Mary Madrigal was the most remarkable woman I have ever known. Born in Dewey, Oklahoma in 1916, I met her when she was well into her nineties and I married her grandson, Gabriel Madrigal. Mary’s family was vast. She bore nine children, and the resulting grandchildren, spouses, cousins, and babies filled her life and her heart. I would marvel that she could remember everyone’s names and birthdays in her extended family tree. At her 100th birthday, we reminisced on the changes she had seen in her lifetime—the invention of air travel, cars, tv, and internet to name a few. Mary attended the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1933. She lived through civil unrest and mankind’s first steps on the moon.

Mary moved with her husband, Agustín Madrigal, from Chamacuaro, Mexico to Fort Bragg in 1953. The Madrigals were one of the first latino families in Mendocino County. Mary became deeply involved with St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, and her faith sustained her until her death in May of this year at 102 years of age. It was to support the St. Anthony’s Guild that Mary first made her enchiladas as a fund raiser. Friend Mary Durupt remembers being packed into Mary’s tiny kitchen on Pine St. in the summer heat making endless trays of enchiladas. Word quickly spread, and these fundraisers sold out whenever they happened.

It is impossible to convey the grace and intelligence of this remarkable woman. I am honored to have been welcomed into the Madrigal family, and I cherish the rosary that Mary gave me on the passing of her grandson, my husband Gabe. Her love lives on in the many Madrigals that now reside all across this country from Ohio, to Florida, and of course, California. Faith and family meant everything to Abuelita, and her famous enchiladas make enough to fill many bellies and hearts. Make a batch of this recipe and gather your family close.


The actual, world famous Mary Madrigal enchilada recipe is a closely guarded secret (even from me!). To taste the real deal, you will need to attend a Madrigal event (family gathering or fundraiser), where Mary Ellen Peña, Bonnie Madrigal, Ana Madrigal-Duran, Maria Madueño, or Vicky Hernandez are cooking. My personal interpretation follows. The intricacies should be finessed by each cook, preferably surrounded by at least four grandchildren underfoot.

Holly’s Tomatillo Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, diced

  • 1 lb tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into chunks

  • 2 jalapeños, diced, seeds removed for a milder hot

  • 1 Tbsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • ¼ tsp cumin

  • ½ tsp salt

  • chicken broth (optional)

Sauté onions and garlic in oil until soft. Add tomatillos, jalapeños and spices and cook until tomatillos begin to release their juices and start to reduce. Transfer the mixture to a heat-safe blender and mix well.