Domitila By Jewell Coburn Once upon a time, in Hidalgo, Mexico

Domitila By Jewell Coburn Once upon a time, in Hidalgo, Mexico

Domitila   By   Jewell  Coburn     Once  upon  a  time,  in  Hidalgo,  Mexico,  there  lived  a  farmer.    He  had  a  wife,  and  a  daughter,  and ...

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Domitila   By   Jewell  Coburn     Once  upon  a  time,  in  Hidalgo,  Mexico,  there  lived  a  farmer.    He  had  a  wife,  and  a  daughter,  and   both  were  as  lovely  in  heart  as  they  were  in  face.    The  girl's  name  was  Domítíla  .  While  her  father  worked   the  fields,  her  mother  made  sandals  and  belts  of  leather,    working  exquisite  designs  into  the  surface.    One   season,  the  family  worked  hard  together  to  build  a  new  room  for  their  home  from  adobe  bricks.  The   mother  taught  her  little  daughter  as  her  own  mother  had  taught  her:  to  do  "every  task  with  care  and   always  add  a  generous  dash  of  love."    The  adobe  bricks  were  made  of  mud  and  straw,  and,  once  the  sun   had  baked  them  hard,  would  make  a  fine  house.  Alas,  the  sun  did  not  get  the  chance  to  bake  the  bricks   before  the  rains  came.    They  melted  into  mud,  and  the  house  was  damp  and  chilly  because  of  it.    And  now   Domítíla's  mother  took  sick.    Her  cough  worsened,  and  she  shivered  in  the  damp  room  while  she  worked   on  a  pair  of  sandals.    Domítíla  knew  that  she  must  help  her  family  earn  money,  or  soon  there  would  be  no   food  in  the  house.    She  went  to  her  Papà  and  asked  how  she  could  help.    And  that  is  how  she  found  herself   working  in  the  kitchen  at  the  mansion  of  the  Governor  of  Hidalgo.     The    good  wages  she  earned  there  would  provide  well  for  the  girl  and  her  family.    Soon,  her  fine   cooking  skills  were  noted,  and  one  night  she  was  asked  to  make  a  special  dish.    The  Governor's  mother   was  coming  for  Sunday  dinner,  and  the  cook  asked  Domítíla  to  "make  something  to  please  old  Abuela  and   her  grandson."    So  the  girl  fixed  one  of  her  mother's  favorite  recipes.    When  it  was  served,  the  Governor's   oldest  son  scowled  and  said,  "  I  have  never  seen  anything  like  this  before.    Call  in  the  cook!"  So  she  was   brought  upstairs.    Now  the  young  man  shouted  at  her,"  What  is  on  this  platter?"  When  Domítíla  told  him   the  name  of  the  dish,  nopales,  he  raged.  "  Nopales?    You  call  nopales  a  prized  food?  They  are  nothing  but   prickly,  dusty  desert  weeds!"    But  the  young  man's  grandmother  scolded  him  for  his  bad  manners,  and   insisted  that  he  try  a  bite.    Timoteo,  for  that  was  his  name,  took  up  a  bit  of  the  cactus  on  his  fork,  just  to   keep  the  peace.  ¡That's  when  he  tasted  their  delicious  flavor!  Now  he  said,  "  This  weed  has  been  turned  

into  a  delicacy.    What  is  your  secret?"    And  the  young  cook  answered,  "  I  do  not  have  a  secret,  Señor.    I   cook  the  way  my  mother  taught  me."     Domítíla  went  to  bed  happy  that  night,  but  her  happiness  was  not  to  last.    She  was  woken  in  the   dark  of  night  by  a  servant,  with  a  message  that  she  must  return  home  as  quickly  as  she  could.    Her  Mamá   was  not  better,  but  worse.    Though  she  ran  as  fast  as  she  could,  all  the  way  home,  she  saw  her  father's   sorrow  written  on  his  face  from  afar.    Her  beloved  Mamá  was  dead.    Now  she  went  into  her  mother's   empty  room  and  sat  down  to  pray.  "Through  her  grief,  Domítíla  felt  a  warm  presence.    Looking  up,  she   blinked  her  eyes,  then  blinked  again.    There  before  her  appeared  her  mother's  spirit.    'I  will  always  be   with  you,  my  child,  and  remember  what  my  mother  told  me,  and  her  mother  told  her.  Do  every  task  with   care,  and  always  add  a  generous  dash  of  love."    The  spirit  spoke  these  words  to  her,  and  then  faded  from   sight.     Back  at  the  mansion,  Timoteo  was  looking  forward  to  a  delicious  breakfast.    But  when  he  took  the   first  bite,  he  nearly  choked.    ¡This  food  had  not  been  prepared  by  the  same  hands  as  the  wonderful   nopales!  He  called  for  the  cook  and  when  she  came,  he  did  not  know  if  she  was  the  one  from  the  night   before  or  not.    So  many  cooks  worked  at  the  mansion,  and  he  had  never  before  bothered  to  try  and  keep   track  of  their  names.    This  one  said  she  was  Third  Cook,  and  that  Second  Cook,  who  had  prepared  his   supper,  had  left  during  the  night.    In  such  a  hurry  too,  said  she,  that  she  lost  a  strap  of  her  sandal.    She   drew  it  forth  and  Timoteo  looked  on  it  awe.    "  Its  surface  was  finely  carved  and  the  design  was  a  chorus  of   flowing  strokes.    'Can  this  be  the  work  of  that  girl?'  he  murmured."    Now  Timoteo  demanded  to  know   where  this  amazing  girl  lived.    Third  Cook  could  only  say,  "  I  do  not  know,  Señor.    All  she  mentioned  was  a   ranch,  somewhere  in  Hidalgo  far  away  from  here."    He  called  for  his  horse  to  be  saddled,  and  went  to  tell   his  father  that  he  was  leaving  to  seek  the  woman.    Now  Abuela  came  forward  again,  and  handed  him  "a   delicately  embroidered  silk  shawl  from  her  shoulders.  'This  mantón  has  been  in  our  family  for   generations.    If  you  must  go,  take  it,  and  know  that  my  love  goes  with  you."    He  thanked  his  abuelita  and   rode  away.      

He  chose  to  go  west.    Unfortunately,  Domítíla  had  gone  to  the  east.    As  he  rode  across  the  country,   he  asked  as  he  passed  each  farm  if  the  people  knew  of  a  girl  who  cooked  nopales  and  worked  leather  very   skillfully.  Many  people  had  heard  of  her,  but  no  one  knew  which  direction  her  home  laid.    At  last  a  woman   offered  to  help.  She  gave  Timoteo  very  clear  directions  —  that  were  guaranteed  to  get  him  lost  and  take   him  as  far  from  Domítíla's  home  as  could  be.    This  woman,  was  a  beggar,  with  nothing  of  her  own.  Her     name  was  Malvina,  and  she  had  the  idea  that  her  own  daughter  could  marry  this  Governor's  son.    She   called  her  lazy  girl  now,  and  made  her  get  up  from  napping  under  a  tree.    Her  girl  was  a  good-­‐for-­‐nothing,   just  like  her  mother.    Now  wicked  Malvina  told  the  girl  that  she  had  a  plan.  The  two  of  them  would  go  into   town,  and  the  daughter  would  cry  at  people's  front  doors,  asking  for  food.    While  this  kept  the  family   busy,  Malvina  would  go  around  the  back  and  steal  crops  from  their  garden,  or  perhaps  even  a  chicken  and   some  eggs.  So  this  was  just  what  they  did.    And  when  they  had  gathered  their  supplies,  those  two  thieves   went  in  search  of  Domítíla's  house.    They  knew  that  they  would  find  her  father  there,  lonely,  and  perhaps,   willing  to  take  them  on  as  wife  and  daughter.    Poor  Papá!  He  was  lonely,  and  hungry  too.    When  he  and   Domítíla  came  home  from  the  fields  and  found  a  meal  upon  the  table,  he  fell  instantly  in  love  with  she   who  had  provided  it.    And  now  Domítíla's  life  became  truly  miserable.       That  woman  and  her  daughter  ordered  her  about  in  her  own  home,  and  gobbled  up  most  of  what   little  food  came  from  the  farm.    All  summer  and  into  the  fall  Timoteo  wandered  in  his  search  for  the  cook.     One  day,  when  he  was  especially  discouraged,  he  heard  music.    And  then  he  smelled  something,  a  scent  he   had  thought  never  to  smell  again!  It  was  nopales,  and  he  followed  their  delicious  fragrance.    Malvina  had   not  anticipated  this  turn  of  events.  The  man  came  to  a  village  square  where  a  celebration  was  in  place.    In   answer  to  his  queries,  the  folks  told  him  that  the  nopales  were  cooked  by  a  young  leather  worker,  by  the   name  of  Domítíla.  The  girl  was  not  at  the  celebration,  they  said,  as  she  was  visiting  her  mother's  grave.     They  pointed  the  way  to  the  cemetery,  and  Timoteo  went  there  straight  away.  And  there  he  saw  a   beautiful  young  girl,  wearing  a  pair  of  sandals  whose  design  matched  the  strap  he  had  saved.    He  spoke   gently  to  her,  and  explained  why  he  had  come.    Realizing  that  he  must  be  hungry,  she  "untied  her  scarf   and  took  out  a  tortilla  filled  with  her  delicious  nopales."  As  he  ate,  Timoteo  came  to  realize  that  the  

special  ingredient  in  the  food  was  love  itself:  the  love  that  the  girl's  mother  had  shown  for  her  child  was  a   part  of  everything  this  young  woman  now  did.  He  asked  her  to  become  his  wife,  and  she  agreed.       They  were  married,  and  before  long,  he  became  Governor  of  Hidalgo.    "  The  kind  ways  his  wife  had   taught  him  brought  prosperity  and  good  will  to  all  the  citizens  of  the  land.    The  wicked  Malvina"  and  her   lazy  daughter  fled  in  shame,  but  Domítíla's  good  father  moved  into  the  mansion  and  lived  with  them  in   peace  and  comfort.    And  when  Timoteo's  house  was  filled  with  children,  he  bounced  them  and  played   with  them,  and  his  loving  wife  taught  them  to  "do  every  task  with  care,  and  never,  ever  forget  to  add  a   generous  dash  of  love."