Just over a week ago my beloved Tía Netty succumbed to COVID-19.
As my extended family and I mourned her loss, we connected with her adult children and grandchildren here in the states as well as our large family web in Panama. We shared stories, laughing with tears in our eyes. I was struck by how many of the stories shared recalled my tía's entrepreneurial talents.
As a young widow and mother of five, she put herself on the map where there was no prior path to follow. She established herself as a certified hairdresser despite limited formal education and a preference for Spanglish that made bilingualism a prerequisite for fully understanding her rapid fire conversational style.
I remember visiting her home and being beckoned to the salon chair set in the living room, where she trimmed, dyed and styled my hair with plenty of cooing and reassurances to overrule my teenage incredulity.
Tía Netty also set herself apart in the kitchen, with strong ties to the recipes of her Panamanian mother and an appreciation for the multicultural cooking pot of American foods, Emeril's admonition - "Pork Fat Rules!" - always at the ready. It's this connection to our shared Panamanian roots and love of culinary fusion that I feel most strongly as I remember her. Though she experienced a lengthy decline in health over the last few years, I can imagine just how delighted she would have felt if I could have shared with her my plans to establish a store.
This "komadre," my comadre and tía, continues to guide my heart and hands as I craft every new flavor, as I forge ahead to find a space for KoKo, and as I reach out to each of you to ask for your continued support of this venture. Please share the KoKo story and your connection to it with *your* komadres. Netty would have wanted it that way.