During the 18 years that Eunice (Ay-oo-NEE-say) Kullick Loredo has lived in the United States, she has been a graduate student, business administrator, mother, Spanish teacher and neighborhood chef. In everything she has done, she has always had a passion for intercultural awareness. When she moved to Maine, however, the importance of cultural enrichment took on life-sustaining proportions.
When Eunice first left Mexico, she and her husband, Angel, lived in his home state of Texas. There was a lot of coming and going across the border to visit family; many people spoke Spanish.
“In Texas I felt at home,” she said.
When they moved to Maine with two young children 11 years ago, life changed dramatically.
“I felt like a foreigner for the first time.” Even the language confounded her.
“In Maine,” she said laughing, “it was another English from the one I knew.”
Angel and Eunice had fallen in love with central Maine when they came for job interviews at the University of Maine. During that first year, however, when the days began to grow short, Eunice had a difficult time. She had no baby sitters. The cold weather affected her health. She described her melancholy with a colorful expression: “I felt like there were butterflies in my body.”
Eunice realized she needed more in her life, some kind of social outlet. In Texas, she and her husband had founded a business called Embracing Diversity (www.embracingdiversity.com). In that context, she had been giving lectures on culture and language for many years. So when she saw a Spanish teaching job in the paper, she applied and began to teach.
Through Bangor-area Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy, Eunice had made friends from various Latin American countries. She invited her friends to be guest speakers in her classroom and opened her students to the world of international culture in a way they had never seen.
She was surprised by her students’ reaction when she first asked them to compare their culture to that of another country.
“Oh, we don’t have a culture,” they told her.
“Oh yes you do!” she exclaimed.
The first order of business in expanding cultural awareness, she discovered, was to teach people to recognize that they have a culture of their own. “If you are centered and rooted in your own culture, it is easier to embrace another.”
Eunice loved teaching. Not only did it give her meaningful work to do, it also helped her to create and enrich her own cultural environment. “In Texas my culture was there. Here, I had to be in charge of creating my own … I grew a lot here. I learned about making my own experience.”
The same principles that gave Eunice such passion for teaching went into raising her children. It was important to her that her children feel a connection to their Mexican heritage. She held traditional holiday posadas in their home at Christmas and cooked traditional dishes for the family.
Little did she know what an important role that traditional cooking one day would play.
In 2010, both Eunice and her husband fell victim to the floundering economy when their jobs were eliminated.
“What can you do?” she asked rhetorically. “I cannot be just sitting here waiting for something to happen.”
Eunice found a job at Microdyne Outsourcing in Orono, but she also found a new way to bring Latin American culture into her life and into the community.
She and two friends from Costa Rica started cooking.
“Tres amigas” (three friends) is the name they have given to their newest venture.
“We are like … comadres,” said Eunice, like a sisterhood. “It is such a beautiful energy when we cook.” They are in the process of getting licensed to serve the public, and may become a full-fledged business. In the meantime, they cook authentic Latin American meals every weekend for friends.
“We are not chefs; we’re just mothers who like to cook,” says Eunice. When friends come to pick up their food, they often linger in the kitchen to chat and drink a cup of coffee.
In her early days in the United States, Eunice told me, it felt like “sharing my culture was keeping me alive.” Now she and her children enjoy the richness of two cultures blended together. “I enjoy my life,” she said with the passionate energy that seems to guide her. “We love Maine. We love Bangor.”
For the flavor of Mexico that Eunice brings to our community, Bangor is all the richer.