Alicia Campos was a strong woman. She was also a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother (of "abuela approved" fame), and great grandmother. She has been a major influence on Siete, not only because she was the final vote in the vetting of the food, but because she instilled the values in us that we try to live up to every day.
She taught us family first. Before any decision, like going to a dance or meeting friends, she would ask “well, what about my family?", and if there was a conflict she wouldn’t go. She lived her life family first.
Alicia's daughter Aida often jokes with Miguel, her son, saying, "for our business it’s family first, family second, business third, but with my mom it was Family. Family. Family. There was no business third. She did whatever was best for her family."
Her story began in Baytown, Texas, where she grew up. There were many Latino families living in Baytown because they had come there for jobs at Humble, which is now Exxon. The company would house the Latino workers in neighborhoods together. And in one of those neighborhoods Alicia met the love of her life Antonio. They would go on to be married for 70 years, building a rich and connected community in Baytown.
Regularly, people would come to their house to eat, and, in their house, you shared. Alicia always made extra. And if there was one popsicle left in the freezer, you wouldn't go for it unless you were prepared to cut it ten different ways. You couldn’t get something out unless you were going to share it.
She would stay at home, taking care of her children, until Aida, her youngest, was in middle school. Then, Alicia went to college, which in itself is remarkable because she was a Latina, she was a mother when you were “supposed” to stay home, and she would still find a way to be home when her kids were there. She only went to school late in the evening and during the day when they were at school, so when they got home, she was there.
Alicia would go on to receive her degree in education from the University of Houston and teach Texas history and Spanish for 20 odd years before retiring.
And the culinary streak in the family definitely came from her. Aida says that "The smells that I associate with my mom are garlic, because her favorite spice––and mine––was garlic, and then chile. She used all types of chiles and she even had chile pequin outside, the little bitty nothings, and she would use that."
"She would make tortillas weekly, from scratch, and I can still picture her making them, and the sound of it, and they were just so good. My favorite thing she would make was enchiladas with cheese and red sauce. She could make anything taste good, she had that talent. She cooked every meal and we always sat together. Every meal, all of us. We would talk and laugh, and that’s just what we did. So that’s what I tried to do with my family, and we did."
"When she first tried Vero’s almond flour tortillas [the predecessor to the current tortillas that you eat now], she was at home and I said “Mom, I want you to taste them” and she said “Oooookay!”, kind of apprehensively, but she took a bite, and she liked it. She said “I like it! Tell Vero these are good!” and I said, “No, I’m going to videotape you for Vero, you’re going to tell her.”
Alicia will be remembered most as a giving, loving, and unselfish member of her community. She taught her family to live by the things that mattered most to her: family, home cooked meals, and education. And, as proof of a life well lived, those values have spread from her children, to her grandchildren, and, now, to her great grandchildren. All three generations can often be seen sitting together and sharing food at the Siete offices.