Banana Envy

Image source: keepon

I mentioned before that the Mexican guys Carlos works with often give him a hard time as the lone Salvadoran. It doesn’t help that most of them are somehow related – (brothers and cousins), and that most of them live together, so it’s natural for them to gang up on him.

His first week working there, they tested the waters with Carlos, to see how far they could go with their teasing.

“Ey, Don,” one of them said to him at lunch time as they sat across the table from each other. (“Don” is what they call him when they don’t call him “Pupusa.”)

“Tengo una lancha. Tal vez quieres montarla un día?” (“I have a boat. Maybe you’d like to ride it one day?”)

Carlos politely agreed, sure, he’d love to take a ride on his lancha some day.

All the Mexican guys started laughing. It took Carlos a minute to realize that “lancha” is slang for “penis” – or at least it is within their group.

This is the “art” of the Mexican “albur.”

“In Mexico, an albur is a pun or a double entendre in which one of the possible meanings usually carries sexual undertones.”
– Wikipedia.

Carlos has a sense of humor so usually he doesn’t let it get to him, even if it annoys him to be their permanent piñata. (I really hope his boss hires some Salvadorans for Carlos’s “team” though, so at least it will be an evenly matched fight.)

Many of the on-going jokes occur at lunch time and revolve around food. Whenever Carlos brings a less than impressive lunch, they tease him and say, “I guess Sancho is eating all the good food at your house” – (implying that I’m cheating on him and making all the good food for my lover, while leaving the scraps for Carlos.)

The bananas are apparently also always a source of amusement. (Not much has changed since middle school, I see.)

The bananas we buy, (which are perfectly normal-sized bananas from a perfectly normal grocery store), are much smaller than the gigantic bananas the Mexican guys bring in their lunch. Carlos texted me this photo at lunch time:

Carlos's banana on the left. A Mexican co-worker's banana on the right.

I will have to reassure Carlos that the size of his banana is totally normal, above average even, and that I like it just the way it is. Besides, things could always be much, much worse.

Image source: cthoyes

More posts about my husband’s co-workers:

El Lechero (The Milkman)
Mexicans vs. Salvadorans
Lunch Envy

¡Que vivan las panzas!

Most people have at least heard of The Vagina Monologues, even if they haven’t seen it. The Vagina Monologues was a one-woman show which told stories about the vagina – with the intention of celebrating the vagina and empowering women.

Now we celebrate the panza with The Panza Monologues. (“Panza” is Spanish for “belly”.) Written by Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga, performed by Ms. Grise, these stories told in Spanglish, are not only diverse and at times hilarious – they are emotionally stirring and empowering.

It’s probably amazing to see Vicki (Virginia), perform live, but I was at least lucky enough to watch her powerful performance on The Panza Monologues DVD. I loved it so much that I wanted to share one of my favorite parts with you. Vicki gave me permission to post the written scene. If you love it as much as I did, please, check her out, buy her DVD, and if you’re able, go see her live.

Panza Power blog
About the show: The Panza Monologues
Buy the DVD



[Lights rise.]

(seductively) I wasn’t always big. I use to be cha-cha thin, tall and skinny like my gringo daddy. I would wear tacones – black with straps that reached across my ankles, boots that stopped short of my knees, diamonds across my feet. Tacones – upper leather, suede, alligator, snake, all leather and in different colors- brown, red, cork, biege, gold, green, black, blue even. Tacones that matched the dresses I wore, dresses that always fit my body, showed shape, whether they were long with slit on the side, in the front, in the back / separating my piernas, or short, showing my thighs. Me and my tacones.

[Vicki stands, pulls the tacones [high heeled shoes]
out of the shopping bag.
Holds them up for the audience to admire.]

And they weren’t puta shoes / girl, they were classy. Tacones made me feel taller. Somehow tacones made me feel stronger, more sure of myself. Not submissive or anti-feminist but like the virgen in a Yolanda Lopez painting, karate kicking out of her blue veil with gold stars, stepping on the head of an angel with her tacones. Pues yo tambien. I throw punches for my raza and I can do it with my tacones on too just like the old school cholas use to do.

[Vicki places one foot on the stool
and begins to put her tacones on.]

And the men, the men were scared of me when I walked into the cantina made up / hair swept, red lipstick and tacones. You see, men like fuckin but they don’t like bein fucked and when I walked in I wuz the one doin the choosin. I didn’t sit back in dark corners waitin for someone to ask me to dance. I asked you. Locked eyes and said “You will dance this polka with me,” sometimes without even sayin nuthin.

Other times I’d say, “Fuck all of ya’ll” and take the dance floor at Daddy’Os all by myself

[Music erupts into full blown conjunto.
Vicki dances across the stage, swirls, turns.
Music lowers, Vicki remains standing.]

They all watched / old school vatos, young cholos, graduate students trying to remember their hometown barrios in a bar east of the freeway, forgetting in between too many beers. Hell even the cholas were lookin. Some worried I’d take away their man. Others, shit others just wanted to dance wid me. Be free. Be free like me.

They say a bar is a man’s space but I owned that motha fucker. I walked in with my own go-go juice in blue bottle cuz my dad once told me, “Beer makes you fat Virginia,” so I drank vodka on the rocks, learned how to play pool “Call your shots. I’m not fuckin around.” And I learned more about community politics/who owns who, who runs what than I could of ever learned workin at a cultural center.

I claimed power through my pussy, and I didn’t even have to let any one in. I just had to let em all know I knew I had one and that I controlled my own cho-cho. Ya, I owned that motha / fuckin bar / ‘till the city tore it down after li’l Danny got cut.

[Vicki sits.]

I use to be cha-cha thin. Proud of my calves, well-defined. Calves that did not look like my mother’s calves. My mom’s calves were more like tree trunks. Her whole body was like one huge bloque. My mother gave us everything, everything but I never remember her having anything. Instead of tacones, she wore chanclas. She use to threaten us with her chancla and it didn’t matter if she were big and old, she could still bend over, take off her chancla, grab us by the arm, and meternos un chingaso, real quick like/good ol’ fashion chancla discipline. My mother use to say that my father wanted boys. We were three girls. My mother never said what it was she wanted. That was her way I guess. I’m not sure if my mom ever loved my dad but I grew up thinkin that women that fell in love were weak.

I never thought my mom was pretty, even when she was younger and I never wanted to look like her but slowly the image of my mother crept into my own body. Slowly after too many two o’clock after closin time tacos, candy bars and coke for breakfast. They startin callin me dis—short for gordis—instead of la vicki. Cha-cha became panza and not little panzita even. The whole body grew and you know, it’s not easy balancin this much woman on an ity, bitty heel. I no longer walked real straight and tall. Hell, I looked more like a weeble, wobble. All my weight on a heel as wide as my pointing finger with my foot arched in the middle. I feel the weight of my panza all the way in the ball of my foot. When your panza gets bigger so do your feet and those thin sexy straps that use to hold your feet well they aint that sexy no more. You’ve got these little lonjitas hangin off the side of your shoe and it causes your feet to swell. It’s like they’re chokin, pulsatin, gaspin for air as they struggle to balance all of you on a tacon. And to tell you the truth, I don’t really feel so strong, so sure of myself anymore. Shit I’m scared I’ll fall when I’m dancin and the people that are lookin at me now are starin because they’re scared if I go too low I might not be able to get back up. They’re worried I’ll hurt someone out there.

There’s somethin classy about cha-cha/medias and tacones but when cha-cha becomes panza and you think you can still pull the same shit you could when you were 21, you just look kinda silly. You loose your tacon super powers and your magic slippers really are just puta shoes. Your dress clings tightly to lonjas and you can’t lock eyes with anyone anymore and talk to them without speaking cuz now they only look at your huge chi-chis and well chi-chis just aren’t as powerful as cho-cho. I don’t know why. Who makes these rules?

[Seductive music rises. Lights dim.]

[During the transition, Vicki sits on the edge of the altar, takes off her tacones and replaces them in the shopping bag on the altar. Vicki remains seated.]

© 2004 Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga
No part of this script may be reproduced, published, or performed without express written consent of the authors.

Disclosure: The Panza Monologues was provided to me for review at my request. All opinions are my own.

Lucky Soap, Chicken Bones & more

The most recent superstitious thing Suegra has brought into the house is this soap. She got this in El Salvador for Carlos.

The soap is supposed to bring you luck in whatever you need luck in, (in our case, dinero.) Carlos said he wasn’t sure he believed in it but proceeded to lather up anyway.

When I laughed at him, Carlos tried rubbing it on me.

“Hey, you better watch where you rub that,” I said.
“Well, I don’t know how it works but what if whichever body part you rub it on is the one that brings in money?” I said.

Carlos stopped rubbing the lucky soap on me after that.

Usually, I try not to laugh at things like this – I try to be respectful of other people’s beliefs, but some of them seem very strange and even silly, (though Suegra and Carlos think I have equally weird beliefs sometimes.)

Here are just a few of the beliefs I’ve encountered over the years while living with two Salvadorans.


I actually prefer the “silly” beliefs because the alternative is disturbing ones like the time I believe she tried to put a curse on me. I will never forget the time Suegra angrily moved out of our house. During that year that we were “disowned” I was cleaning the house and happened upon something which quite frankly kind of freaked me out.

When I dusted the top of the doorbell box high on the wall, I knocked something down. Whatever it was, it clattered to the floor. I reached down to pick it up and knew immediately that Suegra had something to do with it. It was a chicken bone and I really don’t know why she put it there. She may have put it there as a blessing on the house when we were on good terms – or, more likely, she may have put it there as a curse when she left. I still haven’t asked because I don’t want to stir up anything with her.

The reason I suspect Suegra is the one who put the chicken bone up there is because it’s just too strange for there to be any other explanation. After all, I already know some of her other beliefs, and this wouldn’t even be the strangest. For example, I know that there was a woman Carlos was involved with before he came to the United States. Suegra hated this woman and she told Carlos to stay away from her, but he wouldn’t. This is when Suegra became convinced that this woman had cast a spell on him by putting his photo in her underwear.

Luck & Wealth

Speaking of underwear, I mentioned before that she wears her own underwear inside out for luck.

When one of the children accidentally puts their shirt on inside out, Suegra announces that it’s “Día de San Antonio” and this is also good luck.

Rue plants likewise bring good luck.

A lot of her superstitions revolve around attracting good luck/money and discouraging bad luck/loss of money. She chides me for sweeping in the evening, (the household will lose money.)

Magnets, on the other hand, attract luck/money.


Beliefs that don’t fall into the luck/money category, usually fall into the health category. She avoids quick changes in temperature. If she has been using her sewing machine she says her muscles are “hot” and so she won’t reach into the freezer to retrieve anything – (she has me do it instead.)

Carlos is also this way to some degree though he never explained it. When we first got married he’d come home from work and though he loves to be clean, he would always wait awhile before taking a shower – saying he wanted to rest first. Later I realized that this was part of that same belief. And now that I think about it, I wonder if when Carlos’s Mexican co-workers advised him not to have sex with the ceiling fan on, perhaps the hot/cold thinking is also why they believe that.

Other medical issues – “Empacho” is a gastrointestinal problem which Suegra believes can lead to death. She gets very worried about feeling bloated and will do everything from massaging herself to brewing various concoctions to cure it.

Sometimes Suegra also complains of having air trapped in the body. I don’t know if this has scientific merit or not. I don’t know if it has a specific name but she’ll say “tengo aire” before pounding a fist against her back in an attempt to clear it out.

Other oddities

Suegra believes that if you point at a rainbow, you’ll make it disappear. Also, you should not watch a dog pooping or it will cause a sty on your eye.

Have you heard of “Tapa Boca” candles, or “Shut up” candles? If someone is gossiping about you, you light it and by the time it burns out, the person will be forced to stop talking about you. There are dozens of other similar candles for every imaginable problem as well.

In the end, living with Carlos and Suegra all these years has caused some of their creencías to rub off on me.

If the palm of my hand becomes itchy, my first thought is that I will soon come into money. And, if my ears are ringing, I assume someone is talking about me so I bite the tip of my tongue.

No matter how angry I get at someone though, I will not hide a chicken bone in their house.


A blog post about hot/cold beliefs

Go to the doctor? Nah. We have a bunch of guys from Veracruz, Mexico for medical advice.

My husband started having back pain the day after we picked Suegra up at the airport. I think he pulled something lifting her enormous suitcase into the car. When I mentioned this possibility, Suegra gave me la mirada that means she is cursing me inside her head, and she responded that if he hurt himself lifting then he is “más débil que yo” – and so therefore, it was his own fault.

Ni modo, back pain or no back pain, my husband has to work. The guys he supervises, (all from Veracruz, Mexico), eventually noticed that his back hurt and they asked him about it. They began trying to help him by asking some rather personal questions, which I think even our doctor has not asked my husband before. Ultimately they all agreed on a diagnosis. My husband has been instructed to stop having sex with the ceiling fan on. Apparently the cold air on his bare back while he’s…um… exerting himself… is not good for him.

If they buy it, sell it, pues

Sometimes my Suegra’s friends give her bags of used clothing they don’t want anymore. This is something she loves. When she opens a trash bag full of used clothing, she looks like a niño on Christmas morning.

Some of the used clothing, Suegra uses for herself, the rest she brings back to El Salvador to give to family members or to re-sell at a profit. If you have something to sell, you just stick a sign on your house and you instantly have your own tienda; that’s one of the things I love about El Salvador. (My Suegra finds the concept of “zoning” completely bizarre. She can’t understand why I don’t make a living from home as she did, but I’m not sure my HOA would approve a hand-painted “Tracy’s Pupusería” sign stuck on the side of our house.)

A random house/restaurant in Chalatenango - 1999.

My husband’s childhood home has gone through various incarnations. It has been everything from a tailor shop to a one-stop pharmacy. (Guerillas apparently ruined the pharmacy during the war. Injured, bloody men took their inventory, using women’s sanitary napkins on their wounds.)

At one point Suegra also ran a liquor store. My husband remembers during one earthquake all of his family ran to the shelves and held them in place, their bodies pressed up against the clattering bottles of alcohol, instead of running outside to safety. I can’t imagine instructing my children to do such a thing, but had the bottles fallen on the cement floor and shattered, they’d have lost the only thing that was putting food in their mouths at the time.

These days, since Suegra spends more time in “Los Uniteds” than El Salvador, she can’t run an actual shop, but she makes decent money from re-selling stuff she buys here.

This morning she came to me with a lacy, silk negligee she received in one of those bags of used clothes.

“Qué es, Tracy?… It’s too small to be a dress, va?”

I suppressed a smile.

“Es un… vestido de cama,” I tried to explain.

“Vestido de cama?” she said incredulously, inspecting it. “But it doesn’t look very comfortable. How could a woman sleep in this?”

“It’s not for sleeping,” I said, hoping she’d get what I meant.

“And why did you tell me it’s for the bed, pues?”

“It’s that…It’s for the bed, but not for sleeping.” I paused but she just kept staring at me, so I went on. (Meanwhile my oldest son is laughing because he has already understood.)

“It’s a little dress to show your husband, but one takes it off quickly.”

Finally Suegra understood.

“Uy!” she said, inspecting the lingerie with disdain. She walked back to her room mumbling, “Bueno, but if the people buy it, I will sell it.”

Fidelity & Fortune Cookies

Suegra has gone to visit her other hijo. She left on a flight to Arizona on Saturday morning and will be gone for a few weeks. The night before she left, we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Everyone was getting along for the most part. I think we were all trying extra hard to be nice, knowing that in less than 24 hours, we could all relax and enjoy some time apart. (Suegra included, since I guess living with me is stressful to her, though one would ask why she subjected herself to it when she has the option to go elsewhere.)

We ate our meal, enjoying conversation between bites, and then came the bill and a handful of fortune cookies, as is the custom. (The American custom, that is, since most people in China have never even heard of fortune cookies.)

I broke my cookie into pieces and munched on some while unfolding the slip of paper and reading it.

“I don’t think you’re going to like the fortune I got,” I said to my husband across the table.
“What does it say?”
“Passionate new romance appears in your life when you least expect it.”
My husband frowned.
“¿Qué dice?” Suegra asked.
My husband translated and Suegra made a face as if she were sucking on a lemon before taking a sharp breath.
“Ooo,” she said, shaking her head and furrowing her eyebrows at me.
“¿Tal vez tengo la galleta suya?” (Maybe I have your cookie), I offered, knowing how chaste she considers herself.
She frowned at me. “No,” she said shortly.
“No sabes,” I said shrugging, “Hay un montón de mexicanos guapos allá en Arizona.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband frown again, even though he knows I’ve never even been to Arizona so my proclamation that there are “tons of handsome Mexican guys there” is really only a guess on my part.

Suegra sniffed indifferently, “Los mexicanos no me llamen la atención.”

Ah, but I knew this wasn’t true. “¿Y Vicente Fernandez?” I asked, remembering how she looked like a school girl in love whenever the commercial for his CD box set came on TV.

“…Bueno, Vicente Fernandez es otra cosa, pero los mexicanos son muy infieles.” (Well, Vicente Fernandez is another thing, but Mexicans are very unfaithful.)

“¿Crees?” I said.
“Sí,” she responded firmly.
“Bueno, pero yo leí un estudio que dijo que, en todo el mundo, los salvadoreños son unos de los peores.”
“¿Peores de qué?”
“…eh, por… saliendo con otros,” I said, treading carefully.
“Los más putosos?” she asked loudly, in a restaurant that frequently attracts other familias Latinas with small children.
“Bien,” I said quietly, looking around to see if anyone was staring at us.
“Pero tu esposo no es así,” she said, shaking a finger at me.
“Qué suerte,” I said.
“No es suerte! Es gracias a mi! Yo enseñaba cuando era chiquito que tiene que respetar a las mujeres!”
My husband and I exchanged glances, “Look what you did,” he mumbled in English. “Now you got her started.”

“Esta bien,” I said, “Pero él tiene suerte también.”
“¿Porqué?” she said, looking genuinely confused.
“Porque yo soy una mujer fiel, pues?”

Suegra considered for a moment, the possibility that her son was actually lucky to be married to the gringa she disliked so much. She shrugged.
“Sí,” she mumbled in reluctant agreement.

We sat for a minute in silence, waiting for the niños to finish eating. I smiled, feeling victorious that I had finally gotten through to Suegra. Now she realized that yes, her son was a tesoro, por cierto, but I am one, too.

That contentment only lasted a moment. Suegra suddenly perked up.

“Tenemos un dicho en El Salvador,” she said, “Los hijos de mi hija, mis nietos son. Los hijos de mi hijo, a ver de quién son.”

Suegra then began to laugh, and laugh and laugh.

Note: Apologies to English speaking readers. I tried to include a translation of all that was said in Spanish but it was interrupting the flow of the story. If you are truly curious to understand this one, try viewing a translation of the page from Google Translate. It isn’t perfect, but you’ll get the idea.

El Lechero (The Milkman)

My husband calls me multiple times per day from work. He calls on his break time, at lunch time, and then before he leaves to come home. He’s done this our entire marriage. As a chica who values her space, sometimes I’ve become annoyed because I felt he was being controlling but he insists he just misses me, and so I’ve grown accustomed to it. At this point, if he doesn’t call me for some reason, I become worried that something has happened to him.

Well, my husband has been working at the new job for a month now and the Mexican guys he works with have become comfortable enough with him to give him a hard time. They’ve noticed his phone habits and now they tease him. While we’re on the phone, his co-workers do lewd things with bananas from their lunch boxes. Then when he gets off the phone with me they ask him, “So, how is your woman? Is the lechero doing a good job with her?” (They think he is checking on me for macho reasons, so they like to insinuate that I’m not faithful in the hopes of getting him a bit riled up, I guess.)

Yesterday, the littlest guy in the group, Marcos, decided to tell a joke which he dedicated to Mr. López. I don’t know if he made it up or not. Here it is:

There is a man who is unemployed and his wife is complaining to him that he needs to find work. She nags him all morning to hurry up and get dressed and go job hunting. She pushes him out the door with a quick kiss on the cheek saying, “Good luck, my love! … Remember, don’t come back until you’ve found work.”

So the husband leaves but shortly the doorbell rings and another man arrives. The woman begins kissing him passionately as soon as he comes in the door. They go to the bedroom, but then the doorbell rings again.

“Hurry!” she says, “Go hide up on the top of the canopy of the bed and don’t come down until I say so.”

So the man climbs up to the top of the bed and hides.

Another man is at the door. He comes in and the woman begins kissing him passionately, too. They come into the bedroom but soon they hear the front door opening.

“Quick!” she says, “Go hide under the bed and don’t come out until I say so.”

So the second man crawls under the bed and hides just in time before the husband comes in.

“What are you doing home so soon?” the wife says. “I told you not to come back until you found work!”

The husband comes into the bedroom, throws his keys on the table and takes off his jacket. “I looked everywhere already. There’s no work out there.”

The wife begins to nag him, “But how will we pay the rent and all our bills? We don’t have enough money!”

The husband hugs his wife and reassures her, “Don’t worry, The Big Man Upstairs will take care of it.”

The man on top of the bed speaks up, “Hey! If I have to help with the bills, the guy under the bed has to chip in, too!”