Mi Amigo, mi hermano Guillermo Have you ever met someone who felt like a long lost friend or member of your family? Meeting Guillermo was like that for me, and I think also for him. We quickly developed a profound respect for each other professionally and personally, enjoying each others food and company during special culinary events, where we were both serving for good causes.
To tell the truth, with the current political situation in Alabama, I was sorely tempted to write this column in Spanish.
Guillermo and I would often carry on bilingual conversations, he speaking English, and me speaking Spanish. He would humor me in this, as he understood that I needed to keep practicing the Spanish I had learned as a child living in Mexico and later in Spain. I learned at an early age to appreciate different cultures and languages. In my early twenties, I learned French also, while living as an illegal immigrant in Paris, where I also learned to cook, and not to try to play my guitar in the Metro. Guillermo and I also shared a love for food, family, the pleasures of the table, not to mention the occasional sip of an alcoholic beverage. I had a great respect for his eye for design, from his formal training as an architect.
Often I would sit in one of his restaurants and notice the little details of form and function, and wonder at that ability to see those possibilities in an empty room, a bare wall or a blank canvas.
One of his innate talents was as in true hospitality. The epitome of a host, he did not just say “Mi casa es su casa” (My house is your home); he lived it every day, with everyone he met. At times when either he or I was having physical, emotional or business challenges, he always had a sincere, caring word and one of his incredible hugs. You could see this, and more, reflected at the memorial service after his very untimely death, people from all walks of life, from all parts of the city, came out in an incredible turnout to his memory. And you could see the love and respect in the eyes and tears of his employees, that day back in the summer. And now we are coming up on an event that Guillermo and I have shared every year for the last eight years:
The Birmingham celebration of Día de los Muertos. Nine years ago, a wonderful local artist, Tracy Martin wanted to honor her late father Spider Martin, himself an iconic photographer of the Civil Rights era. She was involved in Barehands Gallery in many ways from artist to whatever, so she and Wendy Jarvis came up with doing an “altar” for Spider in the Mexican style of the Day of the Dead. Just a few calls, Guillermo was on board to bring tamales, I was bringing a rice dish “sort of like Jambalaya” and a band was formed to go along with a Second Line Parade in the New Orleans jazz funeral tradition. The celebration has grown each year, purely on a volunteer basis, putting a definite Birmingham twang to the traditional Mexican flavor. And each year, Guillermo would be in the next tent, serving up tamales, as I served up rice, and sharing some beers and sips of fine Tequila. And above all we would both revel in the people, learning about other cultures, languages, people, music and traditions. Both of us from different backgrounds, but sharing that love for food and people. So please join us in honor and memory of Guillermo and all those others who passed this year and years before. Wednesday November 2, 5pm. For more information Go to barehandsinc.org or facebook - Dia de los Muertos Guillermo mi amigo, pienso en ti todos los días.Voy a tratar de no estar triste el Miércoles próximo, pero voy a pensar en tu vida, tus abrazos y a los amigos y la familia que te qieren tanto. Espero bien que todos vayamos con Dios, porque estoy seguro que tu nos estás mostrando el camino.
Un gran abrazo, tu amigo, tu hermano, Franklin