Te Encontraré – PART III


Te Encontraré – PART III
~Fools Rush In~

Summer gave way to Autumn. Carlos and I spent almost every day together at the expense of everything else. If I worked, he showed up on my lunch break to eat with me and exchange love letters. If he worked, I waited at his brother’s apartment for him, watching television with his visiting mother, who seemed to go back and forth between admiring me and disliking me.

I brought Carlos to a pumpkin patch for the first time, showed him how to carve a jack-o-lantern, taught him how to drive my car in an empty parking lot. He took me to a Spanish language Catholic mass, movies, introduced me to family friends, gave me my first sip of horchata. We watched telenovelas together, babysat his niece together, took his mother to the airport together. One day we ordered a large pizza, ate the entire thing by ourselves, and then just laid on the carpet feeling sick together.

It felt as if we lived a lifetime in only a couple months. We laughed, we cried, we shared secrets, we had fights and made up, and though I liked him, I became uncomfortable with how quickly things had happened between us. I felt like I was being swept away, like I had lost control.

Though he hadn’t done anything wrong, completely out of the blue one night, I gave him the “maybe we should just be friends” speech. Carlos begged me to reconsider, cried and literally held onto me, wouldn’t let me go.

Looking back, I think that both of us were lost in a way, and we found comfort in clinging to each other. He was far from his homeland, feeling every day that he was in a place he didn’t belong. I simply had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was the one certain thing he could count on each day, and I couldn’t take that from him.

Though my heart felt conflicted, I decided to give things another chance. Remembering that day now, I shudder to think how thoughtlessly I almost threw it all away.


Wise men say,
only fools rush in,
but I cant help,
falling in love with you.

-Elvis Presley


Go Read: PART IV

Te Encontraré – PART II

(To read PART I, go HERE.)

Te Encontraré – PART II
~Sin papeles, pero con amor~

Sitting in my little blue Chevrolet on that mild August night, Carlos decided to trust me with a secret. At the end of that first day together, having spent every last dollar of his paycheck on me, he seemed reluctant to get out of the car and say goodnight.

“Tengo que decirte algo,” he said suddenly.
I looked at him, waited for him to say more.
He clasped and unclasped his hands. He looked at his lap, looked back at me.
“Estoy sin papeles.”

Without papers? What papers? What in the world did that mean?

It may seem impossible that I should be so naive, that I didn’t know, but that goes to show how very different our lives were. Earlier that year I read T.C. Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain – felt compassion for the immigrant in the story, and then promptly forgot all about it upon returning it to the library. Carlos did not have the luxury of reading such a story and then forgetting about it – he was living it.

I needed more of an explanation to fully understand what it meant to be “illegal”, (today’s preferred term, “undocumented”, wasn’t used as much back then.)

How was it that a stamp inside a little paper booklet to cross an invisible man-made line could matter that much? He explained in more detail what his situation meant for him and how he had come to be “without papers”, then he said,

“Do you still want to see me?”

His eyes, the color of wet earth, searched mine, as if seeking the answer before I spoke it.

“Yes…it’s okay,” I said. Knowing this about him didn’t change my feelings – If anything, I liked him a little more for his honesty and for trusting me.

“It’s okay?” he said in disbelief.

“Yes, it’s okay,” I smiled.

“Okay,” he smiled back, sighing, an obvious weight lifted.

We kissed goodnight and he climbed the stairs to his brother’s apartment. I sat in the darkness, watched the moths flutter in and out of the beam of my headlights, free to go wherever they wished.


“Borders are scratched across the hearts of men, by strangers with a calm, judicial pen, and when the borders bleed we watch with dread the lines of ink along the map turn red.” – Marya Mannes



Te Encontraré – PART I

Some have asked me to tell more about how Carlos and I ended up together. It is an incredible story or a boring one, depending how I remember it, and how I choose to tell it on any particular day. I don’t mean to take liberty with the truth, but in the tradition of Latin American storytelling, (which perhaps has influenced me over the years), it’s understood that family histories evolve and change over time – eventually no one quite remembers what is truth and what is fiction.

In that spirit, I will tell you about how I met Mr. López.

“Mexicans are always making things up…Don’t ever believe these family legends people have. It’s like how white people like to say their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, but worse…Everyone’s family is like that. Everyone’s grandmother drank with Diego and Frida…and everyone’s grandfather rode with Pancho Villa. Everyone’s abuelo can’t have ridden with Pancho Villa, mijos. The Mexican army would have seen them coming ten miles away!”

-“Everyone’s Abuelo Can’t Have Ridden With Pancho Villa” by Andrea Saenz

Te Encontraré – PART I
~Yes, I kiss on the first date~

The summer fresh out of high school with absolutely no direction in life – That’s me, working at a music store while my friends go off to university. My parents encouraged me to go but never pushed. Maybe they were partly relieved not to take on the financial burden of student loans, and besides, things could have been worse. My mother always said she worried I’d end up in a Turkish prison. I think she just meant I had a way of getting myself into trouble.

Living in his brother’s apartment – one block away from the music store – That’s Carlos. He’s been in the United States for a year. He’s recently been given an actual bed to sleep in – before that, he slept on the floor. He makes a living cleaning windows, but some days there isn’t any work, and on those days he goes walking around the city.

One day, by chance or fate, he walked into the store where I worked. I watched him browse the Latin Music section before asking “Necesitas ayuda?” – Those are the first words I ever said to him, “Do you need help?”

Now, I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight. My husband says he knew right away that we were meant to be. I do admit, I felt something strange, like I was looking into the eyes of someone I’d known before.

He asked me in English, “How many years do you have?” which made me laugh. I asked where he was from – he said El Salvador, and I pretended to know where in the world that was, though I didn’t. It seems like in school we memorized the capitals of all the countries in South America, we studied Mexico from every imaginable angle, but Central America? … If you asked me where Central America was, I probably would have guessed Kansas.

Between blushes and glances at our shoes, he eventually asked for my phone number and left with it in his pocket.

The first time he called me was that same night. My little sister answered the phone and then yelled down the hallway that separated our bedrooms, “Tracy! I think it’s for you! It’s a guy who doesn’t speak English well!”

We arranged to meet the next day to spend the afternoon together. At this point I’d very much like to say that our courtship was chaste and innocent, but see this photo? This was taken in a photo booth that first day together. (My sincere apologies to all the other gringas for tarnishing your reputation. I couldn’t help it. He was cute.)

That night we sat in the grass, looking at the reflection of the moon in the glassy surface of a lake. Between his broken English and my basic Spanish, we somehow communicated, though not perfectly. Maybe that’s why we kissed so much. Besos don’t need translating. At one point he held me close and began to sing quietly into my ear. I didn’t understand the words back then, but now that I do, it makes me wonder if Carlos knew something I didn’t – If that day, he really did feel that he knew we were destined to be together.

“Yo te encontraré,
no habrá sitio en el mundo,
donde te escondan te hallaré.

Yo te encontraré,
porque eres mi destino,
aunque seas la aguja en el pajar
yo te encontraré.”

- Te Encontraré / Ricardo Arjona




Today I want to talk about “crushes”, and I found myself sitting for a minute, trying to think of my title options in Spanish. I know how to say “in love” and things of that nature, but a crush is not love. After a quick search, I gathered these possibilities:

Estar embobado/a con alguien – To be besotted with someone
Estar colado/a por alguien – To be cast by someone
Encaprichado/a de alguien – To be infatuated with someone
Estar prendado/a de alguien – To be smitten with someone
Tener un flechazo – To have an arrow shot
Estar pillado/a por alguien – To be caught by someone
Tener un metejón – (difficult to give a literal translation, maybe something like “To be really into”)
Estar remetido/a – To be tucked in
Estar perdido/a por alguien – To be lost for someone
Perder la chaveta por alguien – To be haywire for someone
Estar templado/a como las cuerdas de una guitarra – To be tempered as the strings of a guitar

All of these are fabulous in their own way – but none of them, for me, carry the sentido of “crush” – that silly, intoxicating feeling that makes one feel like a 10 year old girl crying into her pillow for New Kids on the Block just because she hearts them SO much. (…um, not that I know anything about that…pero, hands off Jonathan. He’s mine.)

So, why am I, (una mujer casada!), talking about crushes? Well because I have one, and what’s more, my usually macho husband, Carlos, is okay with it. No sé cómo, but for once he isn’t celoso. Maybe he has grown more secure in himself and doesn’t feel threatened by my childish locuras anymore. ¿Quién sabe?

Now I’m sure you’re wondering who my crush is. Well, he is a man with an inspiring story that came from very humble beginnings. He came to the U.S. from Mexico to work farms in California at a young age. He loved to write songs and he loved to sing. Some people told him he wasn’t good enough, but after the death of his mother who always encouraged him, he followed his dreams. You may now know him as “Espinoza Paz”.

To add to my juvenile feelings for him, él tiene frenos iguales a los que yo tenía when I was in middle school, which I find completely adorable.

The best thing about Espinoza is how shy he can be. (For all you timidos out there, some girls like that so just be yourself!)

Now that I think about it, Espinoza Paz reminds me of my husband. The ojos chinos, the mejillas adorables, the humble beginnings as an immigrant, the shyness… Wait until I tell Carlos, I think I have a crush on him, too.

“It’s just a little crush,
Not like I faint every time we touch
It’s just some little thing,
Not like everything I do,
depends on you.”

- Crush / Jennifer Paige

Okay – now you have to spill the beans. Who is your crush?

Escritura y Diferencias

September is a special month to me. It’s the month I started this blog last year, and though my husband and I met each other at the end of August all those years ago, September is when we became novios. And so today has me thinking about the early days, when we were new to each other, and I was still discovering all the little things about him that endeared him to me…

I first noticed my husband’s escritura, (handwriting) within minutes of meeting him. He gave me his name and phone number, and instead of the chicken-scratch I was used to seeing from American boys, I held in my hands something not only completely readable, but strangely intriguing.

Yes, after all these years, I still have it.

As novios, I looked forward to his love letters, not just for the words themselves, but the way in which they had been written – the form of each individual letter. Everything about him reminded me of how different we were, from our inability to communicate at times, (I read his love letters with an English-Spanish dictionary by my side), to something as simple as the way we write the letter “e”.

They say “love is blind”, and while I agree with the sentiment, it isn’t literally true. We saw our differences, and were fascinated by them.

Many handwriting experts claim you can’t tell a person’s ethnicity or nationality by their handwriting, but again, I say this isn’t true. (Link is to a PDF titled: “Spanish Handwriting And Spelling” – a document meant for non-native Spanish speakers deciphering Spanish documents to extract information. The fact that such a document exists proves that there are differences!)

Maybe it isn’t fool proof, but I’m able to pick out the handwriting of native born Salvadorans from that of U.S. born Americans. While I haven’t seen handwriting samples from all Latin American countries, everybody in my husband’s family – his mother, his sister, his brother, his cousins and uncles – even completely unrelated Salvadorans I’ve met, all have similarities in their handwriting. I can’t tell you if it’s a uniquely Salvadoran handwriting or a Spanish-speaking/Latin American way of writing, but it is different – and noticing a difference is not a bad thing.

In this politically correct world we’re admonished to look for the similarities, but I say go ahead and look for the differences, and celebrate them, because they’re beautiful.

My husband…Manolo?

I wanted to write about all the things I love about my husband, so I started to make a list. Some of the things I love are his voice, his accent, (in Spanish and English), his laugh. I decided to record him talking, but it didn’t go exactly as planned. He was tired and being stubborn… and then he got downright silly.

And as if I haven’t already shown how weird I am, this video confirms it. If you’re wondering why I wanted him to say “lagartija” (lizard), it’s because I love the way that word sounds in Spanish. I don’t know what it is, but that word makes me a little weak in the knees, (native Spanish speakers are laughing at me right now. Está bien.) … I love the word so much that Espinoza Paz’s “La Lagartija” is like a love song to me.

Other words I was trying to get my macho to say were my name and his name, because I like the way he says those, too.

To my native English speaker friends, which words do you love to hear in Spanish? … Native Spanish speaker friends, which words do you love to hear in English?

The secret ingredient in my kitchen is love

I love to cook. I love it because it fully engages all my senses and allows me to be creative while doing something practical to care for mi familia. I love the diversity of colors, textures, scents, tastes – the memories it conjures and creates.

My only problem is that I often used to stain my shirts. After I ruined much of my wardrobe, my husband asked Suegra to make me an apron.

Here is something nice I have to say about mi Suegra – she is a very talented seamstress, (and she’s completely self-taught!) She can make anything imaginable, from the sweetest little dresses for baby girls to silly Halloween costumes for mis niños – and when she’s not living with us, I realize what a useful skill it is as I haphazardly repair sofa pillows myself with crooked, child-ish stitches.

My favorite thing she ever made for me is my apron. She takes a lot of pride in her work and she took the time to embroider it in the traditional Salvadoran style. Salvadoran folk art contains colorful images of familiar things – houses, flowers, birds, and animals.

I wanted to take a photo of my apron to show you, so I put the camera on the counter top and set the timer.

I always take more than one photo just in case. I set the camera up again and while my husband has been known to run into the kitchen and steal bites of food before dinner is ready, this time my husband ran in to steal a besito.

I don’t usually post photos of myself or my husband, and especially one so intimate, (¡Qué escándalo! ji ji ji…) but this photo makes me happy and I wanted to spread the love.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
– Harriet Van Horne

La Copa Mundial

I am so tired. I’ve been waking up at 7 am almost every morning to catch the first game of the day. Then I spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter watching the games with my friends, which is so much more fun than watching alone.

If you want to watch with me, come on over! (A small warning though, I got overly passionate during Mexico’s game and let loose a few dozen “Viva México Cabrones!” … This is not the Spanish I intend to teach my kids. My apologies to those with delicate ears.)

Yesterday, Mexico’s historic win against France had me feeling breathlessly excited for a country I have absolutely no roots in, (“I wish I was born Mexican, but it’s too late for that now.” – Morrissey), and today, I am proud of how the U.S. played against Slovenia, yet simultaneously pissed that their third goal was taken away, leaving it a 2-2 tie, instead of a win.

Whatever the outcome, I’m exhausted and my productivity is laughable. Somehow I’ve managed to keep up with the 2 articles per week deadline over at Copa Café. I will keep links to those posts here for those who want to go read them.

*All Paths Lead to Fútbol

*A Sweet Game

*U.S. Latinos: Never Offsides When It Comes To Team Loyalty

*On this day, we are all Mexicans

*Better Late Than Never

* Fútbol Fortunetellers

* Cheaters Never Win (Except in Fútbol)

* Best Commercials of the World Cup

Yo soy ese romántico, Yo soy ese lunático

What do you do when you get a craving for birthday cake, but there are no family birthdays on this month’s calendar? You celebrate an un-birthday.

When I called my husband and asked him to pick up a birthday cake, (yellow with white icing, please), on his way home, he obliged. Actually, he more than obliged. He took the opportunity to be muy romántico.

Saying that word, (“romántico”), reminds me of the first Spanish language album I bought. It was 1995, which makes me around 16 years old. The album was “Vida” by La Mafia. Who knows why I picked it up but I remember listening to it on repeat, with the lyrics insert spread before me on the carpet. I especially loved the song “Yo soy ese romántico” because it was one of the few songs I understood all the words to.

“Yo soy ese romántico
Yo soy ese lunático
Que pinta corazones
con tu nombre
Por toda la cuidad
Yo soy ese romántico
Yo soy ese lunático
Que llama cada noche
Que te dice que te ama de verdad.”

-Yo Soy Ese Romántico/La Mafia

I remember my love sick sighs, dreaming of meeting a guy who would be as romantic as the one in the song.

I guess sometimes dreams come true.

I <3 Miami

Maybe I’m romanticizing it since I was only there for a couple days, but I really fell in love with Miami. I don’t know if it’s the kind of place I could live in year round. I’m an East Coast girl at heart. I need my change of seasons, my autumn leaves. I need the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer time… but going tropical felt good at least for a little while.

I loved the art deco architecture, the rustle of palm trees, the turquoise blue of the ocean, hearing Spanish everywhere we went, the adorable casitas, the couples dancing to the salsa version of Coldplay’s song, “Clocks“, the taxi drivers hanging out their windows and calling out piropos to pretty girls, mojitos, learning how to run in tacones, guava cupcakes, and most of all, the diverse group of amazing women who I now call mis amigas.

Going to Miami was life changing in ways I never expected, and probably in ways I have yet to see.

Those who were there with me may know that I argued on and off with my husband via text message almost the entire two days. This made me feel vergüenza, because I know what it looks like from the outside looking in. Most people like to keep up the appearance that their marriage is perfect, but sometimes there is no hiding the truth.

I felt lucky that despite my shyness, I bonded so quickly to all of the girls and that I was able to open up to them. Many of them gave me good advice, some simply a listening ear and a knowing smile. Marriage isn’t easy and mine is no exception. In fact, bi-cultural marriages tend to be even more difficult.

In the end, my husband and I came to a major turning point as individuals and as a couple. My husband was forced to realize that his celos is a result of his own insecurity and I was able to fly free long enough to realize that living like a pajarito in a cage of gold, is not how I want to live. Changing won’t be easy, but we had a very difficult heart-to-heart and our marriage has weathered another storm.

Lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
You’ve put me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead, singing…

Confusion never stops,
Closing walls and ticking clocks,
Gonna come back and take you home,
I could not stop, that you now know, singing,
Come out upon my seas,
Curse missed opportunities…

And nothing else compares
Oh no nothing else compares
And nothing else compares

You are, Home, home,
Where I wanted to go…


Disclosure: General Mills paid for my trip to Miami for their Qué Rica Vida media event. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for writing about the event. All opinions expressed are my own.