Penquear – (origin Caliche) To spank/hit/slap, golpear
We had finished eating and our youngest son had already run off to play. Carlos, our older son, Suegra and I sat around the table, our plates pushed away, and talked for awhile as we usually do.
Carlos had a small argument with one of the guys at work and was telling us about what happened. The fact that the co-worker was Mexican really didn’t have anything to do with the conversation except to identify which guy Carlos was talking about – but you can’t say “mexicano” around Suegra without her getting started. Like many older people, she has some “preconceived notions” which aren’t malicious so much as misinformed. Of course she pipes up with the usual, “Así son los mexicanos, pues.”
Carlos gives me a look that means I should bite my tongue, but I can’t keep quiet.
“No puedes juzgar a todos los mexicanos así. Tengo un montón de amigos mexicanos y son muy buena gente.” I say.
Suegra shakes her head. We go back and forth a few times. Things are getting a little heated.
“Los hombres mexicanos son muy penqueadores!” she says, as if that settles it.
I start to tell her it’s not true of all Mexican men, and that Salvadoran men have their own reputation as well, but she interrupts, as is her way.
“Y si yo estuviera una joven, jamás me voy a salir con un mexicano!”
This conversation is going no where, so I decide to tease her.
“Y si está bien meloso?”
“De eso miel, no voy a comer!” she says.
“Y si está bien guapo?” I ask.
She looks at me as if I’m an idiot.
“Los mexicanos no son guapos, vos!” she says as if it’s common sense. (Forgetting that I know for a fact she has a crush on Vicente Fernandez.)
I catch Carlos’s eye and decide not to push it further. Insisting that there are plenty of mexicanos guapos will only make him celoso and cause problems for me. The table falls quiet since I fail to return fire, and then our twelve year old, who we had forgotten was sitting there, speaks up.
“Huh,” he says, “I didn’t know Mexicans like to spank people… that’s weird.”
Because he says this in English, Suegra has no idea what’s going on when I start laughing. Carlos also isn’t sure what’s so funny until I explain. Our son managed to pick up on the word “penquear” within the word “penqueadores” – but his only reference for this word is the threat of a spanking, as in, “Te voy a penquear.” Because he doesn’t know the word out of this context, he didn’t realize it could mean “hit” or “slap.”
Of course I set him straight. I explain the word “penquear” and I also tell him you can’t judge people based on stereotypes. My son says, “Of course. I already know that!” …and I knew he did, but I just wanted to make sure. Maybe I won’t convince Suegra, but my children will know better.