Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mexico en mi barrio

I seem to have found myself in a bit of world, experiencing severe homogenization lapse. I thought it would be more fun to type out a document for work on my laptop in a dive where there’s some activity to enjoy, in addition. My roommate recommended a restaurant called Los Cabos in West St. Paul. Besides, my house is cold, I don’t have the funds to heat but I do have the funds to go where they heat their establishment as though tropical was the norm. The hours aren’t posted but when I asked when they closed, they said at 10. It is now almost 10:30. There are only a couple of empty tables and nobody is close to preparing to leave. On TV is a boxing match. Everyone’s drinking Jarritos or there’s an ice-bucket in the middle of the table sporting Modelo, Dos Esxis and Tecate with a lime wedge. A couple of young families. The parents are likely younger than I but each family has 3 kids. But the part that makes this Mexico is the smells and the rachero Mariachi band that just came in: an accordion, base guitar and guitar. I think the accordion player is blind. Their songs are punctuated by Mexican style yaouls by the clientele and an occasional sing-along or dance by whomever pleases. It feels like I just stepped into someone’s living room. Well, I guess it’s sort of the owner’s kitchen and dining room. His whole family is here. Daughter is waiting tables. Dad is cooking. Grandma is making the tortillas with a hand press, next to clients drinking beer. Mom is washing dishes. The banter is in Spanish except the questions and comments directed at me as well as the apologies for the noise. I’m not fitting the look tonight. My laptop and the fact that I came by myself is a dead giveaway. Not even my olive toned skin can counterbalance those faux pas. But the smells are perfect. Asada grilling. The smell of fried oil. And then that very particular body smell that is a combination of the body breathing tortilla instead of rice or over-processed wheat, with a bit of musk and a pin poke of sweet citrus smell—very uniquely south of the border. The cook is in and out of the kitchen, cooking, then sitting down with clients to discuss the boxing match. The kids are throwing food at each other. Their mother disciplines them. One child mimics the punctuated yaoul of an adult. His mother lightly paddles his mouth. A picture of Zapata hangs on the wall. Two of the young family’s kids come to peek at my computer screen. The mariachis continue to croon away. I think I’m in heaven.

4 comments:

Peter said...
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Blorge said...

I think that I've always had a love of other cultures. Qhat I realized in South Africa was that I think of my own culture as so vanilla that everything else seems so caliente by comparison.

I've never been able to understand why people from other cultures have thought of American things as so cool. Maybe I'm too close to it, but maybe it's just that our stuff isn't worth emulating.

espíritu paz said...

You know the great thing about really getting to know other cultures is that they get to reflect "you" back to you. I was in a very diverse class of 3 people once and the one person that claimed American heritage as their birth heritage, said one day after some serious critique, I don't see anything good about American culture! I responded saying, "there has to be something good about it all cultures have their good and bad, it's just not occuring to me now. And the teacher, who was Cuban, filled in the blank we were drawing. It was a redeaming moment.

Blorge said...

That was hilarious.