The Brownsville Herald
It’s been approximately 30 years since Patricia Alarcón Missler left her hometown Brownsville, but now the 61-year-old has returned to her memories to write about growing up in what was then a sleepy town on the border.
A self-published book, “Pink Elephants and Chocolate Éclairs, Memoir of a Border Town Chica (girl),” by the artist who now resides in Hawaii recounts the stories of her childhood in the Rio Grande Valley.
“To me, having grown up in South Texas, I didn’t realize how important it was,” Alarcón Missler said. “It was a sweet place to be living.”
Alarcón Missler writes about trips to the now defunct Vannie Tilden’s Bakery and how special they were for her and her sister Nene.
“To any average person a trip to a pastry shop would have been no big deal, rather ho-hum in fact,” Alarcón Missler writes. “But to us, knowing that these types of gestures from our father did not come without a financial sacrifice, we knew that reverence was the only appropriate reaction to have.”
Trips to Vannie Tilden’s worked as a pathway to learn about a different culture, Alarcón Missler said. Those excursions were in contrast with the other bakery her family frequented: First Street Bakery.
These trips were especially important to her father who would use them as an excuse to pick up barbacoa, Alarcón Missler said.
“First Street Bakery was not at all like the other well-known bakery in town, Vannie Tilden,” Alarcón Missler wrote. “When we went to Vannie Tilden’s, no one ever asked us if we wanted cow tongue or cow brains or corn tortillas. But at First Street Bakery they did. And that is exactly what made it unique and authentic.”
It is the authenticity of the region’s culture that has resonated with Alarcón Missler, she said.
The culture of South Texas is so infused into everyday life that it isn’t until you move away from it that you realize that it’s not quite like that everywhere else, she said.
When Alarcón Missler was younger, she said, there was hesitancy for younger people to leave the Rio Grande Valley. But she said she would like young people to know that it’s OK to wander away from home for some time.
“You can cast your net as far out as you’d like to go,” she said.
That’s what she did.
But, she adds, the lessons she learned in Brownsville were instrumental to her success.