Recently I was lucky enough to visit my Grandma Dora in El Paso, Texas. While I was there, we went through multiple photo albums and my abuela told me to take whatever photos I wanted. I’ll probably write more about my time in El Paso later because there is a lot to say. But for now, I pulled out some of my favorite photos of my family. Enjoy my commentary about some of the women I’m lucky enough to call my Abuelas.
We start off strong with a photo shoot. My Grandma Dora and her friends went out & took these pictures just for fun. There were way more than this too! I just took my favorites. Honestly, even at 15 years old my Abuela was way cooler than me. But my love for my cat eye glasses makes more sense now.
When I saw this picture, all my feminist ‘women can wear whatever they want’ energy left my brain and I said “Abuela! Who do you think you are with your short shorts and legs all out! Don’t you know you are someone’s grandmother!” To which, she laughed and said “well I wasn’t then.” She’s got me there.
This picture is of my Grandma Dora and her mother-in-law, my Great-Grandma Libby. You may remember Libby as the one who may or may not have hexed my great-grandfather Chico (read more here). I asked my Grandma Dora if she thought Abuela Libby really was a bruja who hexed Grandpa Chico. She responded something along the lines of “people are scared over nothing.” I guess you could say jury’s still out because that’s what I call not an answer.
These are my great Tias (Cha-Cha & Bona) and my great grandma Libby. As if I didn’t already feel especially connected to my Abuela Libby–do you see that there seems to be a monstera plant in the background? I do not care to know if that was actually her plant or not. She has a picture with it. Close enough for me.
My Abuela Andrea. I love the joy in this picture. I’m pretty sure this was post Tequila Teeth (read that here).
My Grandma Dora, my great grandma Andrea, and then someone we can’t remember who it is–we think maybe a neighbor or friend. My Grandma Dora is already pretty petite like me, but this picture makes it so clear just how petite–no small, my Abuela Andrea was.
Remember the not someone’s grandmother yet comment from window sill short shorts not yet-Grandma Dora? Well when this picture was taken, my abuela was someone’s grandmother. But she’s still looking good in a tube top. “It was the fashion,” she said.
Me: “Dad, who do you think you are wearing those hoochie daddy shorts??” My Dad: “It was the fashion.” Sound familiar? I know where he got that reasoning from. My Tia was an actual model. No matter what she wears in a picture, I never question it. It was quite literally the fashion.
In the summer of 2020, I was making enchiladas like I often do. I went through my normal methods to prepare them which included cutting serrano peppers. I know you’re supposed to wear gloves when cutting peppers, but I’m Mexican-American. You know that stereotype about Mexican women flipping tortillas with their bare hands? It’s rooted in truth. I stir vegetables cooking on a hot pan with my fingertips. So why would I need gloves to cut peppers? Sure, I’ll wash my hands after cutting peppers, but gloves? That’s for the weak. But on this summer day in 2020, I was weaker than the serrano peppers.
While I was cooking, my hands started to burn. I had cut the serranos a few minutes prior and at first, I thought maybe my hands burned from touching the hot pan so I didn’t think much of it. Eventually though, it became unbearable and I had already washed my hands multiple times. So, I did what any normal twenty-something would do. I called my Dad.
But he didn’t know what to do either. He probably told me I should have worn gloves. Too late. He did suggest that I should probably call my Grandma Dora though. And as any good Tejana Abuela would do, she first kindly scolded me for not being more careful. Then she made it very clear that I was under no circumstances to use butter. That would make everything worse. I didn’t tell her that I had already used milk. They’re both dairy products so maybe the reason I wasn’t supposed to use butter applies to milk too. I didn’t want to risk the lecture.
Her advice was to soak my hands in water and ice. This at the very least felt good, but when I’d take my hands out of the water, they’d still burn. So it didn’t actually take away the burning completely. I tried a lot of different suggestions but various methods only made the burning less painful for a few minutes and didn’t cure my burning hands. It took over 6 hours for my hands to not need an ice bath to function. The burning didn’t stop completely until the next day.
In case you ever burn your hands with serrano peppers, here’s my review on all the various methods that my Dad, Abuela, & the internet suggested from least helpful to most helpful:
5. Vegetable oil: It did nothing and honestly my hands just felt worse after
4. Baking soda & water paste: This probably did help the most in the long run, but there was no instant relief so I struggled to actually keep it on my hands
3. Rubbing alcohol: A bit of a disclaimer. The rubbing alcohol I used had been expired for 4 years. It may have helped, but there was no instant relief
2. Milk: This was the first thing I tried so admittedly, it may have set the pepper oils in my hands and therefore could be the reason my hands burned for so long… but neither here no there, it was cold so it felt good.
1. Ice water: This felt the best. Your hands can’t hurt if they’re numb.
As it turns out, my grandma Dora misunderstood how I had burned my hands. She thought I burned them on the stove while cooking the peppers, not from cutting the peppers themselves. Despite the misunderstanding, water and ice still did work the best. So, Abuela was right. Even when Abuela’s aren’t right… they are right.
I still don’t wear gloves while cutting serranos. I think this experience helped build up my tolerance honestly. I’ll be stronger than the serrano. And if I’m not… I’ll just call my Abuela again.