Thanksgiving, says the legend, is the day that for almost 400 years the closest and dearest have gathered. Around the table they eat the delicacies prepared by the owner of the house and those that each one brings. This year those tastes and smells did not permeate many American homes. There is a pandemic and that changed plans.
In the Saraí Salmerón house this Thanksgiving Day (Thanksgiving) there was no coming and going of uncles, sisters, nephews, cousins and friends with their hands full of steaming trays of tasty tamales, aromatic baked chickens, or the famous sweet potatoes with honey from El Salvador.
They used to gather up to 30 family members who came from New York and Florida, but in times of pandemic, the Salmerons did not wait for anyone. This Thanksgiving he was downcast, they didn’t even go to his church’s Thanksgiving service or get up early to cook.
“This time we only passed my mother, my husband and my children. I put a chicken in the oven, nothing was special, “said Salmerón, who last May felt that the world fell on him. His mother was infected with the coronavirus and was delicate in the hospital. “This date did not stop being depressing because it is the only time of the year that we can be with the family and see the little ones running from here to there, but we have to be responsible and protect ourselves.”
There was no rattling of pots or the Elpidia “Chila” García oven, there were aromas of shredded meat and roast pork leg that he used to serve with rice with pigeon peas and delicious Dominican sheet cakes. She and her husband, her daughter and they stayed home because you can’t play with the virus. Although she adores her grandchildren, this year they weren’t invited.
“The truth is that this year I am so cold that all I want is to be in prayer to give thanks for all the opportunities we have had here and because we are healthy,” Garcia said. “I’m sorry, but this time I didn’t open the door for Thanksgiving, nor will I open it to anyone on Christmas and New Years. It is better if they call me on the phone, because now the important thing is that we are all alive and healthy. The good times will come ”.
In this year of uncertainties, illness, unemployment, loneliness and the loss of so many lives, the families with whom El Tiempo Latino spoke recognized that they are going through a period of fatigue, reluctance and nostalgia. Instead of talking about succulent dinners, trips, guests or Black Friday, they preferred to give thanks for being alive and healthy and having a job and remembering how much they long for how happy they were last Thanksgiving, which was only a year, but for María López it’s like it was a century ago.
With a newborn child, a 10-year-old girl, she and her husband have been unemployed since the pandemic began, there was no dinner in the López department. “We are desperate, living off food banks, without money or hope. Not knowing what will happen tomorrow has become eternal, “said López.
Paula Cruz did not have among her reasons to thank her father for the health, who died last month of a heart problem in El Salvador; Nor did he pray for the life of his uncle, who was defeated by the coronavirus not long ago.
“We couldn’t travel to my dad’s funeral and my uncle was put in a black bag and straight to the grave. These two blows have only left us crying and pain, “Cruz said, still in denial that this is happening in his life. “There was not much to celebrate, only my husband, my two children and I passed. We are not much of a turkey and I only made a chick, more for the children who asked what we are going to eat ”.
Last year the seven Cruz brothers met at the house of one of Paula’s sisters, uncles, nephews and cousins arrived there. “This time for protection, we stay at home waiting for better times.”
In the home of María Alicia Flores there were also “some chicks and only for those of us who live together”. For her, more than an abundant and exquisite dinner, what really matters is “thanking God every day because we have health and work, now that they are so needed”.
With more than 12 million cases of coronavirus and more than 260 thousand deaths in the United States, it has been proven to exhaustion that this is an opportunistic virus that takes advantage of the proximity of people, it does not matter if the group is large or small. It is enough that one is infected, all are at risk. That is why the only prevention for many was sharing only with those who live under the same roof.
That is what Mayra Lugardo did. He did not want to risk or expose his loved ones to possible contagion. “I made tamales, pozole, and chicken. The turkey maybe we will do it for Christmas ”. He recalled that last year he traveled to North Carolina to meet again with more than 30 relatives. “Every day I have a lot to be thankful for, with so much coronavirus everywhere, no one in my family has been infected, although I live in fear because I work in a restaurant. I follow all the protocols, but I don’t know when I could get infected ”.
The great family of more than 500 young people from the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), for the first time in more than three decades, did not open their arms to the young people and their guests to celebrate Thanksgiving with a good plate of turkey, rice with beans and pastries . This time they had dinner in each of their houses. The organization delivered more than 200 turkeys in Maryland and last Tuesday delivered about 300 in Washington, DC.
This time, Victoria Hincapié’s family did not need a turkey. Last year his mother came from Colombia and invited some friends and there was turkey there. “This time we did something very simple and just for my husband, my daughter Amalia and myself. I did it above all so that my girl becomes familiar with the traditions of other cultures ”.
Once the frugal dinner was over, at the Salmerón house they began another tradition very much their own: decorating the Christmas tree. “This time it took us longer because we missed the hands of my brothers, nephews and cousins. While we were shaping it, I thought that in the midst of so many tragedies my little angel Martín came into the world to give us a light of hope ”.