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25¢ Cultura

I like vending machines, especially the ones near the door at grocery stores. You know the ones I’m talking about, they’re usually painted an eye-catching red and contain candy, cheap toys or stickers in plastic balls. I think most parents hate those things. I’ve seen children pulled away from the vending machines crying and the parents saying, “No! We’re not wasting money on junk! Let’s go!”

I personally think 25 cents is a small price to pay for a little fun, and I’m just as likely as the kids to run to Carlos, pidiendo una “cora”. (I just aggravated a dear friend by pronouncing/spelling “quarter” like that. Hee hee. Sorry, Ángel.)

Wherever we go, I always check the vending machines to see if there’s anything new or exciting. I especially love when the growing Latino population is reflected in which candies or toys they chose to offer.

That being said, I present to you my new favorite find… “Gold” Patron Saints necklaces.

Feliz Trick-or-Treat!

Their little faces say “Our mother forced us to be mariachi”, but I promise they’re happy… and the bigotes were totally their idea.

Día de Los Muertos at The National Museum of the American Indian

Some people wouldn’t think that you can find Latin American art and culture at a museum for American Indians, but you can because Latin American culture is a mix of indigenous and Spanish culture. So, until Washington D.C. builds the much needed National Museum of The American Latino, this is a good place to look for a little Latinidad.

While the American Indian museum will have special events specifically for Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), they have many things on display year round.

“Day of the Dead rituals date back thousands of years. Early Mesoamerican peoples saw death as a continuation of life. They believed deceased members of their family could return to them during a month long celebration in late summer.

Spanish colonizers tried and failed to put an end to the ritual. Instead, to integrate it into Christian tradition, they moved its observance to the first two days of November: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.”

-Printed on a plaque at The National Museum of the American Indian

These women were sewing and I didn’t want to disturb them by snapping photos too closely or interrupt them by asking questions, so I’m not sure of their ethnicity, but their colorful embroidery reminded me very much of Latin America.

Also on display…

Pollito Asado Lollipops

A co-worker sent my husband home with a few Mexican lollipops which are shaped like pollitos, (little chickens.)

The brand name is ALVBRO, but I didn’t see anywhere on the label where it said what flavor the lollipops would be.

Being too curious for my own good, I closed my eyes and stuck it in my mouth, fully expecting a roast chicken-flavored lollipop, but I was pleasantly surprised. The lollipops are fruity tasting. (Later I looked it up on the internet and discovered that they’re described as “peach and pineapple” flavored.)

After sucking on it for a minute, you start to get to the spicy chili flavor which is common in so many of these Mexican lollipops, but this one I actually liked.

I’ve decided I would like to track down a bag of these to give out to the mini-Hershey-bar-eating trick-or-treating gringo children in my neighborhood for Halloween. The purpose is to spark their curiosity about other cultures, and though I’m not usually pessimistic, I can’t shake the feeling that my house is totally going to get toilet-papered this year. What they do to me will make what they do to the dental hygienist who gives away toothbrushes, look like child’s play.

From El Salvador with Love (Part 2)

Since posting fotos of our souvenirs from El Salvador, some of you have been asking me for more – And so I went back into the closet, (you’ll see why some of this stuff is in the closet and not on display), and I’ve returned with more of my in-laws generosity in souvenir form… Ándale…

Okay, this isn’t officially a “souvenir”, but some of my husband’s old stuff just must be shared. These are some of his cassettes. The tape on the left is a mix of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Bon Jovi. The tape on the right is Milli Vanilli, and I can’t even make fun of him because I loved Milli Vanilli. Now, the tape in the middle. {Ahem} That is Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”… Now I know why he liked me.

Here are my husband’s botitas from when he was just a cipote. (Cipote = Salvadoran slang for “kid”.)

Okay, on to the real souvenirs… One of the Tías made this for me. It’s woven out of some sort of straw-like material. I don’t use it although I admire the craftsmanship. All the Tías and Suegra are very creative.

See? This is from another Tía. I’m not sure what this is. It’s a thin lacy piece of fabric covered in embroidered fruit. Maybe it’s a tablecloth.

They’ve sent me a lot of cloths like this. They aren’t very absorbent so I’m at a loss as to what to do with them. I guess I could wrap tortillas in them. I keep one in the freezer for wrapping ice when the kids get hurt.

I wasn’t joking when I said I have a box full of Last Supper wall hangings. I don’t know why they like to keep sending these to me. This one also is not hung up because it’s holographic. I don’t know if you can tell in the photo, but it’s quite shiny.

And this one looks like it belongs in a Red Lobster. What’s up with the rope along the edges like it’s a life preserver ring on a boat?

These are more capiruchos, (a type of toy.) Apparently there are even Capirucho competitions. (If you watch the video and you see a weird guy dressed in white with a big sombrero talking in a high-pitched voice, I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be Cipitio. Pay no mind…that um, has nothing to do with anything.)

This is a mini T-shirt which is supposed to hang in the window of a car. It’s the jersey of the main fútbol team of Chalatenango.

This little desk calendar is one of my favorites – It’s been useful in teaching the kids the months in Spanish.

It has my name inscribed on it, and they even spelled it right on this one. (For some reason my in-laws like to write my name as “Traisy”, which I guess is exactly how they say it.)

And luckily they got my name right on this one, too – because I really like this thing… (Everyone in the family has one.)

Cute earrings a Tío sent me. I don’t wear them though because I look like a gringa fresh from the tourist shop when I do. All I need is a sunburn and a pancho to complete the look.

Unfortunately, I don’t own a pancho, but I do have this shirt. Again, this is one of those things I admire but can’t imagine wearing myself.

Speaking of shirts – here is one of my husband’s. That’s Mauricio Funes, the President. His election was a big deal last year. From Wikipedia: “Funes won the 2009 presidential election, achieving an absolute majority with 51.32% of the popular vote. He is the first FMLN party leader not to have fought in the civil war. His presidential campaign was highlighted by statements endorsing moderate political policies.” On the flip side, (also from Wikipedia): “Mr. Funes has been heavily criticized for lack of a plan to fight El Salvador’s rapidly increasing criminal activity. Since taking office in June 2009, criminal statistics on homicides, robbery and extortion have increased considerably.”

Enough politics. Maybe it would be better to discuss this luggage tag?

I like this necklace pendent. It’s hand-painted and made from natural materials.

A little folding chair which the boys are much too big for now.

This is a rock. You may think this is the worst souvenir ever, but I actually brought it back myself. I picked it up on a beach in La Libertad. I love my rock.

Well, I think that’s it for souvenirs. Suegra goes back to El Salvador in October and returns in February of next year. We’ll have to wait and see what she brings me, (porque bien sabes, she is definitely coming back.)

Nachos & Border Amigos

American flags are out in full force this weekend – And thanks to Hurricane Earl passing off the coast, the red, white and blue, snapped proudly in the wind.

While I was taking photos, I noticed the juxtaposition of this flag and a sign that made me smile.

Okay, maybe I’m easily amused, but the way “NACHOS” is written up there, as if there is nothing more American than that, it made me happy.

Actually, if you’re interested to know, nachos have a good story behind them.

From Wikipedia: Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, at a restaurant called the Victory Club, owned by Rodolfo De Los Santos. One day in 1943, the wives of ten to twelve U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day. The maître d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, invented a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, added longhorn cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, and added sliced jalapeño peppers. He served the dish, calling it Nacho’s especiales – meaning something like “Nacho’s special dish” in Spanish.

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, “Nacho’s Restaurant”, in Piedras Negras. Anaya’s original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne’s Cookbook.

The popularity of the dish swiftly spread throughout Texas. The first known appearance of the word “nachos” in English dates to 1949, from the book A Taste of Texas. Waitress Carmen Rocha is credited with introducing the dish to Los Angeles at El Cholo Mexican restaurant in 1959.

So there you have it. Nachos may not have been invented without some hungry gringas and an ingenious Mexican. You see, gente? This is what can happen when we all try to get along.

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

The “Mexican” statue: Racist, Tacky or Funny?

I’m not a fan of lawn ornaments in general as they clutter the landscaping, but people around here seem to love yard decorations of all varieties. There’s one house we pass that keeps a melange of stone pigs on their front walk. They even go to the trouble of dressing them up for different holidays, which I have to admit, I find amusing.

Stone pigs aside, I usually don’t pay too much attention to people’s yard decorations, but last night we passed by one that was hard to ignore.

I made my husband go back and drive by again so I could get a photo. Luckily he’s used to such locuras and didn’t even question me. One summer it was my quest to photograph a cow that liked to wade into a little pond, but every time the cow was in there, I didn’t have my camera – and every time I had my camera, the cow was out in the field. One day my husband came home from work saying, “The cow’s in the water! Come on!” I grabbed my camera and we rushed over there and I got my photo.

Anyway, this was not a cow in a pond we stopped to photograph this time. As you can see, it is a man in a sombrero accompanied by a burro. The statues reminded me of the episode of George Lopez, when a neighbor put similar lawn decorations in his yard and they smashed them because they found them offensive.

¿Qué opinas tú?

Are the statues racist, tacky, or funny? Does the intent of the people who put up the statues matter? Does the race of the statue owners change your opinion? What if these statues were in front of a Mexican restaurant rather than in someone’s yard?

Foto of the Day – The Resilient Spirit of Niños

Five months after Hurricane Ida caused floods, mud slides, death and devastation in parts of El Salvador, children in a temporary camp seem to have forgotten about their troubles for awhile.

Source: ElSalvador.com/Photographer Leonardo Gonzalez

Foto of the Day – A comprar… ¿con quién?

A burro waits in the parking lot of Plaza Metropolis, San Salvador, El Salvador.

Source: ElSalvador.com – Image captured and submitted by Roxana Alas.

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