PORTLAND, Texas — The talk around the table this week centers around triumph, tragedy, and diversity and how it changes lives, especially for one woman who now calls Ingleside home.
We met Rachel Nagir at Taqueria Guadalajara on Dallas Street in Portland where the customers are hungry, leaving cooks busy keeping up with all the orders.
Nagir comes from a place where tacos aren’t on the menu.
“26 years ago, I asked my parents, why move to Texas?” Nagir recalls. “But I gotta' say, 26 years later, I love Texas. Texas is home.”
They say home is where the heart is and for Nagir, growing up in the Coastal Bend hasn’t always been easy.
"It was a big adjustment,” Nagir says. “Moving from a country like Trinidad, like being a different color, a different race. It was hard.”
Her father moved the family from their native Trinidad and Tobago to Ingleside when Nagir was just 13 years old.
"When I first moved here, I was like, you know what, I'm not proud of who I am because people make fun of you when you are from different countries,” Nagir remembers about her early years here in the area.
That left Nagir to turn to her family, especially her mother, Salisha, whenever she faced her most trying times.
"My strength came from my mom,” she says. “She was a strong woman.”
When asked if her Mom was always there for her, she quickly answered, “Always. Good, bad, no matter what we did, she always supported us.”
But even with her mother's support, the bullying would finally take its toll and by the 11th grade, Nagir dropped out of school. Years later, she'd go back and get her degree as a pharmacy technician. Then two years ago, she found herself facing the biggest challenge of her life.
"My mom basically had minor pains and she went to the doctor a couple of times and did all the tests and everything came back OK and then one fateful day she went to the ER and she was diagnosed with cancer,” Nagir remembers as one of the most painful days of her life. “She got diagnosed on my dad's birthday, actually, and passed away six months later.”
At her mother's grave at the Prairie View Cemetery in Aransas Pass, there’s plenty of life. The grave is adorned with lights, flags and flowers. It's a place where Nagir and her family often find themselves to honor the woman who was always there for them.
When asked how she was able to get over the initial grief, Nagir told us, “You don't get over it. Even in my mom's dying days, she was laying on the bed and she was like, I wish I gave you girls more than I can. And I said, no ma'am, you did. You raised beautiful kids so when you go to be with the Lord, know that you raised a beautiful family. You raised great kids. You had a great husband. You have a great life. Even when you're gone, you'll still be my mom. Her dying has made me weak but strong at the same time. I have more of a will to do things that I've never done before.”
Now, Nagir is the mother and serving as a good example of her 18-year-old daughter now getting ready to graduate from high school.
"If I was half of my mom, I'd be a better person,” she says. "My job is to live life if she was here and do the things she would do if she was here.”
When asked what advice she would have for someone who is going to lose a loved one, Nagir quickly replied, “So tomorrow is never promised so I feel like OK, we cherish your loved ones. You tell them you love them. And you take care of them. Don't wait until they're gone and be like hey, I wish I did this. I wish I did that. No. Do it now.”
She adds: “I have no regrets with my mom. Sadly. The only regret I have is that she's not here to make more memories."
Leaving Nagir to live with all the memories she and her mom experienced together.