WHO: 83-year-old Herminia Valdez and the whole Valdez clan.
WHAT: A family parade in the middle of a quarantine.
WHERE: San Antonio’s West Side.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: A pandemic is no match for a Mexican family. When 83-year-old Herminia Valdez (the matriarch of the Valdez family) was quarantined at her San Antonio home for a month, her family decided that a visit was long overdue. Under normal circumstances, Herminia, known as “Mami” to her family, would host Sunday brunches and a weekly family dinner, where her 6 kids, 23 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren would meet and share home-cooked meals of menudo, pozole, or atole de arroz. “I don’t even know if she knows how to make a regular batch of anything,” says her son Abel Valdez, who is currently quarantined with her.
For decades, her West Side home has been the family meeting spot, a place where her grandkids grew up and spent time after school. She and her late husband, whom they called Papi, would take dinner requests from their grandkids and served as de facto after-school program directors for years. Abel says that a new visitor dropped by every day, whether it was to take Mami to get her hair done or to the gym. “She’s still talking to everyone on the phone,” he says. “But she’s so used to hugging and kissing everyone, or giving them a bendicion or blessing when they leave, that this has all been kind of hard on her.”
On their family group chat, Abel’s nieces and nephews started organizing a parade—so that they could keep her safe and at the same time lift her spirits. They made signs and brought goodies, making a plan to drive by on Sunday, April 5. When the day finally came, Abel suggested that his mother grab a seat outside on her front porch to get some fresh air, while everyone else waited just down the street. When he gave the signal, about a dozen cars filled with family members drove past, honking their horns and tossing beads and candy. Herminia blew them air kisses, doled out air hugs, and gave everyone a blessing. “Te quiero mucho, Mami!” read one sign. “Te amo, Mami,” read another.
My 83 year old mom has been quarantined for a month & hasn’t left the house or had visitors.
Today her children, grandchildren, & great grandchildren surprised her with a parade so she could see everyone. Even a pandemic can’t break family bonds! #FamilyFirst #FamiliaUnida pic.twitter.com/vAGCBeDrcl
— El Gordo de la San Dario (@AVal21) April 6, 2020
It was enough of a spectacle that Herminia’s neighbors started wishing her a happy birthday (her birthday isn’t until November). Afterward, Abel posted video of the celebration on Twitter and Facebook, to share with any family and friends who couldn’t make it to their parade. Within a few days, it had been viewed thousands of times.
“Since we were kids, the importance of family was just ingrained in us,” Abel says. “We understand that she’s not going to be with us forever, so we do our best to cherish her and let her know how much we love her all the time.”