Lately Suegra has been suffering from “empacho” … This illness has always confused and amused me – And Suegra is equally confused as to how it’s possible that gringos don’t believe in it, and usually have never even heard of it.

“Empacho” is a gastrointestinal illness that many people in El Salvador and other parts of Latin America believe can kill you. I decided to interview her about it for anthropological reasons because it doesn’t seem well documented.

Interview below, (in Spanish.)

Note: The use of the word “chibolitas” in Salvadoran Caliche means “little round objects” or “little balls.” (The word has other meanings in other parts of Latin America.)

(If interested in a translation to English, let me know in comments and I’ll see about transcribing it.)

Duritos & Fútbol

Reading La Cocina de Leslie the other day, I came upon her blog post about Duritos. I knew I had seen something similar at the Latino Market many times before, but I always passed by without really checking them out, assuming it was some sort of healthy spaghetti.

With Leslie’s post in mind, I bought a bag for less than $2 when I went to the Latino Market. I let the kids watch me cook them so they could witness the magic. It’s neat to watch them puff up when they hit the hot oil, (and I never would have guessed you cook them this way. I would have boiled them if I hadn’t been told otherwise!)

When Suegra saw me preparing to cook them, she tried to act like she knew all about them even though in more than a decade she has never mentioned them, eaten them or cooked them in my presence. She gets jealous when I know something she doesn’t when it comes to cooking.

She asked where I heard about them and I replied “una amiga que vive en México.” Suegra sniffed and then claimed that El Salvador has Duritos too and that she used to cook them “all the time” – (even though she hung over my shoulder and couldn’t hide her surprise as they puffed up in the pan.)

I wasn’t in the mood for her games so I told her, “I don’t believe you ever ate them or cooked them.” Then, just to get her goat I added, “I discovered them first.” She sucked in her breath and finally left the kitchen saying, “I suppose you invented pupusas too!”

Anyway, we ate them while watching the opening game for DC United which was just as good as the Duritos. The boys preferred the Duritos plain while Carlos and I experimented with Valentina hot sauce, salt and lime.

(Thanks, Leslie, for a new favorite snack!)

Spanish I

(English translation in comments.)

Ayer venía los resultados en el correo. Mi hijo que está en grado siete ha tomado un examen para deducir en cuáles clases lo van a poner en el siguiente año. Ya está en clases avanzadas, pero la escuela quieren ver si está listo por algo aún más dificíl. El examen que me interesa más de todo, fue el examen de español.

Desde que eran chiquitos, yo quería poner mis niños en una escuela bilingüe, pero, como es el caso con muchas cosas en la vida, simplemente no tenemos el dinero de hacerlo. Por eso los niños están en la escuela publica – y no tiene nada de malo. Nuestra experiencia con las escuelas publicas ha sido buena. Mis dos hijos han hecho muy bien y casi siempre tuvieron suficiente desafios y buenos maestros. La unica cosa que me falta es que no tienen una clase de español, y me daba mucha tristeza que los niños, (todos los niños, no sólo mis hijos), están perdiendo una gran oportunidad de aprender una idioma con fluidez. Cada año que pasa sin enseñarles, es un gasto y yo creo que nuestro gobierno está cometiendo un gran error de no darle las clases de “lengua extranjera” más importancía.

Los beneficios de aprender un segundo idioma son muchos.

Bueno, y es por eso, (y porque son sus raíces), que yo quería que mi hijo comienze clases de español lo más pronto posible. El problema fue que al entrar a el grado ocho, todavía tenía que endurar otro año más de “Honors Reading.” Lo crees? No están comenzando clases de “lengua extranjera” hasta grado nueve! No – no lo acepto. Ya mucho esperamos.

Gracias a Dios, mi hijo tuvo la oportunidad de tomar un examen, a ver si es capaz de saltarse un grado respecto a ciertas clases. Vinieron los resultados y mira!

Va a saltar “Honors Reading” por grado ocho – y va a comenzar high school Spanish I!

¡Qué orgullo y felicidad siento yo! … Ojalá mi hijo puede escribir un blog post por el “Spanish Friday” un día muy pronto.


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Did you participate in Spanish Friday? Leave your link in comments!


Penquear – (origin Caliche) To spank/hit/slap, golpear

We had finished eating and our youngest son had already run off to play. Carlos, our older son, Suegra and I sat around the table, our plates pushed away, and talked for awhile as we usually do.

Carlos had a small argument with one of the guys at work and was telling us about what happened. The fact that the co-worker was Mexican really didn’t have anything to do with the conversation except to identify which guy Carlos was talking about – but you can’t say “mexicano” around Suegra without her getting started. Like many older people, she has some “preconceived notions” which aren’t malicious so much as misinformed. Of course she pipes up with the usual, “Así son los mexicanos, pues.”

Carlos gives me a look that means I should bite my tongue, but I can’t keep quiet.

“No puedes juzgar a todos los mexicanos así. Tengo un montón de amigos mexicanos y son muy buena gente.” I say.

Suegra shakes her head. We go back and forth a few times. Things are getting a little heated.

“Los hombres mexicanos son muy penqueadores!” she says, as if that settles it.

I start to tell her it’s not true of all Mexican men, and that Salvadoran men have their own reputation as well, but she interrupts, as is her way.

“Y si yo estuviera una joven, jamás me voy a salir con un mexicano!”

This conversation is going no where, so I decide to tease her.

“Y si está bien meloso?”
“De eso miel, no voy a comer!” she says.
“Y si está bien guapo?” I ask.
She looks at me as if I’m an idiot.
“Los mexicanos no son guapos, vos!” she says as if it’s common sense. (Forgetting that I know for a fact she has a crush on Vicente Fernandez.)

I catch Carlos’s eye and decide not to push it further. Insisting that there are plenty of mexicanos guapos will only make him celoso and cause problems for me. The table falls quiet since I fail to return fire, and then our twelve year old, who we had forgotten was sitting there, speaks up.

“Huh,” he says, “I didn’t know Mexicans like to spank people… that’s weird.”

Because he says this in English, Suegra has no idea what’s going on when I start laughing. Carlos also isn’t sure what’s so funny until I explain. Our son managed to pick up on the word “penquear” within the word “penqueadores” – but his only reference for this word is the threat of a spanking, as in, “Te voy a penquear.” Because he doesn’t know the word out of this context, he didn’t realize it could mean “hit” or “slap.”

Of course I set him straight. I explain the word “penquear” and I also tell him you can’t judge people based on stereotypes. My son says, “Of course. I already know that!” …and I knew he did, but I just wanted to make sure. Maybe I won’t convince Suegra, but my children will know better.

Somos Muchos Latinos!

If you watch the Spanish language TV networks then you’ve seen the commercials a million times. Toyota has found a way to build brand loyalty by tapping into Latino pride – genius!

Toyota has been going around giving away free bumper stickers that announce the family’s nationality in a fun way. People put the stickers on the vehicle because, number one, it’s gratis, and number two – Latinos are proud of their roots. Toyota wins because the sticker is incredibly cost effective advertising. (And look, I’m even talking about it for free just because I think it’s chévere. They must know what they’re doing over there.)

After seeing the commercials over and over, I finally went to Toyota’s Facebook page to order a free sticker for myself, (and a second one for Carlos.)

Here’s the problem, we no longer own a Toyota. We made the difficult decision to sell it, though it was in excellent condition, just to get out from under the monthly payment and save money for awhile. The next step of our plan was to buy a car with cash – just something for Carlos to use to commute. With $1,000 cash in hand, we began looking, and soon realized it was slim pickings. After a few weeks we ended up buying the first car we found that wasn’t beaten all to hell and still had some life in it… which happens to be a 1993 Nissan. (A thousand dollars doesn’t buy much these days. You can’t be picky.)

Anyway, Carlos wanted to put the sticker on his Nissan. I told him that didn’t seem quite right. I started calling his car a “wannabe Toyota” – so he didn’t do it.

I ended up putting my sticker on my laptop. Carlos sighed and set his sticker aside… “I need to buy a Toyota,” he said, “so I can use my sticker.”

Talk about effective advertising!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post.

How The Robin Got A Red Chest – According to Suegra

(English translation in comments)

A cute plump little Robin perched on the backyard fence. I watched him out the kitchen window as I washed breakfast plates off in the sink. Suegra appeared next to me.

“Ay, qué lindo, vá?” she said.
I nodded, turning off the water and drying my hands.
“¿Cómo se llaman esos pajaros de la garganta roja?” she asked.
“Robins,” I responded, accepting the loss of my quiet bird watching moment.
“Hay una historia de esos Robins,” she said, “No la conoces?”
I shook my head.
Suegra smiled, for she had a story to tell, and there are few things in the world that make her as happy as story telling.
“Bueno,” she began, “Cuándo Jesús se murio en la cruz, tenía bastante sangre, cómo los soldados estaban apuñalandolo…” she pauses to make sure I understand. I nod and she continues.
“Jesús tenía sangre por todos lados, y aquí en el pecho,” she says putting her hand slightly above her heart.
“Venía ese pajaro…el Robin, me dijiste, vá?… bueno, pero antes de este tiempo estaba sólo cafecito el pajaro. El Robin voló por el pecho de Jesús y posó allí…”

I smile because this is a sweet folktale…At this point I have assumed that the bird came to comfort Jesus, and for that, the blood colored his feathers red… but Suegra isn’t finished.

“Se posó en el pecho, y empezo a picar a Jesús—”

“Picar?!” I interrupt, “Pero yo pensé que este cuento sería algo más bonito… picar?! Qué feo salio el cuento…”

Suegra shrugs and walks away. When I look out the window, the cute little Robin has flown away.

Image: Elee Kirk

Free Rice

There’s a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme called FreeRice.com … Basically you play educational games and while doing so, you donate food to the hungry. It is completely free.

There are various subjects you can study/play. My favorite is Spanish vocabulary (obvio!) – but they have English, as well as other languages, math, science, and more. There are also different skill levels. My kids love to play and see how much rice they can donate – in the meantime, they’re learning!

I made this video to show you a little more because I wanted to spread the word.

(The video has no audio.)

Go play now! … Don’t forget to add it to your bookmarks/favorites and tell family and friends.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post.