Monthly Archives: January 2009

Houston, We Have a Chicano.

When captured Aztec warriors headed up to have their hearts ripped out on the sacrificial pyre, there was only one thing on their mind: space travel.
For realz! It was believed that upon their death, all good warriors would join their compadres on a celestial mission to accompany the sun across the sky each day. So, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that next August, when the NASA shuttle makes its trip to the International Space Station, there will be a bona fide Chicano on board.
José Hernández was born in central California during one of his family’s migrant labor trips. His parents, Salvador and Julia of La Piedad Michoacan, eventually settled the family in Stockton California so the kids could focus on education.
Little José flourished in public school even though he still had to pick strawberries and cucumbers on the weekends and went on to be an astronaut. Somewhere Edward James Olmos is getting ideas about his next movie role.
I was all excited and bursting with brown pride until I read what Jose’s job was going to be. According to the Spanish news agency, Efe,”his work on the space station will include delivering supplies and conducting repairs of the systems on board.”
Come on! How cliché can you get? The first José in space and he’s going to be in charge of fixing the refrigerator?
Oh well, its a start. Check out this clip of José on a weird fake 60 Minutes. I fell in love with him and am thinking of stalking him – I mean – starting a fan club.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Make it Work

The Music Man

Last year I stayed with my Gramma aka O.G. Chilangabacha for six months and was amazed on a daily basis by her ingenuity. One late night I went into the garage to get a coke and almost screamed my lungs out when I saw what I thought was a human foot sticking out from underneath the dryer. It turns out the filter had worn out and instead of going out to buy a new one, she replaced it with a stocking leg that, when filled with hot air, jutted out into the hallway like the shoes from the dead Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of OZ.

My 11-year-old cousin told me that one November she was staying over  and noticed that the white sheets on her bed had three strange holes in the middle of them. My innocent little cousin went to ask Gramma what was up and she replied “Can you believe someone would throw them out?” O.G. Chilangabacha had rescued some kid’s discarded Halloween ghost costume, washed it and put it on the bed in the guest room.

Now  I know where Gramma gets it. People in Mexico are creative as hell when it comes to everyday dilemmas. I’ve ridden in vochos where the driver has attached a dog leash to the door so they don’t have to reach across to close it, and I’ve seen old men using plastic Superama bags to protect their sombreros from the rain.

The best examples of ingenuity here in Mexico City are the legions of blind music vendors in the metro. Each one of them has rigged up his or her own portable speaker system that usually fits into a backpack or a small bag. Sometimes I get annoyed because they  play the opening bars of  “Another One Bites the Dust” and right when I’m getting into the jam the switch it up to “Hey Jude.” I’ve seen some pretty crazy wire/speaker/ stereo desmadres but the gentleman in the above photo, whom I encountered on the blue line on my way to Tasqueña was my favorite so far. Not only had he  fashioned a sweet red speaker vest, but he also added a pinche microfono so he didn’t have to yell over the crowd. If I was a fan of Broadway’s greatest hits, I totally would have spent 10 pesos on one of his products.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Brinco de los Tiznados

Yesterday I witnessed one of the most amusing, mind-boggling, and probably politically incorrect events I’ve seen in Mexico so far. I traveled about an hour south of the city to the gorgeous town of Tepoztlan at the urging of a contact from the Posada del Tepozteco. Here’s what she said in order to grab my attention:

“Legend has it that San Sebastian was being persecuted so he disguised himself by painting his face black. People in town use soot for this: there is traditional chinelo music and the “brinco” (a typical dance) around the zocalo, which also takes place for five days to celebrate Mardi Gras (Carnaval), this year from Feb 21-25 2009.”

Woo Mardi Gras! What my friend failed to mention was that the local children delight in running up and smacking their friends, family members and unsuspecting tourists with  handfuls of soot. The result is a bunch of grown-ups running around looking like they just came up from a mine.

At around sundown a group of “tiznados” from nearby San Sebastian pueblo march into the Tepoztlan Zocalo accompanied by a raucus band and people shooting off fireworks. They gather up the awaiting crowd and everyone marches out along the main drag dancing/shuffling, and teenagers fight over who gets to hold the town flags and vigorously twirl them in the air. Everyone gets drunk.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Black Faces in Tepoztlan

So I´m walking down some back alley in Tepoztlan, minding my own business, trying to find out where the banda music is coming from and BLAM some 12-year-old chubby kid smacks me in a face with a handful of black powder. ALl of a sudden his friends all joined him and I was attacked! Welcom to the San Sebastian festival in Tepoztlan, Morelos.

I´ll have some pics and more of an explanation tomorrow…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lazaro Rises

,

Gael and his Argentine luvvah/y tú Baby Mamma También, Dolores Fonzi, welcomed what was probably the cutest baby ever into the world. For some reason they decided to name him Lazaro, you know, like that zombie in the bible who walked out of a cave. Gael totally beat out homegirl in the fight to name that kid. In Che-landia the only famous Lazaro is a leather handbag, but here in Mexico, former president Lazaro Cardenas is pratically canonized. He was known for being honest a la  Abe Lincoln and for nationalizing land reform.Instead of grabbing bags of money from the national treasury upon his retirement, he made his way back to Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacan where he supported free medical clinics and spun dust into gold. There are something like 18 gajillion streets, beaches, and restaurants named after Cardenas and now a teeny tiny Gael spawn!  Old timey Lazaro had a son named Cuauhtehmoc – now there’s a sweet-ass name if I ever heard one. I already called dibs on it though, so back off Gael and talk to the hand Dolores.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Chilangabacha Enough

mexcover

After spending years hanging around commies  as research for her book Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana native Texan Stephanie Elizondo Griest decided it was about darn time to explore her Mexican roots. Like so many other of us poor suckers, she headed down to Mexilandia and the result was her latest book, Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines. I spoke with  Stephanie over the holidays and found out that I’m not the only one who’s accepted the fact that I’ll never loose my pocha accent and that no many how many narco corridos I memorize, I’ll always bleed gabacha blood.

Chilangabacha:What was the most shocking or impressive thing you found about how identity is viewed in Mexico?

Stephanie:I’ve always had hang-ups about being a “bad Mexican.” Even though I
grew up 150 miles away from the Mexico border and much of my mother’s
family speaks only Spanish, I never learned the language or
culture—perhaps because I was so hell-bent on escaping South Texas. In
college, I studied Russian and Mandarin and then jetted off on a
four-year jaunt across the Communist Bloc (the adventures of which
inspired my first book, “Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing,
and Havana”). While traveling in those nations, I was struck by how
fervently Stalin and Mao tried to destroy centuries of religion,
tradition, and ritual by forcing their citizens to conform to socialist
culture. Yet hundreds of thousands of people defied them. During the
Soviet regime, for example, countless East Europeans risked banishment
to the Gulag by illegally distributing newspapers printed in their
native tongues. Even today in China, Muslim Uighurs and Buddhist
Tibetans gamble with imprisonment by practicing their faith.


All of this made me reflect on how, in the United States, those of us who haven’t needed to fight for our culture have often deserted it. I, for one, had totally abandoned my own Mexican heritage. Gradually, I realized the need to turn inward. So, on Dec. 31, 2004, I quit my day job, put my stuff in storage and flew to Mexico City, hoping that an extended stay there would somehow “Mexify” me.

After eight months of crisscrossing the nation, however, I realized that I will never be truly Mexican, not even if I moved there for the rest of my life and acquired the requisite customs and traditions. Because what binds a people are their bedtime stories. The songs they sing on road trips. Political and historical events. Fads and crazes. Shared memories. Not skills that can be acquired, like language. Which isn’t to suggest that my pursuit was a worthless endeavor. I am proud that I can finally speak the language of my ancestors, and that I intimately know the lay of their land. Yet there is no point striving for an unobtainable state of being.

What impressed me most about Mexicans is how deeply they treasure their mestizo heritage, their blending of bloods. I realized that I should too, for there is a history, culture, and identity on either side of my heritage. In fact, the schizophrenia of being biracial, of straddling two worlds but belonging to neither, probably gives me a deeper understanding of what it means to be Mexican than anything else.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Piñata Rage

Human Piñata

Human Piñata

Thanks to my girl Meli Mel for bringing this travesty of a website to my attention.  As it’s name suggests, DownWithPinatas.com is a site dedicated to calling out piñatas as the party game of the devil. Not since Winona Rider went to  Salem has such an atrocious witch hunt taken place. The woman who started the blog says she went on her hateful quest after her four year old hit her in the face with a bat the day after her birthday party. It includes posts about non-violent piñata alternatives like “treasureballs,” papier-mâché monstrosities that kids are supposed to roll around the yard and not laugh at when their parents call them treasureballs. There’s also a video post about some perv who got caught on tape having sex with a piñata. Um, why is that the piñata’s fault?   If its wrong for little kids to swing aluminum bats at Spongebob and then knock each other down like grammas at a Sears going out of business sale on their way to get anything but the cheap-ass tootsie roles and smarties, then I don’t want to be right. Yeah, yeah, the site is probably a joke, but I just had to write this post just in case this nut job is real.If its a joke, I’m not laughin’. You just don’t mess with something as sacred as  tissue-papered donkeys. You haters can take my aluminum bat and party-sized snickers from my cold, dead hands.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized