I am a Collage

yli is My Story

I am a collage of cultures and experiences. I reflect on the lives of my abuelos and the ancestors who came before with gratitude for the life I love now. 

My Abuela was born in 1926 and raised on a ranch by the ocean in Baja California. She was the youngest of 6. My Abuelo was born in 1925 in Mexico City. My abuelo’s family moved to Mexico in early 1915 to escape the Ottoman government, which systematically exterminated 700,000 to 1.5 million Armenians in what is known as the Armenian Holocaust. 

My Abuelos met in the mid-1940s in Mexico city. My Abuela said, “he made me laugh. He was ridiculous!” My Abuelo said, “she was witty and fun (and laughed at my jokes).” They married in 1951 and moved to Fresno, California in 1953 for a better life and more opportunities. 

Upon arriving in Fresno they faced racism and redlining when trying to purchase a house. They were told that they could only purchase a home in certain areas of Fresno. Eventually, they purchased a cozy house in south east Fresno and started a family. Both found work as janitors at the local hospitals. 

My Abuela was often homesick for Mexico and would celebrate and connect us to her hometown through food. As a child she would share family recipes with my sister, cousin, and I teaching us how to make delicious food like tamales and enchiladas as well as some Armenian dishes like kofta and baklava. There was always beautiful food at my Abuela’s table. 

On my 19th birthday, my Abuelos and I traveled to Mexico. My Abuela showed me the neighborhood she grew up in, the markets where she shopped with her mom and siblings, and her favorite ice cream shop. We celebrated my birthday in a small rustic restaurant overlooking the ocean in Ensenada. An amazingly huge mariachi band sang feliz cumpliendo años to me, tableside, and my abuela cried with happiness that we were together in her home country. It is one of my favorite memories. 

My abuelos have passed. It will be 3 years this fall. I miss them and feel them around me all of the time. Now that I have babies of my own, I often reflect on their struggles and feel grateful to them for enduring so that my family and I can enjoy the life we have now.