“Clementino”

I’ve mentioned before that there’s a Latino market I go to and the cashier there gives me a discount on the Mexican candy I buy.

I haven’t given the name of the market. Let’s just say it’s called “Clementina’s Latino Market” … Well, Carlos and I didn’t know the name of the male cashier but we always refer to him behind his back as “Clementino” – just because it’s funny.

Well, it’s because of me that “Clementina’s” carries Bubu Lubus. I asked for them early last year, and “Clementino” promised me he’d find them. The next week when I came in, he had the candy waiting for me and has consistently kept them in stock ever since.

Over this past year I’ve come to expect his smile when I come into the store. Over the past few months, I’ve come to expect his joking conversation and the occasional words which could be interpreted as flirtatious but not inappropriate. I thought it was all innocent, though Carlos warned me that he didn’t like the way “Clementino” looked at me. I thought it was all silliness… until today.

Leaving Carlos and the boys waiting in the car, I went in to buy my usual tortillas and Bubu Lubus. Suegra actually came inside with me – she bought a handful of phone cards and left without waiting for me. A young couple sending money via Western Union, and a homeless looking guy buying beer, stood ahead of me in line. I waited patiently until it was my turn and then approached the counter, (which, for reasons unknown to me, is so tall that it comes almost to my chin.)

I put my tortillas on the counter top and pulled two Bubu Lubus from the display. “Clementino” smiled and asked me how I’ve been. I returned the polite conversation as he slid my debit card. Without looking at me he sighed and smiled, then as he waited for the approval he said, “Sabes que, me enamoré de tí.”

I didn’t say anything. I waited for him to talk more – I waited for him to laugh at the joke he was making or for me to realize I had misunderstood. I gave him a quizzical look.

“Te quiero, pero no me quieres, verdad?” he said.

I still said nothing but he kept talking as he laid my receipt and the debit card onto the countertop. When I reached up to take them, he covered my hand with his.

“Es por tu culpa porque eres tan bonita… me entiendes todo que estoy diciendo, sí?”

I nodded, my cheeks burning hot, and pulled my hand away. I accepted my bag of tortillas and candy saying, “Gracias, adiós.”

“Cuándo vas a visitarme otra vez, preciosa?” he said as I walked toward the door.

“Cuándo necesito más Bubu Lubus, pues,” I said laughing.

“Ah, es que no me quieres, verdad?”

I pointed to my wedding ring. “Clementino” shrugged and told me that didn’t matter.

I ran to the car and told Carlos everything that happened, with a smile as I came out of my shock, I admit. Suegra piped up from the back seat that “Clementino” was a “sin vergüenza”, but that I was good for telling my husband. Carlos said “I told you,” multiple times and surprisingly didn’t go back in the market to kill “Clementino” – at least not this time.

And me? I’m feeling like I’m in a real life telenovela… and wondering where the hell I can safely buy my Bubu Lubus now.

___

Clementino Part II

13 years

Today Carlos and I have been married 13 years. As usual, we don’t have enough chirilicas to buy anything for each other – but that’s okay. No amount of money in the world can buy what we have together and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This isn’t to say our marriage is perfect – far from it! Truth be told, we can be downright dysfunctional. There is passion – passion that leads to some of the hottest fights you’d never want to see, (though the passion is good for other things, too.) …One thing is for sure, it’s never boring y ojalá our love for each other will always win out in the end.

Ya tú sabes, te quiero un chingo, Carlos.

El Guanaco + La Güera
(a poem for Carlos)

What more can I say,
que ya no te dijé,
me gusta como dices
“pata” en vez de “pie.”

Tu Caliche makes me crazy
y tu familia de otra manera
aunque me llamen “Traisy”
I’m proud to be tu güera.

Sabes que te agradezco
for all the things you do
Tú trabajas muy fuerte
To buy mis Bubu Lubus.

The truth is that without you,
(and our two cipotes)
Yo ando bien perdida
igual a Don Quixote.

Ahora voy a decirte,
In front of all these gente,
Eres mi guanaco,
absolutamente.

Feliz Navidad

Mañana es Navidad, pero hoy es “Spanish Friday.”

No tengo grandes planes para la Navidad, y gracias a la ecónomia, no ha comprado muchos regalos para los niños. Por lo mejor. Tal vez ellos pueden crecer más agradecidos que la mayoria de niños en Los Estados Unidos.

Yo recibí jugetes al montón cuando era niña. Habia una Navidad bien recuerdo que mis hermanas y yo recibimos jugetes para fregar, y cuando fuimos a la casa de mis abuelos maternos, recibimos tantos regalos más que tuvimos que hacer dos vueltas en el carro para llevarlas a casa. (Esto encima de regalos recibidos por correo de otra familia.)

Pero Carlos estaba al otro extremo. Me contaba que habia años cuando él recibido un par de zapatos y nada más. Lo peor es que nunca quedaban bien. Siempre los padres los compraron grandes para que duren más tiempo y parecía más a lanchas que un par de zapatos.

Hay que buscar un equilibrio, y creo que nuestros hijos están creciendo en buenas condiciones. No son pobres-pobres, que sienten que están sufriendo, pero no son ricos-ricos que tienen la expectacion que la vida es fácil. Creo que está bien.

Lo más importante es que estamos juntos. La alegría derivada de todos los jugetes del mundo se queda corta al lado de la felicidad uno se siente de estar amado entre familia.

Latinos & Gringas Gorditas

White guy #1: You know who likes to go with Mexicans? Fat white girls! It’s always the fat ones who-
Carlos: Hey.
White guy #1: What?
Carlos: Do me a favor.
White guy #1: Yeah?
Carlos: Shut the fuck up. {walks away}
White guy #1: Damn, what the hell’s his problem?
White guy #2: You’re a dumbass. His wife is white.
{awkward silence}
White guy #1: But I wasn’t sayin’ nothin – I just meant it’s like… a stereotype.

A stereotype – and like any stereotype, it’s mostly hurtful bigotry, but with a little truth mixed in – (Sort of like Fruit Punch with 10% real juice.)

“Gringas Gorditas” (Fat white girls), do not disproportionately pair up with Latino men. I can say anecdotally that among the gringas I know who are with Latino men, it’s an even split 50/50 with half being flacas (thin) and the other half being gorditas (chubby or fat.)

I’m one of the gorditas, and I’ve come up against a lot of ignorant assumptions about my marriage. First of all, I did not “settle” for my husband because I couldn’t “get a white guy”. White guys were never on my radar in the first place, maybe due to a childhood crush on Ricky Ricardo – who knows.

Second of all, my husband did not choose me just to get a Greencard, and nor am I a “status symbol” for him.

This stereotype about Latinos and gringas gorditas is doubly damaging because not only does it literally weigh my worth as a woman in pounds, it casts an ugly light on interracial marriage – as if our marriage is somehow less valid.

Here’s some breaking news: Interracial couples fall in love for all the complicated and simple reasons “same race” couples fall in love. In the end, it comes down to attraction – not just physical, (though biologically that can’t much be helped), but spiritual connection, emotional attachment, and shared experiences all play a role.

Now for the 10% juice: Culturally speaking, Latino men are typically more accepting, and even desiring, of a thicker figure on a woman, than are Anglo men. (Source: Study on Race/Ethnicity Body Type Preferences)

(Necessary Disclaimer: That, of course, is a generality that does not apply to all Latino men or all Anglo men. Individual results may vary.)

The real question in my mind is what is the fascination with this stereotype? Why all the scrutiny over my curves and his color? Yes, I’m a gringa gordita and yes, he is Latino – ¿Y qué? (So what?)

“It is not that love is blind. It is that love sees with a painter’s eye, finding the essence that renders all else background.” – Robert Brault

Quiero Mi Boda

Maybe love knows no boundaries, but that doesn’t mean cultures won’t clash.

The show “Quiero Mi Boda” on channel TR3S, is a reality show now in its second season, which documents couples from different cultures and how they navigate the messy business of getting their families, (who sometimes don’t even speak a common language), to accept their relationship, and then planning their weddings to keep everyone happy despite traditions that sometimes directly conflict with one another.

I had the opportunity to interview Sebastian Portillo, the producer of “Quiero Mi Boda”, and want to share that with you here, with English translation.

Latinaish.com: Hola Señor Portillo, gracias por tomarse el tiempo por responder unas preguntas de el programa “Quiero Mi Boda” que saldra el 25 de Octubre a la 7 pm EST en el canal TR3S…Por los que no están familiarizados con el programa, puedes decirme a cerca de ¿qué es el programa “Quiero Mi Boda”?

(Translation: Hello Mr. Portillo, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about the program “Quiero Mi Boda” that will premiere October 25th at 7 pm on channel TR3S…For those who are not familiar with the program, can you tell me what is the show “Quiero Mi Boda” about?)

Sebastian Portillo: Es un reflejo de lo que tienen que atravesar las parejas de diferentes culturas cuando deciden casarse, y se dan cuenta que las tradiciones que siempre soñaron incorporar, no necesariamente son las mismas que las de su pareja.

(Translation: It is a reflection of what couples of different cultures have to go through when they decide to marry, and they realize that the traditions they always dreamed of incorporating, are not necessarily the same as those of their partner.)

Latinaish.com: ¿Por qué quisiste producir este programa tomando en cuenta parejas multi-culturales en vez de parejas de la misma cultura?

(Translation: Why did you want to produce this program about multi-cultural couples instead of couples of the same culture?)

Sebastian Portillo: La razón principal fue que esta tendencia de casarse con personas de otras culturas es algo que se esta viendo mucho entre los Latinos viviendo en US. Antes había muchos mas prejuicios y ahora el amor demostró nuevamente que no tiene fronteras.

(Translation: The main reason was that this tendency to marry people of other cultures is something that is being seen widely among Latinos living in the U.S. Before there were many more prejudices and now love has once again demonstrated that it has no boundaries.)

Latinaish.com: ¿Había una pareja más memorable, o un evento que te sorprendió en la producción?

(Translation: Was there a most memorable couple, or event that surprised you during production?)

Sebastian Portillo: Lo interesante de esta temporada es que tuvimos la suerte de producir episodios con culturas bien diversa. Tenemos las que no pueden faltar, como la mexicana, peruana, cubana, y puertorriqueña, pero también las bien diferentes, como la china, de indonesia, India, persa, y afro-americana. Pero. Lo algo para destacar es que dos de las parejas se casaron luego de tener un hijo y eso mostro otro aspecto de que pasa con dos culturas diferentes cuando hay un nuevo miembro de la familia y como es que puede complicar aun mas el proceso del casamiento.

(Translation: The interesting thing about this season is that we were lucky to produce episodes with very diverse cultures. We have people like the Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, but also those who were very different, such as Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Persian, and African-American. But the thing to note is that two of the couples married after having a child and it showed another aspect of what happens with two different cultures when there’s a new member of the family and how we can further complicate the process of marriage.)

Latinaish.com: Gracias Sr. Portillo por su tiempo. Esperamos con interés “Quiero Mi Boda”. Deseando amor y felicidad a las parejas. Como una gringa casada con un salvadoreño, les puedo decir, no es fácil, pero vale la pena.

(Translation: Thanks Mr. Portillo for your time. We look forward to “Quiero Mi Boda”. I wish love and happiness to the couples. As a gringa married to a Salvadoran, I can tell them, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.)

Fuerza Mineros

Fuerza Mineros, (the Twitter hashtag #fuerzamineros), a wish of strength to the miners, these two words I typed dozens of times yesterday as I watched the rescue unfold in Chile.

I tweeted some of the rescues as they happened, and once I started, I found that I had to stay there for the very last one.

Part of the intrigue for me was pride in watching the true international effort at play – seeing how we are capable of such greatness when we work together. This rescue in Chile could not have happened without the help of the United States, and dozens of other countries. It’s a lesson in cooperation and humbleness, in allowing others to help when you can’t do something on your own. It’s a lesson on strength in numbers – just as the Chilean miners pooled their talents to survive below ground, the world pooled their talents above ground to save them. We are all unique individuals with unique abilities, which we should use to help others.

The second reason I watched, was for the pure happiness it gave me. The rescue allowed us to forget our own problems, like any other distraction. I think for a lot of people, it was a much needed respite from the usual depressing political and economic news. Maybe watching the families reunite gave us a moment to recharge and recalibrate – to realize just what is important in this world.

When these kind of amazing stories happen, it’s inevitable that the characters in the story will be granted a sort of legendary status, becoming unforgettable to an entire generation. The Chilean miners have been described almost as saints, called heroes, been ascribed attributes such as “resilient”, but I’m going to take an unpopular stance … As horrific as their ordeal was and as intelligent and strong as they were to survive, they are not saints or heroes, and they are no more resilient than most other human beings who find themselves in a situation where they must fight for their lives.

The Chilean miners are men – and flawed men, just like the rest of us. Perhaps none has exemplified that as publicly as Yonni Barrios – the miner who had both a wife and mistress show up to the site calling his name, (and word has it, he isn’t the only one who had multiple women claim him.)

But the truth is, all of the miners have skeletons in their closets, just like the rest of us – and I’d be willing to bet that the contract they signed with each other in the mine was that they’d never tell a soul about the things they must have confessed to each other during the days when they thought they might not make it out.

And while the miners have captured the world’s attention, there are human beings who never get to tell their stories, who are never praised for their survival, who are suffering in all kinds of situations every day all over the world; from starvation, poverty, illness, separation from family or homeland, to loneliness, unjust incarceration, abuse, slavery, and mourning. It is the human condition, and those of us who are not touched by the worst of this kind of suffering are the lucky minority.

It may seem I’m being cynical – on the contrary! This should give you hope! What I’m saying is that, like the miners, though we are not saints, we all have hidden reserves of strength, we all have the ability to pull through difficult times. We all have the capacity for faith in something greater than us no matter how “religious” we consider ourselves. We all have the ability to be reborn in this world, to change our ways. Each day that you wake up and feel the sunshine upon your face, it is another chance to try again.

(Photo by Hugo Infante/Chilean Government via Getty Images)


“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world…Strive to be happy.”-Desiderata/ Max Ehrmann