The story about “Grandma’s Gift” started when Ms. Carmen, grandmother of Eric Velasquez author and illustrator, went to pick him up to the school for the school vacation. The teacher handed a note to grandma about the holiday project that Eric should do during that time. Eric had to go the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in the Fifth Avenue to see a famous painting that it was brought and write a report. In the meantime, grandma was planning to make “pasteles” a traditional dish from Puerto Rico to celebrate the Christmas with the family. Grandma compromised with Eric to bring him to the museum if he helped her with elaboration of the “pasteles” for the family dinner in Christmas Eve. Grandma and Eric took the train to go to “La Marqueta” to buy the ingredients for the “pasteles”.
Grandma and Eric arrived home, they started the ”pasteles”, while they were doing it, grandma asked Eric to put a music record with the traditional Christmas music of Puerto Rico. They enjoyed working together. Once the “pasteles: were done, grandma treated Eric very special by boiling him some for him to be the first one to try it. After, they went to the museum to start Eric holiday project. While there, grandma noticed and recognized the character in the painting. Juan de Pareja who was a slave (1610-1670) and assistant in the workshop of the famous painter, Diego Velazquez. He painted Parejas’ portrait in 1650, and immediately gained him claim. He gave Pareja his freedom, but they continued working together. That evening Eric’s parents brought arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas and roasted pork to have the Christmas Eve dinner. After the dinner, grandma told the story how she learned about Juan de Parejas while living in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Then, granma gave Eric a sketchbook and his first set of colored pencils. While they were listening to “Aguinaldo Puertorriqueno, Eric began to draw his first self-portrait.