One of my many favorite photos is of my grandmother, Leonor. It was taken for her quinceañera in 1946 in the city of San Luis Potosí (Mexico):
Why is this place so special?
My grandparents, dad, aunts, uncles, and I were all born in San Luis Potosí. This is the place where Doña Leo remains. She is probably watching TV comfortably on her couch at home on Calle Séptima right now.
Leonor Almendárez García is the first child of Marcial Almendárez Vázquez and Elena García Gómez. She was born on 8 March 1931 and baptized on 28 June 1931 at Sagrario Church, also in the city of San Luis Potosí. This makes Doña Leo 92 years old.
The first time I saw the picture above, I was excited as a genealogist. It shows how beautiful my grandmother will always be. I asked for permission to remove it from its frame and scan it. Grandma obliged, and it is an image I will always treasure. It was an emotional experience to see her so young before she was a wife and mother. My dad inherited her large brown eyes.
When I visited Doña Leo in September of 2022, I could not get enough of her. She granted me interviews, and it was a thrilling experience. She recalled the day of her quinceañera vividly. It was as if she had shed 77 years in that moment. She explained that she was the only one of three daughters to celebrate her quince años.
This rite of passage is a Mexican tradition celebrated when a girl turns fifteen. As she remembered this day, her hands waved in the direction of where it all happened. The street was closed to traffic, and a live band played while everyone danced. Her father often called her mi estrella (my star), making her feel like one.
My grandma is so lucid, alive, and present. She can effortlessly traverse years and decades when showing me how one thing relates to another. She is a wonderful storyteller. I was fortunate to listen as she recalled aspects of her life. She was an example of a modern Mexican woman. She pursued an education and enrolled in the nursing program with the Red Cross in the 1940s.
Not long after this photo was taken, she met Efrén Amaya Castañeda (1924–2017), a neighbor and friend of her father. The two became a couple and married on 31 July 1948 in the city of San Luis Potosí.
The rest is family history: nine children, many grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren. We are lucky to still have our matriarch, Doña Leo, with us.
“Te quiero mucho, abuelita querida.”