During this time of the year, I often take a moment to think about those who have passed on to the spirit world. In honor of Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” and the anniversary of my nana’s passing, this post will be dedicated to her. It is fitting that Erlinda Gastelum Gallego is the first woman I will be honoring on Mi Reina’s blog because the term “mi reina” began with her. The foundation and concept behind Mi Reina Mobile Boutique began with Erlinda.
Erlinda Gastelum Gallego was born in 1921 in Tucson, Arizona. My nana Erlinda was the matriarch of the family and was a strong and loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend to many. She guided our family through life’s good times, as well as bad times. Family unity was of utmost importance to her. She was our role model and the most strong, willed person I knew.
Part of the Día de los Muertos tradition is not to be scared of death or sad, but rather to celebrate the life and legacies of our ancestors as they were on this earth, alive! When people die, their life does not just end at their funeral, but their life continues through the circle of life. My nana’s legacy and love continues on through her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren! Keeping the traditions of ancestors is important and sacred. I want to make sure that I pass on the traditions and morals my nana Erlinda shared with me to my daughter, Sofia Luna. Allow me to give you a glimpse of who this special woman was and why Mi Reina Mobile Boutique is called MI REINA…
My nana was strong and independent.
My nana often shared stories with me of about her upbringing. She was the only daughter and had five brothers. My nana was forced at a young age to defend her mother when her parents divorced (divorce was very uncommon during those years.) When my tata went to World War II, my nana went off to work at a retail store in downtown Tucson. Many criticized her for working outside the home while her husband was off at war, but she felt like it was important to provide for her family.
Erlinda took care of many and offered an open ear.
Besides taking care of her own four children and later her grandchildren, my nana was also a registered foster mother. Between her and my great grandmother, they took care of over one-hundred foster children from Tucson and Southern Arizona. Many times, I would see someone come back and share life stories with her. Some of these stories were stories of success. Others were stories of sorrow. She was a great listener and gave her full attention to you. No matter what the story was, my nana was their to lend an open ear for all.
She was very loyal and protective of those she loved.
My nana would (literally) fight for what she believed in. She was passionate in her beliefs and helping people. Erlinda was very loyal to those she loved.
My nana was wise and an advisor.
Whenever our family needed some clarity and/or guidance, we would go see nana. She was our ultimate point of reason and gave valuable advice. Although my nana only had an 8th grade education, my nana was intelligent and articulate. She would read the paper, watch the news, debate politics and was involved with community issues.
Erlinda was very encouraging and had high expectations for us.
Her four children have college degrees from the University of Arizona. My mom, tio and tias would tell me that there were very few students of color on campus. Yet, this did not discourage them because back home, my nana and tata supported their journey. My nana encouraged each one of them to pursue higher education and when they felt like quitting, she would pick them up. Because of my nana’s high expectations, we (her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, foster children and friends) did not want to disappoint her. My nana would often tell me to “not give up” and to “always have faith” and whatever you pursue, do it “con ganas.”
She was very fashionable and ahead of her time!
Erlinda worked at a retail store in downtown Tucson. She would sell the latest fashion pieces. Her favorite fashion finds were purses and shoes. I love looking at old photos of my nana and imagining the era during those days. My nana would share stories with me about los bailes (dances), walking downtown or going to family parties. She would also share with me that her and my tata were the ‘most fashionable couple in town.’ And by looking at these photos, I believe they were!
She was just as beautiful during her nineties as she was in her twenties. My nana loved to go shopping. I enjoyed taking her to the local stores and trying on clothes with her. When I would come home to visit, my nana would always compliment my outfits. She always knew how to make us feel special.
On November 5, 2011 she peacefully passed away. I know she would have gotten a kick out of Mi Reina Mobile Boutique. Erlinda’s legacy will continue through the journey of Mi Reina!