Not many people talk about the true core of Mexican culture: family. We´ve had several interpretations in popular culture, but somehow the message gets kind of lost. When the movie Coco came out, foreigners got to take a closer look at Día de Muertos. Mexicans however, got sentimental about the family-focus that the movie portrayed. I cried when Coco was about to forget her father, and I cried at the very last scene where they were all there– living and dead–together.

A couple of months ago, my mom got the brilliant idea to sit us all in the living room and watch old home movies. Out of the entire box of DVD´s, we played one at random: the first year of my life in a movie. The DVD showed my first sonogram, my first vacation, my first Christmas … everything.

January 11, 1999. We saw my mom with a giant tummy holding a little boy standing in a chair. A birthday cake and very low light. My dad, looking so young, drinking beer right next to my padrino. My madrina standing in another corner, yelling at my cousin Victor for something he had done. The camera turned around the room and I got just enough time to catch a glance of a young Uncle Poncho joking around with my Aunt Cristy, making fun of themselves.

May 20, 1999. We´re in a hospital waiting room, my grandma Lolita being the focus of the video, same style as always, pantsuit and short pixie hair. My Uncle Jorge and Aunt Felix talking to her right by her side. A little farther away, my grandad with that brown mustache that he´s kept on and off for the past twenty years, holding hands with his now ex-wife, Pilar. Mis padrinos, my cousins, my aunt Cristy … they were all there. Uncle Poncho is the one recording. Suddenly, my father walks out with hospital clothes and a baby in his arms. He is on the other side of the glass window, so they all walk up to see me up close

May 23, 1999. We´re in the same house as before. It´s my madrina´s house. They installed a temporary tub in their room so they could teach my parents how to give me a proper bath.  The room was crowded–my padrinos, my cousins standing there watching in their school uniform, until they were interrupted by their mom saying they would be late for school. They gave me a little kiss and ran out the door.

June 16, 1999.  My mom panned in on my little face while I was sleeping peacefully at the beach. When she zoomed out I could see Luis and Victor playing on the sand right next to me. Uncle Poncho, my padrino, my granddad and a man I have never seen in my life (I guess it was my Aunt Cristy´s boyfriend at the time) were next to a cooler, having a beer; by the other beach chair, meanwhile, the ladies of the family were talking about who knows what. Every now and then my madrina would check on her kids. Any mom knows that when you´re a mom, you never get vacation.

We jumped over to my brother’s DVD´s. Not much had changed after three years. This time I was sitting next to the baby, old enough to play in the sand with Victor and Luis.

December 25, 2002. We were in that house, the one that has been home for all of us all these years. It was my granddad’s home. He built his family here and raised all four of his children: Andrea, Laura, Cristy and Poncho. When my grandma Lucy passed away, my Aunt Cristy, my mom, uncle Poncho and my granddad were still living there. My madrina was already raising a family in the apartments across the street. They waited until getting married to move out; including mi abuelo. He offered the house to my madrina and her family, since they were having certain economical issues, so they accepted. They´ve lived there ever since. It´s were my mom grew up, and even though I never actually lived there, I consider it home. We all do.

My family moved right across the street from that house before my brother was born so I spent most of my childhood there. We still lived there for a couple of years after Sebastián was born. My mom and madrina even shared a car. We struggled with money, so we helped each other out. We eventually moved a little farther away, but we kept seeing them for dinner a few times a week, at school recitals, at birthday parties, etc.

At the age of six, my dad got offered a job in Miami, and so we moved. As much of a good time as I had there, I still felt something was missing. I got sad every time we would Skype my family back in Mexico. Once a year they would fly there and visit, we would go to Disneyland, have a good time, but time came when they had to go back; it felt like leaving home all over again.

In the holidays we would come here to Mexico to spend Christmas and New Years Eve together. I still remember how excited I was to have sleepovers with all my cousins (my Aunt Cristy and my Uncle Poncho had kids eventually). All six of us would make gingerbread cookies at the dinner table and spend entire days with each other. I think that´s why Christmas is one of my favorite holidays; it reminds me of all the excitement. When January came and we had to go back, I was a sea of tears. It was harder having to leave instead of watching them leave. I wasn’t only leaving my family, I was leaving my country, the house, memories–everything.

When we finally bought a one-way ticket back home, my mom begged my family not to throw any sort of party. She was certain all four of us would be tired; she wasn’t wrong. My family obviously ignored her. We hadn’t bought a house yet so we were going to stay at my grandma´s house for a few months until we figured everything out. We walked through the door and into the living room and saw everyone there. Hugs went all around. We were home.

These videos capture the secret ingredient of Mexico. La familia.