In late May, my wife Trini's aunt and "nina" (godmother) passed away after a hard bout with cancer. Paula Quezada Pinedo was much beloved by family and many friends. She was Trini's "favorite" relative for more reasons than one: Tia Paula held many of the family stories, many of the values and hopes. She was always quick with a smile, with pleasantries, with kind and embracing words. Trini would visit Tia Paula from time to time to share and exchange thoughts, updates, and, of course, stories. Her mother's younger sister, Trini found in Paula an example of a spiritually strong woman, rich in faith, a beloved mother, and a woman who spoke her mind, yet never brought shame or dishonor to her life or that of her family. I actually met Tia Paula many years before I ever met Trini. Just to show how intertwined our fates can be. In one of my most troubled years as a youth, at 15 I briefly worked that summer at a well-known Mexican restaurant in San Gabriel. A friend -- worried about my street life, drug use and gang involvement -- persuaded his father, who managed the restaurant, to hire me. I didn't last long, but the time I was there I worked hard. I was a busboy -- picking up dirty dishes and glasses, taking plastic trays with dirty dishes to the dishwashers, making sure people had water, coffee, and then clearing and cleaning tables. I had to be consistently on the move, walking with an eye to any customer that may need silverware, napkins, filled water glasses. There was tension between the busboys -- the low employees in the totem -- and the waiters. Even with the kitchen staff. They bossed us around. They made fun of us. They made us do extra work. I didn't like this. Authority figures generally tended to put my dignity on the line, and this was no exception. The waitresses were different. Most were nice. One or two were bossy. But the most congenial and helpful was Paula. She was one of the waitresses, with a version of Mexican-style uniform (mainly to attract the majority middle-class white patrons) that I found unreal and patronizing. But Paula always asked how I was, always had a smile, and when she saw I was distressed for any reason, always asked what I needed. I didn't trust many people in those days, especially adults, but Paula was different. She was genuine and trustworthy. Little did that I know that in around seven years, I'd meet her niece, Trini, who was active in Chicano revolutionary politics just like me. We worked together for years in community, whether in Los Angeles or later in Chicago (and now that we've returned to the San Fernando Valley). When Trini and I married in 1988 (I was 34 she was 35), I reconnected with this remarkable woman. She became my tia as well. I'm honored to have known her, to have been a witness to her grace and soulfulness. Que en paz descanses, Tia Paula. c/s
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