ALTAR FOR MY LOVING
GRANDMOHTER,

MOTHER

& GODMOTHER

"I am proudly my mother's daughter
who believes in love, kindness, and endless possibilities.
My grandmother, mother and godmother's spirits will always live within me!"

- Ginette Rondeau -

 

Altar for My Grandmother, Mother and Godmother Whose Spirit Lives Within Me

Altar created by Ginette Rondeau

My altar is in homage to my three role models: my wonderful Mexican grandmother, my beautiful mother, and my affectionate godmother.  They were all loving and strong women which have impacted my journey through life.

My grandmother, Belle Tapia, held our family together through the Great Depression, teaching us to honor our culture and traditions. It was essential to be good American citizens, to preserve our heritage, to believe in ourselves, and to follow our dreams.

 

She was ambitious; complex, yet simple, she was proudly the matriarch, the queen of our family, and loved her biscotti and chicharrones!

Married at the age of 14, she is responsible for seven children, 16 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. Thus far.  With little education, but with a lot of hard work, she managed to buy two houses.

Her life was full of joy and she consistently made the best of every situation. She was a woman of integrity, a diplomat, and a 5'1" spitfire. She believed in endless possibilities and passion for whatever she did.  She became friends with Christine Sterling, the founder of Olvera Street, and was offered a shop on the street and a home in the Sepulveda House.  She sewed Mexican costumes, constructed piñatas and built floats for Olvera Street festivities.  She loved to cook and always made visitors feel welcomed.  People lined up for her tasty "gorditas" at her puesto. She tackled any challenge, as she delighted in problem-solving.

My mother, Irma Tapia, like her mother, was beautiful both inside and out.  She loved getting all dressed up in her costumes and working with my grandmother at her store.  I was taught, as a young child, the value of hard work with joy and integrity.  It wasn’t about getting a paycheck; rather, it was to help others and do my best.

Visitors came to Olvera Street from all over the world, and she eagerly greeted them and made them feel at home. Her bubbly smile and charm made her the perfect diplomat. When homeless people walked by her store, she often gave them food or something warm to wear when they were cold. One day she brought a homeless woman to our home who had just had a baby and treated them as part of the family. My mother had a heart of gold.

I remember as a little girl how much I would love to watch my mother Spanish dance with my father; it was so romantic, like watching a Hollywood musical production. She beamed beautifully like a movie star. My mother was always glamorous and well dressed.  She enrolled me in ballet, tap, Mexican dancing and modeling etiquette school. We often say she danced through life at her own song.

She walked me to school--actually, it was more dancing and singing than walking.  I can never remember her complaining and nothing ever stopped her from her dreams. At 80, she attended college art classes with me.  She taught me how to live a great life, with or without money!  At 10 pm, she was ready to head out to the movies with John and me! Our lives had always been intertwined as she was also my best friend throughout my life. There were times when our laughter was uncontrollable and we would literally mess each other’s hair up playing together. With her, anything was possible, and I still strive to make her proud.  She taught me to listen to my intuition and stand with pride. Like her, I have adopted the spirit of a true entrepreneur and learned how to age gracefully with style and joy. 

My Godmother, Belle Valadez, who was my mother’s eldest sister, was much more reserved and conservative.  But she always made my cousins and me feel extremely loved. She became the matriarch of the family after my grandmother passed away and would regularly check up everyone.

At seven, I lived a few months with her and my Uncle Mario, who was the general manager of Olvera Street.  She bought me patent leather shoes, and clothes with a beautiful coat so we could meet Mary Poppins at the Bullocks in Downtown Los Angeles. I was excited beyond belief! At times, she would wrap my hair in rags so I would have Shirley Temple curls. We would stay up late at night watching movies and tv shows while eating peaches and cuddling up on the sofa with a large soft blanket. One day, an encyclopedia salesman came to her door, and she bought me the entire volume. We would read every night as she stressed that education was essential. We thumbed through the additional volumes, and we were excited to find a photo of me dressed as an angel in the Posadas on Olvera Street.  She was amazing!

Belle Valadez with her mother, Reuel and Rosita at the Blessing of the Animals

My godmother dressed elegantly and instilled culture in me. We would go to the ballet, listen to an orchestra and walk miles or take the bus to visit family since she didn’t drive. As I loved classical music, I later learned to play the violin. Sometimes in the morning I would awaken by hearing her play Clair De Lune on the piano. It was simply beautiful way to wake up in the morning! 

Thank you! Gracias de todo mi Corazon!

My spicy loving Mexican grandmother, beautiful mother, and wonderful godmother are my inspiration and mentors throughout my life. I am proudly taking care of our store on Olvera Street as the fourth generation and  continue to enjoy my cherished memories with loved ones, reflecting on the past and embracing all the wisdom I have learned from them.  I am grateful for the lessons they all taught in me, as it has given me different perspectives on how to live a fully balanced life.

Thank you, Granny, Mommy, and Nina for all the love you gave to me and to everyone who crossed your path. I am grateful for my charmed childhood you provided me and all the sacrifices you made. I am blessed to know that your spirits live within in me.

 

Until we meet again, may God bless you and enjoy your dances in the heavens above with beloved ones! I love you forever! Besitos!

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