The “rr”s started rolling into “l”s on the flight from Mexico City to Panama. “Bienvenidos a boldo,” said a flight attendant named Frank, whose gelled hair was approaching Daddy Yankee helmet-head status. I even comprehended all of the captain’s warnings before they were translated into English, which is nothing to sneeze at considering two years ago I thought Juanes was saying goodbye to someone named “Lepido.”*
The rest of the transition from Mexican to Puerto Rican Español was gradual, as though a handful of syllables parachuted from the plane at each 1,000-mile mark across the Caribbean. By the time my connecting flight from Panama had reached San Juan, “como estas” only had enough syllables for “o as.” Still, when I arrived at San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, I tried to forget the fact that it usually takes me about a month to translate a Calle 13 song. (“Quitate el esmalte” se dice “take off your nail polish,” i.e., let your hair down. *)
I’ve been living in Mexico City for a year and have had to perform all kinds of important tasks – everything from getting my tooth pulled to cursing out a dude who cut in front of me in the Banamex line – in Spanish. I wasn’t going to be intimidated by a regional accent. Not this Chilangabacha.
Alas, I was gobsmacked by my first opportunity for on the ground communication. “Cuanto cuesta un taxi al Caribe Hilton?” The tipo with the huge cubic zirconia studs in his ears looked at me like I was dragging around a dog on fire instead of luggage. “Uhhh, what?” I continued the rest of the exchange in English, with my ego deflated.
I guess I should have looked at this list of slang before I arrived because these types of interactions happened througout my five days in San Juan. I caught on a little bit, but my confidence was definitely knocked down a couple of notches. I finally felt better when I ran into a Chilango in the “jugo chino” line. “Que pedo con esa pinche idioma, guey,” he said. That, I understood.
* The song is actually called “A Dios Le Pido” or “I ask God.”
Have you ever wondered what fuels Mariachis on their all night Cielito Lindo binges? You thought it was the spirit of Mexico, didn’t you? It turns out, no. These musicians make it through their work day the same way millions of other Chilangos do – with a burnt-ass cup of Oxxo coffee.
Also, notice how the people sitting at the Oxxo tables pay them no mind. They’re too busy enjoying their yummy rubbery hotdogs and Coca Cola products to notice the harbingers of culture standing right next to them! And no, the mariachis didn’t ask for requests. Oxxo is a place of convenience, not debauchery!
I’m not saying this to hate on Oxxo. Yes, they’re kind of the epitome of evil, but they were also the glue that held this city together during the H1N1 outbreak. During normal, non-swine flu times Chilangos go there for everything from cacahuates japoneses to personal lubricant.
I wonder what else the mariachis had on their shopping list that day.
Image via Homesick Texan
So Chilangabach@s, I’ve been extremely apathetic lately. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s because I’m trying to take advantage of the days before I have to give up my Cablevision. I keep staring at my empty WordPress page and the words just don’t come! But today, I have been urged to write again about a subject very near and dear to my corazon – flour tortillas. I don’t care if one of their main ingredients is lard, I love them so much, I could write a dissertation about it – too bad these guys already beat me to it.
If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I’m listed as a “flour tortilla fan.” I added this tidbit as an homage to my California roots and I’ve been surprised by the responses that statement has elicited. “Flour tortillas are for wimps,” read one”; “Corn or nothing!” read another, and each was like a dagger to my lard-arteried heart!
But why do I care so much? Whyyyyyyy? (Insert childhood montage a la Wonder Years. Grandma holding dusty rolling pin floats by, a young Chilangabacha and sister attempt to make peanut butter and jelly burritos). Like a hipster crying into his Pabst Blue Ribbon, I now realize that flour tortilla love is a big part of my So-Cal identity, and I’m not the only one. One of my high school classmates took his love of tortillas all the way to Buenos Aires where he opened a franchise called California Burrito Co. Homeboy has lines for miles! My informal research revealed that 9 out of 10 Chilangabach@s throw a flour tortilla on the burner at least once a week.
Yes, I do concede that corn tortillas have been a food staple since Mexosaurus Rex times; however, that was like a conquest and two revolutions ago. Since then a lot of ish has gone down, including the introduction of flour mills to northern Mexico and the United Statesian border. Somewhere along the line abuelas in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas started feeding them to their pocho grandkids and a comfort food was born.
Every time I made an apocolypto-prep run to the market during the swine flu outbreak I instinctively picked up at least three bags of tortillas, so I could have something warm and lardy to cling to when the three horseman arrived. By the time the scare was over I had enough to make burritos for weeks. That reminds me, I think some of them are turning green on my shelf. Time to stop clinging.
I don’t have anything against corn tortillas, corny folks or even Great Cornholios. I just loves me my burrito wrappers and I’ll defend them furevur, rolling pin in hand.