Category Archives: el macho

El Salvador – The Mariachi Story

We went up into the mountains to a place near Parque Balboa in Planes de Renderos because we heard there was a good pupusería up there. Abbi Pupusería is located up the street from a scenic view called El Mirador and was once host to the making of the biggest pupusa which occurs each year on National Pupusa Day.

This is also where I had a humiliating run-in with mariachi that marked me as an obvious tourist in front of dozens of people.

Our driver parked his car in the tiny parking lot, aided by an energetic attendant who seemed to really love his job, directing traffic and fitting the patrons’ vehicles together in an impossible jigsaw puzzle that only he knew how to deconstruct when someone wanted to leave.

We invited our driver to come eat with us because he had become a good friend, and we lined up to order our pupusas. For myself, I ordered two revueltas – one cooked in the traditional corn masa, and another “de arroz” – which I’ve been wanting to try for years.

We chose a seat on the sheltered patio at one of the long, heavy wooden tables with benches and we sat down to wait. The restaurant was really busy – almost every table was full of people either eating or waiting to eat and the atmosphere was really festive. Sitting there that evening in the cool mountain air heavy with the scent of pupusas, everything felt kind of perfect… but that didn’t last very long.

Lost in my own thoughts, Carlos touched my arm and pointed out across the patio to men with instruments in hot pink shirts. “Tracy, mariachi,” he said.

Before Carlos could stop me, I had grabbed my camera and run off to get a good shot. I heard him calling over the noise of the other patrons, “Wait! Wait!” but wait for what? I didn’t want to miss getting a photo of mariachi and decided I’d find out what he wanted when I came back.

The mariachi were playing a song when I sat down right in front of them. While I usually try to be unintrusive when taking photos, I figured these are performers, entertainers – they should love to have their photo taken – so I snapped several photos of them before putting my camera away. To be polite, I stayed until they finished the song. As they finished the song, before I had a chance to go back to my table, they started talking to each other about me.

“Esa mujer sí es bonita,” one said.
“Mira los ojos bien chulos,” another responded.

The lead singer approached me, “Veinte dolares, cuatro canciones,” he said.
I told him I didn’t have money. He smiled and shook his head like I was the cutest little liar he ever saw.
“Veinte dolares, cuatro canciones,” he repeated.
I told him again, seriously, I don’t have money. (And I honestly didn’t. Carlos had all the money.)

At this point my youngest son came up beside me.
“Este es mi cipote,” I said, hoping to change the conversation.
The mariachi said nothing.
“Okay… gracias,” I said getting up and grabbing my son. “Let’s go back to the table, hurry up, come on,” I said to him out the side of my mouth.

The mariachi all started chanting, “Siguela, siguela, siguela” (follow her, follow her, follow her) – and they did. Hot on my heels, they arrived at our table right behind me. Carlos gave me an angry look.
“I told you to wait,” he said in English through clenched teeth.
“You’re the one who said ‘Tracy, mariachi’… How long have you been married to me? What did you think I would do?” I said under my breath, because all eyes were on our table.
“Veinte dolares, cuatro canciones,” the lead singer told Carlos.
“Veinte dolares?” Carlos said, incredulous.
The lead singer nodded and he guitarist strummed his guitar.
“Y por sólo una canción?” Carlos asked.
“Veinte dolares, cuatro canciones,” the lead singer said, completely unwilling to barter and let us buy just one song instead of four.

Carlos sighed and gave me a mean look out the corner of his eye as the entire restaurant watched. He started to pull out his wallet.

The lead singer held up his hand and told him he could pay after.

And so we sat there through four songs. I tried to pretend that it was romantic but by the way Carlos tapped his fingers on the table top I could tell he was annoyed at the whole situation rather than enjoying the music. Meanwhile I felt sick about having wasted $20, (this wouldn’t be the first or last time I had caused us to lose money in El Salvador due to acting like a stupid tourist) – and I was dreading the fight that awaited me once Carlos could talk to me in private.

After the four songs Carlos sighed and opened his wallet, but when he tried to pull out a twenty, some other twenties fell onto the floor. One of the mariachi hissed through his teeth. This made the whole thing even more embarrassing – dropping twenties all over the place like we were rich when we had initially haggled over the price of the songs.

For some reason, (I guess because he was embarrassed about dropping the money), Carlos gave them an extra $5 tip. They insisted this meant we got a 5th song, (a cumbia this time), and so our humiliation was further drawn out a few more minutes.

When our pupusas came, we ate and talked a little but I knew Carlos hadn’t really cooled off. Our driver was siting there at the table with us and Carlos just didn’t want to make a scene in front of him. When we got back to the privacy of our hotel, Carlos had one of his Ricky Ricardo moments and I ended up crying a la Lucy, because what should have been romantic, wasn’t at all.

Thankfully the fight was short-lived and by the next day we were laughing about the whole thing. I imagine the mariachi were also laughing… all the way to the bank.

El Salvador – The story I can’t really tell

When Suegra declared that she’d be traveling with us to El Salvador, I knew that drama was only a plane ride away – What I didn’t know is just how much.

I can’t give too many details or show too many photos regarding all this, out of respect for Carlos, but here are the basics of what happened.

A Tía picked us all up at the airport. After a quick roadside stop for agua de coco, we went straight to Carlos’s childhood home in Soyapango.

I was kind of expecting open warfare, gunshots, tattooed mareros dealing drugs on street corners in broad daylight – but Soyapango was pretty much as I remembered it – a rough neighborhood to be sure, graffiti on walls and barbed wire on rooftops, but calm on the surface, at least at that moment on that particular day.

I sighed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the safest place for us to stay, but I was prepared to spend time in the neighborhood – to sleep in Carlos’s modest childhood home for several nights and let the children experience the real El Salvador that you can’t get while staying in a hotel.

We pulled up to Carlos’s house and the outside looked uncared for, but not to the point that I worried. The house badly needed a fresh coat of teal paint – mareros had taken care of that in their own way with red graffiti.

Inside the house, was another story all together. For one thing, it was extremely hot, (even locals complained about the heat while we were there.) We arrived from the airport needing to use the bathroom and dehydrated, but the house’s water was turned off. Once our eyes adjusted to the darkness of the house, we became aware of its condition. Due to lack of maintenance, the house had deteriorated in various ways – it seemed abandoned. Suegra had sold most of her furniture, (who knows why), and what was left was dusty, dirty, infested by rodents – and totally unsanitary. I was fully prepared for poverty, but when it comes to cleanliness, (especially for my children) – I don’t compromise.

Carlos’s face registered the same look of shock, disappointment, sadness – anger. To see his childhood home in total disrepair, and to have to show his children that this is where he lived, really hurt him.

For an hour or two, Carlos quietly tried to figure out what to do – stood in the window of the enclosed patio, shaking his head and sighing. It was clear we couldn’t stay there.

Finally Carlos confronted his mother – asked what happened, why she hadn’t kept up the house – why she had lied to us about its condition before we arrived. She became defensive and told him nothing was wrong with the house – that it was virtually the same as it had been when we visited 12 years ago – that in fact, she felt it was actually improved. She denied the damage, safety hazards and unsanitary conditions that were right there before our eyes, told us we were being snobby. It was clear Suegra was seriously delusional or that she thought we were incredibly stupid.

After a walk through the neighborhood to buy bottled water, (because at this point the boys and I were becoming physically ill from dehydration), Carlos calmly told her we were going to have a friend take us to a hotel. We had told Suegra all along that we would spend some time in a hotel, so we were just going there earlier than we had planned, but Suegra acted like this option was totally unheard of. Suegra exploded with accusations and manipulations, yelling – first at Carlos, then at me, then attempting to drag the children into it.

“Tracy! Of all people, I never would have expected this from you!” she said.

We grabbed our suitcases while she cursed us to a Tío who had come by to say “hello.” We piled into the friend’s car while she called a Tía on the phone to tell her what horrible people we were. We drove off as she compared me to one of Carlos’s old girlfriends. (A woman he dated before coming to the U.S. who Suegra hated for stealing her son away from her.)

The first few hours were emotional and ugly – this isn’t what I wanted the children to remember, but I was proud of Carlos. He took care of me and the kids as he promised. He didn’t give into his mother’s manipulation. Despite what we wrestled with as we tried to sleep that first night, in the darkness of the hotel room, we agreed we wouldn’t let this ruin our time in El Salvador – and we didn’t.

A few days later Suegra called demanding that Carlos hand over her plane ticket so she could change it. She didn’t fly back with us and hasn’t spoken to us since we gave it to her, (which was another drama filled encounter.) She’s telling family members and friends that she won’t move back in with us. What she doesn’t know is that if she changes her mind and decides to stop playing games, the door is not open for her to return this time.

Yesterday Suegra had a Tía call and say she was in the hospital with chest pains due to the stress Carlos had caused her. We found out from another (more honest) Tía, that the story was completely fabricated, that Suegra never went to the hospital and was perfectly healthy.

Carlos is dealing with a lot emotionally right now. Not only is he struggling with missing El Salvador and his best friend who he became very much re-attached to, but the drama with Suegra is far from over. For one, her [former] bedroom here is still full of her things. She will eventually need to come collect her stuff, which, I can tell you from past experience, doesn’t go well. She will drag this whole situation out for years, or for the rest of her life.

Carlos understands that he deserves to be treated with respect and love, and that those who don’t treat him that way, do not deserve to be a part of his life. He knows that at some point, one has to stand up and refuse to be abused any further – It’s harder to follow through when the person being abusive is one’s own mother.

Mexicans vs. Salvadorans

mexico-versus-el-salvador

Last week the United States lost to Mexico in the final Gold Cup game. My husband and I were both rooting for the U.S. team. We had even bet money – which was my unfortunate idea. Carlos has Mexican co-workers who give him a hard time for being the only Salvadoran amongst them – so I thought this would be a good way to get a little revenge and make some cash at the same time… well, it would have been if our team had won – instead, it lead to us being $40 poorer and some marital discord.

You see, while I was disappointed by the loss, Carlos, a Salvadoran by birth, was more than disappointed – he was angry, and it wasn’t about the money – it was about the Mexicans teasing him, the Mexicans who had beat our team, and, apparently, the entire country of Mexico itself.

When I told him to calm down he said, “You don’t understand! You don’t know how they are! I’m going to have to put up with that shit all day!”

“Don’t let it get to you,” I advised. “They just want to see you get upset. If you pretend it doesn’t bother you, they’ll stop,” I told him, repeating the same advice my mother had given me a million times when my sister’s teasing had gotten on my nerves as a kid.

“You don’t know how it is,” Carlos said. At that moment, his cellphone buzzed with a text message. Carlos cursed then held the screen to my face. “See?!”

The text message was from a Mexican co-worker. It read:

Ey pupusa, ganó México. Mañana tienes que llevar el dinero! jajajajaja!

I tried not to smile because Carlos was obviously really upset, but even their nickname for him, (“pupusa”) – I found funny, cute, and totally harmless. It was just guys being guys – but Carlos didn’t see it that way.

The thing is, I know Carlos doesn’t hate Mexicans. We have Mexican friends – people he really likes very much. He listens to Mexican music right along with me, without complaint, (usually), and likes Mexican food. When I cook Salvadoran dishes he puts Valentina hot sauce on it, (authentic Salvadoran food is not traditionally spicy, but Carlos likes everything picante.) He loves Pedro Infante, Cantinflas, El Chavo del Ocho, India Maria. As a proud Salvadoran, he even confessed that he knows a few bars of the Himno Nacional Mexicano and sang it for me! (Although he only learned it so he could pass as Mexican if stopped while immigrating through Mexico on his way to the United States.)

Even while I try to convince Carlos that he really does love Mexicans after all, I know animosity between Mexicans and Salvadorans isn’t imaginary – it’s real, and there are real reasons for it. If you ask a Mexican or Salvadoran why they don’t like each other, they may give you one of the following reasons, or they may offer no compelling reason at all. Here is what I found – (The content below is quoted from various sources. Sources are included. Latinaish.com does not necessarily agree with or endorse the opinions below.)

IMMIGRATION

“El problema con los mexicanos es [que] quieren tener de menos a los salvadoreños y centroamericanos, nos subestiman… cual crees [que] es el mayor desafio para un salvadoreño o centroamericano al emigrar a USA, es el temor a ser asesinado, secuestrado, mutilado o violado por mexicanos, se aprobechan de los emigrantes centroamericanos cuando ellos tambien tienen la misma necesidad de nosotros de emigrar hacia USA…” – Salvadoreño, Yahoo Answers

“Yo vivo al norte de méxico y el otro día viendo las noticias comentabamos mi mamá y yo como era posible la discriminación de razas sobre todo al sur del país con los salvadoreños ó guatemaltecos que cruzan la frontera, siendo que el presiedente de méxico va cada rato a USA a pedir que no traten mal a sus indocumentados, yo viví en USA una temporada y ví como en USA no los tratan tan mal como dicen los de la “migra” a los mexicanos indocumentados, y me pregunto yo ¿con que cara los méxicanos tratan mal a los salvadoreños ó guatemaltecos que cruzan la frontera?, vi en una entrevista al presidente de guatemala diciendo que había ido con el presidente de mexico para pedir por sus indocumentados y le comentó este que el acababa de llegar de USA por lo mismo y cuando llegó de ahi tenía una llamada del presindente de belice para lo mismo y cuando llego a su pais el presidente de guatemala le esperaba una llamada del presidente de el salvador y era para pedirle por sus indocumentados. Imaginate dijo todos estamos abogando por lo mismo….y me dio una pena ajena con la gente del sur de mi país enterarme que los tratan tan mal y que todavía se quejen que en USA los tratan mal con que cara piden respeto si no repetan… todavía recuerdo un día que llegarona ala casa unos salvadoreños pidiendo comida eran una pareja con dos niños como llegaron hasta sonora solo dios sabe, les dimos todo lo que pudimos y les dimos la bendición cuando se fueron. No todos odian a los salvadoreños aqui hay gente que es del salvador viviendo y los tratamos muy bien saben porque? porque al norte no se vive como al sur del pais, es triste pero cierto.” – Mexicana/Yahoo Answers

HISTORY

“Shortly after Central America gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico tried to swallow the region into its burgeoning empire. The fiercest opposition? El Salvador. Eventually, republic-minded Mexicans stopped their country’s ambitions and allowed El Salvador and the other Central American provinces to create the United Provinces of Central America. That lasted into the 1830s, by which time Mexico was too busy dealing with another imperial power to care much about recouping its former holdings. And if you know anything about Mexico, it’s que we don’t take thefts of our lands lightly.” – Gustavo Arellano/Ask A Mexican

GANGS

“The Mara Salvatrucha gang originated in Los Angeles, set up in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the city’s Pico-Union neighborhood who immigrated to the United States after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s…Originally, the gang’s main purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other, more established gangs of Los Angeles, who were predominantly composed of Mexicans and African-Americans.” – Wikipedia

JEALOUSY: TPS (TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS)

El Salvador became a “temporary protected status” (TPS) country in 2001, following two earthquakes that killed 1,000 people and destroyed more than 200,000 homes.

After intense lobbying by the Salvadoran government, the TPS was just extended for another 12 months. That means Salvadorans who were living in the United States in 2001 – many of them illegally – can stay and work for another year. TPS comes up for renewal or termination every 12 to 18 months.

TPS is designed to aid countries reeling from a natural disaster, civil war or other destabilizing situation.

…Some of the seven TPS-designated countries get extensions though their disasters happened long ago. Christopher Bentley of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says “assessments” and “studies” help decide whether to extend TPS and whether holders can return safely home.

Jose Romero, a 31-year-old Charlotte construction worker [now] earns three times what he did in his native El Salvador.

He got TPS five years ago after living in the U.S. illegally for five years.

Romero told his fellow construction workers, most of them Mexican, about his TPS. They were happy for him, but jealous.

“They’re never going to give us anything,” he said the Mexicans told him.

- Article by Tim Funk and Danica Coto / McClatchy Newspapers

RESENTMENT: CULTURAL DOMINANCE AND TRYING TO FIT IN

“Juan Carlos Rivera knew that if he wanted to get a dishwashing job at the MacArthur Park hamburger stand, he would have to pretend to be Mexican. But the thought of lying made the Salvadoran anxious.

He paced outside the restaurant, worried that his melodic Spanish accent, his use of the Central American vos, instead of the Mexican tu, would give him away.

…In his best Mexican Spanish, the Salvadoran asked: ¿Tienen trabajo? (Do you have work?)

When asked where he was born, he swallowed his pride and answered: Puebla, Mexico.

The job was his. For three days, Rivera scrubbed plates in conspicuous silence. He knew the Mexican cooks were onto him. Especially the one from Puebla.

…Juan Carlos Rivera struggled to keep up his ruse even when the suspicious cook began to quiz him on popular Pueblan food, including Puebla’s specialty, the cemita.

“How do you like it?” the cook asked.

“With pineapple,” Rivera said. Little did he know that what Salvadorans knew as caramelized sweet bread, Pueblans knew as a meat and avocado sandwich.

“I knew you weren’t Mexican,” the cook said smugly before running off to tell the manager.

- Article by Esmeralda Bermudez/Los Angeles Times

__

“It’s always Mexico, Mexico, Mexico,” said Jorge Mendoza, a 42-year-old painter, one of a group of Salvadoran men who gathered recently at MacArthur Park. “I turn on the radio and all I hear is Mexican music. If I want to watch a soccer game, I have to watch a Mexican team play.”

- Article by Esmeralda Bermudez/Los Angeles Times

PRIDE

“Salvadorans don’t hate Mexicans as much as Mexicans hate Salvadorans…This isn’t a generalization of all Mexicans, but many of them do this. Mexicans are the majority in most places where Salvadorans live, like San Fran, L.A., and Houston. In Long Island and Miami Salvadorans get along with the Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans fine. The problem is that Mexicans always usually display an arrogance that rubs all Latinos the wrong way. Not the Argentine, snotty type arrogance. The fist pumping, I’m a Mexican! arrogance. They insult us b/c of our accents, and feel they are superior. They don’t understand our history but we have to understand theirs.” – Enrique/Topix.com

FÚTBOL

“Pues supuestamente todo fue por culpa de un partido de futbol. En las eliminatorias para un mundial El Salvador le gano a México y lo descalifico para llegar al mundial. Esa es una explicacion ya que El Salvador nunca a tenido un buen equipo y a los mexicanos les dolió que un equipo como El Salvador los descalificaran…si no me equivoco fue en 1976.” – Salvadoreño/Yahoo Answers

PUPUSAS vs. GORDITAS

(Okay, not seriously, but while we’re arguing, I thought I’d throw it in there for fun.)

(Thanks to Juan for letting me use his video here to bring a little levity to a heavy topic.)

WORDS OF WISDOM

“Esto no es mas que pelear por tonterias … todos somos humanos, somos de la misma especie y los único que nos hace “diferentes” es una simple ubicación geográfica …somos humanos no somos ni mas ni menos, todos iguales … me parece bastante inmaduro pelear solo porque vivimos en distintos lugares del mundo … por cierto soy salvadoreño y ya dejen de pelear por tonterias.” – Salvadoreño/Yahoo Answers

NOTE: As always, comments are welcome below, but comments containing violent threats or hate speech will not be published. (This message is for both Salvadorans and Mexicans equally.) Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences on the topic in a thoughtful, intelligent manner that avoids name-calling or inflaming tensions. This post is not intended to stir up resentment but rather to point out the problems so they can be put aside.

Statues + Boundaries

“Someone wants to come stay with you,” Suegra teased us weeks ago, knowing that Carlos has sworn off allowing family to come visit after some not-so-good experiences.

“What are you talking about,” Carlos demanded.

Suegra smiled, enjoying the game.

“Someone very special is coming to stay here at the house. She wants to live here.”

“Well, you better tell her she can’t come… Who is it?” Carlos said.

“It’s a surprise,” she said.

“¡Mamá!” Carlos said losing patience, “I told you that you can’t keep inviting people here.”

Suegra giggled, which had a maddening effect on Carlos. How could she think this was funny? Had she seriously lost her mind? This is our house and she has no right to invite anyone without our permission. We don’t even have an extra bed! Last time she invited cousins to live with us temporarily and they ended up sleeping on the floor.

“¡Mamá!” Carlos said, now obviously angry, “You better tell whoever it is that they can’t come. I’m serious.”

Suegra finally confessed that the “guest” that wanted to come live with us was the Virgin of Guadalupe – more specifically, a statue she had been secretly making payments on. She explained that she was buying the statue “for the household” and that she had only one payment left before she could take her home.

Finding out it was a statue and not a person did not make me or Carlos any happier. Not only has Suegra been warned about not inviting people to visit, she has been warned about re-decorating our home. Gifting this statue “to the household” is her sneaky way of adding something to the general living area that quite frankly, we really don’t want.

This isn’t about religion, this is about boundaries. Suegra has once again crossed a line and knowingly, purposefully, broken rules, despite all of the compromises we’ve made to allow her to live with us. If she wanted to buy a statue that would fit in her bedroom – that’s her business – we turned a blind eye to her destruction of our third bedroom with her junk collecting – but the rest of the house – that’s where we draw the line. She has her own living room in El Salvador, which she is free to decorate as she chooses – this living room is ours.

Carlos assured me he would “take care of it.”

Days later, Suegra asked Carlos to take her to the store to make the final payment and pick it up. At the store they discovered the statue was broken because the person who delivered it hadn’t been careful with the box. Carlos breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the problem had taken care of itself. The merchant collected the pieces that had shattered into a bag and offered to sell it to Suegra half price – Suegra likes a good deal. She still wanted to bring the broken statue home.

An hour later I heard Suegra and Carlos struggling to bring it in the front door.

I put my head in my hands and took deep breaths to calm myself before coming out to see it.

The statue stood almost as tall as my 9 year old. As I could have guessed, Suegra didn’t get a simple, tasteful statue – but one with added touches, like two angels crowning the Virgin… Y con todo el respeto, it looks like something you’d buy at a dollar store.

La Virgen doesn’t look right to me. The original image has her looking down and to her right, a neutral expression on her face. This statue has her smiling silly, like the Mona Lisa. The apparent rush paint job has the Virgin and the angel holding her up, looking a little cross-eyed. Instead of a simple base, the statue stands atop a mound of puffy, white clouds.

Even after an earnest attempt to glue back whatever I could, there are still many pieces missing. The statue is overly-big, broken, faux-fancy in a way that makes it look cheap, and inaccurate.

I do not like the statue, at all, but I rearranged furniture in silence, biting my tongue, to make room for the Virgin – trusting that Carlos would take care of it.

The next day, Suegra invited friends to our living room to visit the statue. The day after that she invited more friends. She brought them before it and bragged about what a fantastic statue it is and how she generously gifted it to the household. All of this seemed very wrong. You don’t brag about the Virgin of Guadalupe. It isn’t for showing off.

On the third day, Carlos and I went out together and temporarily left the boys in Suegra’s care. While we were out, our older son texted me, “She’s being really weird. She’s making us watch her sing songs to the statue and then she was dancing around ringing bells. She won’t leave us alone. We’re just trying to watch TV and she’s ringing bells in our ears!”

That’s when I decided enough was enough.

“The statue can’t stay. Please, you need to take care of this. She needs to find space for it in her room or donate it to a church or something,” I told Carlos, feeling guilty for the position he was in, but angry for the position I had been put in as well.

Carlos wanted to avoid drama and tried to find a solution that would create the least amount, (because at least some would be inevitable.) Compromising yet again, I agreed we could move the statue to the garden outside. Suegra narrowed her eyes at me as we prepared the spot in the fenced-in backyard on the side of the house where no one, including myself, will see it. She didn’t dare say anything to my face, but the next day during an unrelated argument with Carlos behind the closed door of her bedroom, she spit the words out, making sure to say it loud enough that it would reach my ears.

“¡Sacaste la Virgen y entró el diablo!”

This was followed by other random attempts to induce guilt in Carlos – to manipulate him into doing what she wants. When guilt didn’t work, she tried her other favorite psychological warfare weapon, religious fear: “God will punish you for treating your mother this way!”

These tactics used to have their desired effect, but Carlos has grown a lot this past year. Carlos has come out of denial and admitted to himself that she is emotionally abusive, mentally unstable – that she is selfish – that she isn’t a very good mother. He isn’t afraid anymore that God will punish him for admitting this truth. He knows it isn’t his fault though she would have him believe it. Things have changed. Her words can’t hurt or control him like they once did. She’s like a cat that has been de-clawed – her swipes at him are harmless soft-padded paws, failing to dig deep and bring blood to the surface.

The statue stays outside. Suegra stays locked in her bedroom, praying that God will punish us.

If you say you love fútbol, I hope you’re watching the Women’s World Cup

I am out $40 thanks to the U.S. Men’s team. Hopes were high in the beginning with a two goal lead but Mexico proved too fast and the U.S. team, too disorganized. A sampling of my tweets from last night:

• USA! USA! USA! … Don’t let me down. I’ve got $40 on this game. lol #goldcup #copadeoro

• gooooooooooool USA!

• claro – que viva mexico… pero que gane los EEUU jajaja ;) RT @soonerclone viva mexico!!

• Gooooool #2 USA & Donovan does the chicken dance in celebration lol #copaoro #goldcup

• Now 2-1 US leads MX. Goal by Barrera. #copaoro #goldcup

• Mexico ties it up. 2-2 Chicharito smartly steps over the ball to avoid offsides #goldcup #copaoro

• Mexico takes the lead 3-2 #copaoro #goldcup

• Ayyyysh! stupid porteria!

• Dempsey shouldn’t have done that. Beating up on cute little Chicharito looks bad lol

• Noooooooo :( U.S. COME ON! ergh.

• @UcCaliChic25 LOL… this is difficult to watch. Like a lion slowly eating a gazelle on NatGeo #goldcup

• Felicidades Mexico. Team USA, I’m out $40 because of you. I am disappoint #goldcup

• Carlos is unhappy. Mexican co-workers are texting him to gloat lol …He turned his phone off.

___

Okay, I wanted to get a photo of the text Carlos received but he is really, really sore about it. He doesn’t find it funny at all. (For one thing, they address him as “Pupusa” – that’s his nickname as the only Salvadoran at work.) … Anyway, he is so far from amused that I actually need a separate post to talk about it – so that has to wait until más tarde.

As for the game, I’m really disappointed but I kind of don’t understand why some people are such sore losers. I’m not just saying this because I like El Tri. I really wanted the U.S. to win, (like I said, I lost money betting on them!) – but in the end, it’s just a game, isn’t it? Look, I get totally passionate about fútbol, but I promise you, it really is just people kicking around a round object. When you think about how insignificant each human is in this universe, it seems rather silly that the inability of a handful of men to kick a ball into a net, should ruin your day.

Besides, there are other things to move on to, like the Women’s World Cup now taking place in Berlin, Germany.

Unfortunately, (*cough* due to gender inequality *cough*) – it’s not as easy to find the Women’s World Cup games on television as it is to find men’s games (of any kind.) … It frustrates me but I also find it strange to think about. The women’s team is not getting the same treatment just based on what is, (or isn’t), in their gym shorts. It’s really baffling when you look at it like that.

Ni modo, here is where you can follow the games if you can’t find them on T.V.

FIFA
ESPN 3
USSoccer.com
AOL.SportingNews.com

Other interesting links:

FIFA treats women’s game as a burden – FOX sports/JENNIFER DOYLE

Fun fact:

“Until World War I, women players had to keep their hair under a cap or bonnet and hide their legs inside voluminous bloomers. In the 1910′s, when many men were away at war, crowds flocked to see women’s exhibition games. This wider acceptance of ladies’ soccer enabled women’s teams to start wearing soccer outfits that were similar to those worn by men and more suitable for the game.” – pg. 29 / Eyewitness Books: Soccer

…two steps forward, one step back…

“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” – Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, 2004 (source)

“How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?” – Author Unknown

Win or Lose, a Day to Remember

I’ve now had two days to recover from the Copa Oro games we went to on Sunday, pero todavia estoy completamente rendida.

The night before, I couldn’t sleep, half from excitement and half from anxiety about the tickets. Following the wise advice of a friend, we arrived hours early at the stadium. (Gracias to Rudy, who we actually got to meet briefly at the game.)

We went straight to the “Will Call” window and I gave them my I.D. I watched them shuffle around and come up empty-handed. I watched them check and re-check. I knew this would happen. They apologized that they didn’t have tickets for me under my name. I called the number of the on-site manager that State Farm had given me in case I ran into problems – he assured me he had the tickets on him. When we met him in the parking lot where State Farm had set up, true to his word, he had the tickets. I resisted kissing him and instead let him tell me about some of the fun things they were doing there.

I talked with someone about the sOccket ball and she showed me how it worked. I also got to check out the State Farm iPhone app, Kick4ACause which allows you to donate electricity just by playing the game. [See video of me playing]

As Carlos and I decided what to do next, a mini-Salvadoran pride parade broke out. Of course we joined in.

The parade went around the parking lot making all kinds of noise. At one point we clashed with a group of panameños, but after dancing with them for awhile, the parade continued on, much to the bewilderment of gringos trying to tailgate in peace.

When gringos tried to interact with Salvadorans though, the Salvadoran response always made me smile. When gringos shouted “U.S.A.!” – the Salvadorans didn’t feel threatened – they joined them in chants for the red, white and blue. I wonder if this made an impression on anyone in that parking lot who had expected a different reaction – to realize that it’s possible to have enough love for the place of your birth, language or culture – but feel equally proud of the country you now live in.

After the mini-parade we sought shade and a late [very expensive] lunch inside the stadium. We found our seats and waited.

Salvadorans seemed amused by my "Guanaco Pitbull" shirt, but I didn't realize how confusing it would be for non-Salvadorans, who seemed to puzzle over what it meant.

While waiting, I observed a lot of Salvadorans who came prepared to not only cheer on El Salvador, but the United States as well. Many wore La Selecta T-shirts, but carried American flags. The “U.S.A.!” chant was alive and well in sections full of Salvadorans during the U.S. vs. Jamaica game.

The game itself was great, but the sky was so cloudy that I wasn’t able to access Twitter on my phone which was frustrating.

After the United States won, we were all full of happiness and hope for El Salvador.

Hearing the crowd sing the Himno Nacional de El Salvador made me tear up a little. To look around and know that all these Salvadorans were here together even though many, like Carlos, were far from their homeland… It’s difficult for me to put in words.

Being at the actual game instead of watching it on television is a unique experience. I’ve watched a lot of Salvadoran fútbol games on T.V. but never heard the crowd whistling in unison. Salvadorans have a unique way of whistling, (I wish I had caught it on video), but when you have thousands of people doing this, it sounds sort of like a forest full of parrots.

Speaking of whistling, at one point in the game, a Salvadoran player fell on top of a Panamanian player in a position that looked somewhat compromising. This got some funny responses from the crowd which I won’t repeat, but you definitely don’t get that on T.V. either.

As for the game – La Selecta missed a lot of opportunities on the field, but they did get this penalty shot which was very exciting.

Another highlight for me was seeing a guy run across the field with the Salvadoran flag. I know that’s frowned upon but it amused me, (and he was really fast. Maybe La Selecta should draft him?)

An unidentified man carries an El Salvador flag as he runs on the field during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Panama and El Salvador. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(You can’t see on my video, but you can see in others that the Panamanian goalie threw the U.S. flag out of the goal. That’s what the booing was about at the end of the video.)

El Salvador was ready to win… and then Panama scored a goal in the last minute… at least they say they scored a goal. I’ve watched the replay two dozen times and can’t decide if it was good or not. If only there was video of it from the other side – pero ni modo, what’s done is done. There’s no use being bitter about it.

Okay…maybe a little.

Cover of El Diario de Hoy / Deportes

Here are some of my favorite photos I took during the game:

As you see, some guys had a banner that proclaimed Zelaya to be better than Chicharito. While I was there to support La Selecta with all my heart, I’m not so sure I agree. My Pitbull didn’t do much better. The game was full of excitement, tense moments, joy, disappointment – the poor Salvadorans around me went from elated to crushed over and over again. One guy often took his frustration out on the empty stadium seat in front of him. By the end of the game I was kind of surprised he hadn’t managed to rip it out as he repeatedly pounded on it screaming “P*TA! P*TA! P*TA! HIJUEP*TA!”

Carlos was calmer than that though I heard him say a few choice words under his breath after the final penalty shot shoot-out decided our fate.

Win or lose, it was an amazing experience. I know it was particularly special for Carlos. I asked him what it felt like being in the stadium surrounded by so many Salvadorans. He said it reminded him of home and the games he used to go to with his friends. The good thing about Salvadorans is that even though Carlos didn’t have his old friends with him, the guys seated around us were more than willing to fill-in for the day. I know Carlos to be a mostly quiet guy, but when he’s with other salvadoreños he opens up and is actually quite talkative. I love to see him uninhibited like that. [ Read Carlos's post about the day here.]

The game came to an end, but the brotherly love was far from over. On the way out of the stadium I was nearly crushed, (this panicked me for a minute but I knew Carlos would throw people left and right if I were in any danger.) … Then we missed the first Metro train because it was impossible to fit anymore people on it. We waited twenty more minutes for the pleasure of being crushed on the next train. Besides myself, I think there was only one other woman on the train – it was packed with young men wearing blue, and all of us, (myself included), were in serious need of some deodorant after a long day in the sun.

Despite the heat, lack of personal space, exhaustion and loss of the game, the group on the train remained in good spirits.

“Yo soy salvadoreño!” shouted one man still full of pride and warrior spirit, “Soy guerilla!”
A man from the other side of the train answered him back,
“Guerilla mi c*lo!”

(Don’t ask me to translate it to English. Somehow, it’s not as funny like that.)

Disclosure: I attended the Gold Cup games at the invitation of State Farm. All opinions are my own.

Crying in El Salvador

When we went to El Salvador in 1999, I was woefully under-prepared. With a trip to Europe and an afternoon in Tijuana under my belt, I thought I knew what to expect, but El Salvador threw me for a loop.

The weather was hot, I got sunburn and a urinary tract infection, the mosquitoes ate me alive, Suegra arranged for the baptism of my baby without permission, I had to sleep in a hammock, no one in the family had hot running water – (and that’s when the water wasn’t completely shut off), the baby had colic and cried almost non-stop, there were no seat belts so I thought we would all die in a car crash and I was starving because my gringo doctor scared me off eating most of the food saying I could get really sick.

After spending a sleepless night being eaten alive by mosquitoes and trying to hush my colicky baby, Suegra insists we have our son baptized. As you can see, I was crying.

It was unbearably hot and the baby was crying too. Even though I told the Tio not to, he began to strip off the baby’s clothes to cool him down.

More crying. (Carlos and the baby.)

The baby got to bathe in water warmed on the stove. I wasn’t so lucky.

Carlos enjoys a coconut and a break from all the crying.

On a pony… getting ready to cry.

And yet, ever since we left I’ve been saying that I want to go back — I guess I’ve always known that none of this was El Salvador’s fault – it was my fault because I wasn’t ready for it and I was being a spoiled American, (and come on, traveling with a baby can be hell even under the best circumstances.) I could see El Salvador’s beauty even through my tears. There was so much I loved, but I was so completely overwhelmed that I couldn’t take the time to experience it the way I wanted to. The only thing that has prevented another visit has been the expense – year after year, we just haven’t been able to afford it.

More than a decade later, everything has fallen into place so that we’re finally able to return, and the kids, (thankfully at an age that won’t require diaper changes or preparing bottles) – deserve to see where their father came from – a place which probably seems more make-believe than real to them at this point. El Salvador – as if Carlos and I invented a fairytale land of volcanoes, paletas, stray dogs, careening buses, pupusas, debris of war, the sound of green parrots flapping their wings, unexpected downpours which disappear as suddenly as they came.

And so, we re-new our passports with plans to travel sometime in August. We hope to bring back plenty of photos of us smiling, laughing, eating pupusas, climbing a volcano, riding the bus, and abandoning Suegra at a Tio’s house, lest she unexpectedly arrange my forced baptism.

___

Related Links:

The Pichichi
El Policía

My Salvadoran Crocodile Dundee

[Today is Spanish Friday but I won't be translating my entire post to Spanish today. Instead I will offer some vocabulary and phrase translations of the Spanish that appears within the dialogue at the end of the post.]

“Is that a snake?”

It was too late to be going anywhere, but Carlos and I were in the car, pulling out of the driveway. The plan was to sneak out and get ice cream without the kids or Suegra tagging along. The headlights lit up something black and twisted by the side of the road near our mailbox.

“Nene, that’s just trash or something.”
“No.” He put the car in park and opened the door, “that’s a snake.”

I got out too, rolling my eyes. That big, black, twisted thing was just a trash bag or something. Where did he think we lived? The Amazon Rainforest? As if a snake that big would just be hanging out near our mailbox.

We walked up to the object. I carelessly walked closer to it than Carlos. The “piece of trash” slithered.

“Oh my God,” I said, backing up and standing behind Carlos, “it’s a snake!”
“I know,” he said, “I need a flashlight, I can’t see it well.” He started back towards the house, leaving me and the snake to entertain each other.

The snake started to move towards our house. I picked up a big rock and threw it in his path, but missed. I threw another rock which landed right in front of his nose. The snake reared back and opened his little mouth. I stood my ground, armed with another rock, freaked out but determined not to let it anywhere near the house, until Carlos returned with a flashlight and a broom, the kids and Suegra trailing behind.

Carlos uncoiled the snake with the broom and it became clear that it was at least 4 feet long and, venomous or not, aggressive. The original plan was to carry the snake on the broom over to the nearby woods but the snake did not cooperate, and instead made every attempt to come at us or go towards our house.

Suegra kept telling Carlos to throw it in the road so the passing cars could run over it.
“Ay! Dejala, hijo,” she pleaded, “Las culebras pueden tirar veneno a tus ojos y vas a quedar ciego!” (She must have seen an episode about spitting cobras on National Geographic en español.)

“I’m going to have to kill it,” Carlos said to me. We didn’t want to, especially not knowing if it was even dangerous, but we didn’t want to take the chance of it getting into our house and hurting the kids.

“Traigame algo por matarla,” Carlos said to no one in particular.

Suegra and our youngest son ran off for the house.

Suegra returned first… with a weed whacker.

“Mamá,” Carlos said, exasperated. “Cómo voy a matarla con eso?”

Our youngest son, an animal lover, came out of the house with the white bucket that Suegra uses for washing her chones.

“Can we just capture it?” he asked, holding out the bucket.
“Cipote!” she said, grabbing it from him, “No! Con mi cumbo, no!”

“Get the machete,” Carlos said. I went to our closet and got the machete.

Carlos chops the head off

Doing away with the body, which was still moving

Head of the snake on the tip of the machete

All of the commotion attracted a crowd of gringo kids who had been playing flashlight tag or something in the neighbor’s yard.

“Dude, what’s going on?” one of the gringo kids said to my older son, seeing Carlos with the machete, looking like some sort of Salvadoran Crocodile Dundee.

“My Dad killed a snake,” my older son answered, his voice calm, as if this was a normal activity for our family.

I really wanted Carlos to ask me if I was alright after the whole snake thing went down so I could be silly and use a line from the movie, but he was too busy putting everything back in the shed that Suegra had thrown all over the yard when she had pulled out the weed whacker.

…but since it’s my blog, I’m going to pretend that he turned to me as he re-sheathed the machete.

“You alright?”
“I’m always alright when I’m with you, Carlos.”

—Vocabulary for this post—

Nene – baby (term of endearment, from woman to man.)
Machete – A big ass knife
Suegra – mother-in-law
Culebra – Snake
Chones – Underwear
Ay! Dejala, hijo – Ay! Leave it, son
Las culebras pueden tirar veneno a tus ojos y vas a quedar ciego – Snakes can spit venom in your eyes and you’ll be left blind
Traigame algo por matarla – Bring me something to kill it
Mamá, Cómo voy a matarla con eso? – Mama, how am I going to kill it with this?
Cipote – kid/male child (Salvadoran slang)
No! Con mi cumbo, no! – No, not with my bucket! (“Cumbo” means container or bucket. Salvadoran slang.)

————

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Salvadoran “mosca” hunting

When I blogged about the many uses of chanclas, I mentioned that Carlos goes “mosca” hunting with the kids. He can’t stand when flies get into the house and when he spots one, he demands that everyone work together to kill it immediately.

(From the original post): I hear it multiple times per week in the summertime: “There’s a fly in the house! Get a chancla!” … Maybe my husband and kids are weird, but they go fly hunting. They wait until it goes into a bedroom and then the commotion starts, “She’s in your room! Close the door! Quick!” (For some reason my husband always refers to flies as “she”. I guess because the word for fly, “mosca”, is feminine.) … Sometimes the hunt can go on for a good 20 minutes. I’ll hear the chancla hit the wall with varying degrees of force. Sometimes the fly’s escape will be blamed on one of the children, (“You were in my way! I almost got it that time! Move!) and finally, the much awaited killing occurs with much celebration.

Well, last night, while I cleaned up the dinner dishes, someone opened the door and let a mosca in. Predictably, the hunt began so I set up a hidden camera so you could see, I’m not exaggerating in the least. Here is a fairly normal evening with the López family. (Apologies in advance for the generous view of my cleavage. I had taken the boys to the pool earlier and hadn’t changed my clothes.)

Cellphone Fotos #3

Here is my week in cellphone fotos.

We went grocery shopping at Wally World as usual – but this caught me off guard. The toy aisle is right next to the fitness equipment aisle so I guess someone decided to be funny. It made me laugh, and quite frankly freaked me out a little, too. As I’ve mentioned before, dolls scare me.

Another day we ended up at Target. We went shoe shopping for the boys because all their old pairs are either out-grown or barely recognizable as footwear at this point.

Anyway, hanging from the ceiling at Target was a monster-size chancla. I said to my oldest son, “Imagine getting a chacletazo from THAT chancla!” … That inspired this photo:

On our shoe-shopping adventures, we ended up in the vicinity of a Petco, and our youngest son can not pass a pet store without asking to go and “just look.” (In case you need translating, “just look” means he is going to ask us to take home every animal in the store.)

I don’t need much convincing since I find the mice amusing with all their wheel-running and curious beady eyes – but this time I happened upon this ratoncito.

Is he not the most depressed ratoncito you’ve ever seen? Poor guy looks like he has the entire weight of the world on his furry little shoulders. (Don’t feel too sad. When I last checked on him before we left the store, he had gotten out of his food bowl in the corner and looked more cheerful. Mice don’t live long so they can’t afford to wallow in self pity for more than a few minutes. May we learn a lesson from the ratoncito!)

More shoe shopping took us to some outlets. While we were walking around, a car drove by and a guy yelled out to us, “I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!” before speeding off. It could have been a teenager being an ass, but I chose to take it as a random act of kindness. I’m thinking about doing this myself, (telling random people I love them, not being an ass, that is.)

At the outlets there are little kiddie rides here and there. The thing I love about my 9 year old is that he’s at that beautiful age where he’s aware of which things are now considered “childish” – but he’s still too fun-loving to care if he looks foolish.

He jumped right up on the carousel caballito and asked if we could insert some monedas. Unfortunately el cipote looks a little like the depressed ratoncito in that photo because the machine was already jammed with a stuck quarter. Carlos went to work to dislodge the coin but his fingers are kind of thick, so he wasn’t having much success. All of a sudden I had an idea. I pulled the gum out of my mouth, stuck it to the quarter and ta-da! We were 25 cents richer. I remembered a Sesame Street video from my childhood about retrieving a lost jack with a magnet – and that’s what inspired me. Thanks, Sesame Street!

For my last photo, I decided I wanted to show you all the “inspiration board” I have here at my desk because I want to encourage you to make one for yourself. The cork board itself costs less than $5, but you don’t even need one. You can just tack stuff to the wall – but put it somewhere you’ll see it often.

What do you put on your inspiration board? Anything that inspires you, reminds you of your goals/priorities, and makes you smile. I put a lot of quotes on mine, (including fortunes from Chinese take-out, but now that I’m eating healthier, I won’t be adding more to my collection.) … I also have a drawing from my youngest son that says he missed me, (he drew it while at school but it reminds me to spend time with the kids.) … As you can see, I also have photos of Chicharito and Espinoza Paz. Carlos objected to their inclusion. I told him that they inspire me but he doesn’t buy it. He said, “I’m going to make an inspiration board and put girls in bikinis on it.”

I told Carlos he’s being totally ridiculous. His comparison isn’t even valid – I mean, it isn’t like Espinoza and Chicharito are half-naked in the photos.

…(If anyone has photos of Espinoza or Chicharito half-naked though, you have my E-mail.)

Link: What’s On Your Phone Tuesdays

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