Bookmark and Share


Keeping Culture Alive vBy Julie Eickhoff Though Maria Beekley has been in the United States for thirty years, showing her children the culture and traditions of her native Mexico is important to her. Maria, her husband Chris and daughter Alejandra Rubio warmly welcomed me into their home to talk about the family’s Mexican traditions and sample one of the many delicious dishes Beekley prepares. Maria was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and grew up on a ranch with her four brothers and three sisters. The small homestead consisted of seven houses of family members and Beekley helped with many of the chores. Her parents raised cows, horses, pigs, chickens and ducks and grew crops of peanuts, corn, beans and maguey, a plant used to make tequila. The maguey plant was only grown in Maria’s area in Mexico. The family moved from the ranch to a town in Mexico approximately the size of Yankton, SD when Beekley was twelve. It was at this age that Maria would no longer continue her education and instead help with taking care of the home. From age 12 to 16, she also experienced working in the community and what life was like outside the home. Deciding that she wanted to explore more options than helping on the family farm or working in Mexico, at age 16 she made an impulsive decision to come to the United States to see what life had to offer. She and her two-month old daughter arrived with others in Los Angeles, California. She later had a second daughter while still in California. She emotionally recalls her journey to the United States. Leaving home with one change of clothes in a backpack, her family and belongings left behind in Mexico, she didn’t know if or when she would see them again. She explained that at that age, she thought life was venturing out and finding your own path. “We all just have to pick up our wings and fly,” she explains. Not able to comprehend the fear and anxiety that she encountered on her journey, I asked if it was scary for her. “When you’re younger, you don’t fear things as much as you probably should,” she laughs. She explains that it was nice to experience something new at that age, and California was entirely different than the small Mexican town where she grew up. 12vHERVOICEvMAY/JUNE 2018 Alejandra, Maria and Chris with dogs Palo ma (top) a nd Nala (b ottom) She then moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where she met and married Chris and added a son to their family and later moved to Yankton where they have lived for the last five years. That young, fearless adventurer did very well for herself, now having a great family, good job and beautiful home. During her time in the United States, she endured the residency and citizenship process, which took approximately two years. She explains that she believes the amnesty at that time helped speed up her citizenship process. She studied for the citizenship exam during the four months given and passed the challenging exam. A firm believer in passing on the Mexican culture to her children, she often cooks native dishes and keeps up with her customs. She has passed on a few recipes to her daughters, though daughter Alejandra admits that she’s still learning and doesn’t cook nearly as well as her mom. While Maria makes many simple yet delicious meals such as tacos and burritos, she also spends time making some of the more complicated ones which involve many steps in preparation. When I asked Alejandra what her mom is best at making, there was no hesitation. “Her tamales. I don’t think I’ve ever tried any tamales like hers.” Chris nods in agreement. They explain that when they make tamales, they make approximately 600 of them at a time for various purposes. The process to make these incredible tamales is extremely long, requiring them to start around 4:00 AM and finally finishing around 2:00 PM. Many Mexican dishes are simple, Maria explains. Much of the meat and ingredients can be used in a variety of combinations. For example, cooked pork or steak meat can be used in a burrito, a torta or a taco. It can also be used to make a bagel sandwich. They most often use beef, steak or pork and add onion and garlic to the meat while cooking. Most ingredients Beekley uses are easily found in this area. Alejandra explains that she has noticed that her mom has begun to “Americanize”

© Copyright 2015 Her Voice Online