. When he moved to Chicago, back with my uncle’s I was sad because it meant we were going to spend less time together. He would call me every day just to ask me what I was going to eat that day, now that he’s gone I miss that and I always think of him when my mom makes good food thinking he would have loved a bite. I regret not talking to him more, although we would talk all the time on the phone, I sometimes would tell my mom I couldn’t talk to him because I was busy with homework or other things and now I think back and wish I would have taken 5 minutes just to say hi and tell him I love him. I think about him every single day and talk to him every day. I ask him to watch over us and that I hope he’s not in pain anymore and that he’s happy. I always pray that he’s our guardian angel who looks after all of us, epically all the kids in the family. I miss him so much and I get scared all the time that I will eventually forget him one day, I hope I don’t. I want to be able to grow up and talk to my kids about how awesome my grandfather was and the incredible bond we had. Throughout the semester, we learn a lot about how men were dominate and women were more submissive, for example the family portraits in Next of Kin that had the father in the center and the mother turning away. As well as learning about machismo, my grandfather did not perpetuate machismo ideologies in our family. My grandfather praised all of the women in his life, he treated all of us like queens and as his equal. He would do more work to make sure that we all had a good life but respected my grandmother for example when she decided she wanted to work as well. Next of Kin mentions this notion that “wives and daughters were perceived as passive and totally accepting of the husbands or father’s authority and the man was characterized by his machismo or dominance over women” (Rodriguez 23). I find that interesting because the gender dynamics in my family have always been about respecting each other and that you could do anything you wanted regardless of your gender. I think my family has been very open minded and dismisses gender roles because of my Grandfather.

The items I included in my alter for my grandfather, Papa Jose, are candles, photographs, fruit, a picture of Jesus Christ, flowers, water, soda, candy, pan de muerto, salt, el marachie de calaveria, una calvarita de deulce, tres leches, and a few skeleton decorations. The candles signify light, so that he has light on his journey. The photographs signify his presence and the memories I have of him. The picture of Jesus Christ represents our faith and the faith that he’s in heaven looking after us. The flowers, cempasuchil, signify the flower of the dead. The scent of the flower is supposed to help lead them to the alter. Water is put out so he can drink water if he’s thirsty from his journey back to earth. I added soda, pan de muerto, fruit and tres leches so he can have something to eat, the soda because he loved soda and tres leches because he also loved it. I added the candy because he had the biggest sweet tooth ever, like I mentioned before he had a stash full of candy. The rest of the things on his alter such as la calaverite de deluce I used as decoration so that it could be bright.

My grandfather was the head of the family, anyone who meet him knew that he was the one that looked after all of us. He was the man that taught everyone how to do things, he was the person you would go to if you needed help. For example, he taught us how to garden so that we can grow our own vegetables. My grandfather did not perpetuate tradition gender roles, he would do things that would be considered women’s work, such as garden and cook and clean. He taught us that everyone had to learn to do everything. I remember he would always tell the men in our family to learn to cook because one day they were going to be hungry and I always thought it was funny. My grandfather could do everything and would always do it perfectly. We always make fun of my dad when he tries to do things and we always “oh Papa Jose would have done this in 2 seconds” or “you’re not doing it right; too bad Papa Jose isn’t here to do it. My grandfather was the patriarch of the family. He taught us values and morals, he set the rules on how we should behave. He had 8 children, 21 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren and loved every one of us and spent time with each of us to teach us something, give us words of wisdom, and tell us his great stories, he had good scary stories. My grandfather set the bar high for every man, all the women in my family compare men to him. I know that I wanted to end up with a man like him, sweet, hardworking, loving, kind, strong, and intelligent. Although he was a “macho man” for being strong, he never treated the girls and boys differently like one would assume, when he was teaching the boys how to tie knots he would make sure the girls would be there as well. When he was teaching us, girls how to make food he would bring in the boys as well. He treated us all as his equals. This semester we learned about gender roles that Chicanas played in terms of El Movemento and how most of the time they had to be the ones staying at home cooking, cleaning, making sure her kids and husband were being taken care of. Chicanas had to put their own goals and dreams aside to take care of her family. Today society still perpetuates these gender roles that women need to find a husband and become a care giver to her family. My Grandfather wanted more for all of us girls in the family, he was always so happy when one of us decided to attend college instead of getting married with our high school sweethearts. I’m reminded by all the times he would tell me to focus on school, and get a good job rather than rushing to get married and having kids.

My Papa Jose will always be my favorite person, and I will always love him. I hope to make him proud every day and live a life that would make him happy. I am very glad that I was able to do this project to honor him. This was a great way to keep his memory alive as well as for me to let out some feelings I had since his death. It was a therapeutic assignment.  I love you Papa Jose and I’ll be seeing you.

One thought on “I will carry you here in my heart. You’ll remind me that come what may, I know the way

  1. I really enjoyed reading your alter essay. As I was reading it I saw that your grandpa’s birthday was just two days before my grandpa’s. I can only imagine how hard this was to write for you considering he just passes away. I hope you find the strength to live with the happy memories you have and feel his presence in your heart. That’s how I cope with the loss of my grandpa and cousin. Great essay!

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