Stuff Mexicans Like #21: La Colita (The Mexican Ponytail)

10 Dec

The Mexican ponytail is a critical component in every Mexican girl’s life from the breast to the grave. It consists of brushing wet hair back, applying a handful of gel (see: “Stuff Mexicans Like #19: El Gel”), pulling the hair as taut as humanly possible, and twisting an elastic hair band around the tail, leaving the female with a death grip on the back of her scull for 10-12 hours each day. This phenemenon can be observed in each and every Mexican school throughout the republic, viewing from the back of the classroom: a sea of dark colitas.

Why the obsession with the tight pigtail in the rear-center of the head? There are a couple schools of thought. One is that the Spanish Catholic Macho influence has left parents with the desire to make their girls seem more masculine. Another is that of control. La Virgencita (See “Stuff Mexicans Like #2: La Virgen de Guadalupe”) is the center of Mexican culture and values. The idea of control, rigidity, and simplicity all jive with the image of a virgen or “niña bien” (good girl). Hair hanging loose all over the place swinging to and fro with the wind, doing just as it pleases is not an acceptable state for Mexican tresses. Nor is a single barrette, a simple loose braid, or 2 casually ribboned pigtails. It is all-or-nothing when it comes to Mexican hairdressing.

The last theory is my own, based on the deep-seated rascism I have felt and witnessed here in Northern Latin America. A Chicana (Mexican-American or pocha: ruined one, as Mexicans lovingly refer to them) friend of mine posted to her personal internet site: “I am Mexican. If you don’t believe me, I can pull back my bangs.”  She was referring to her very low hairline and almost non-existent forehead. This is a typical look for many, if not most, indigenous Mexican people. That being said, with the combination of the low forehead being equated with Indios (an insult in Mexico. See “Stuff Mexicans Like #10: Las Güeras”) and the desire to look more European, (namely white), it makes sense that many Mexican women may want to pull their hair back as far off the forehead as possibly, thus lengthening the start of the hairline, creating a somehwat more European, less Indio look.

Whatever the reason, I am always acutely aware at Mexican children’s birthday parties & social gatherings that my child’s sloppy side braid or loose curls make a stark contrast to other Mexican children’s tight, super gel’d du’s. I wonder if other parents at the party equate the loose hairstyles of me and my child to be congruent with their ideas of loose, uncontrollable Gringas in general.

Just for today, I am ok with that. Happy Hair scrutinizing!

Exhibit A: Little Mexican girl headed to a birthday party

Exhibit B: Little Gringa girl headed to a birthday party

Stuff Mexicans Like #20: La Gelatina (Jello)

10 Dec

 

Once considered (by me) to be only a special treat for extended hospital stays, Jello turns out to be the staple dessert in México. Planning a party in which Mexicans will be invited?  Your boss is coming for dinner? Someone getting married? There is only one dish that must always be present if you want to impress your Northern Latino visitors: Gelatin & Gelatin-based products.

Mexicans are so fond of Jello and the like that in Mexico one may find Gelatinerías (Jello stores) in nearly every city. Want something more fancy? Add fruit. Looking for sophistication? Pour a bit of Rompope on top. Creativity is called for? Think colorful layers. There is no end to the possibilities when gelatin is involved. Where United Statesians & Canadians may serve ice cream with each slice of cake, Mexicans serve….guess what?! Jello!

If you are watching your sugar intake due to your Diabetes or Gastritis (approximately 5 out of 5 Mexicans suffers from one or both at the same time during their lifetime), then you may want to substitute barbacoa (sheep cooked in a pit covered in Agave leaves), menudo (cow stomach lining stew), or carnitas (deep fried pork parts served with corn tortillas) in place of your delicious gelatina. All three are Mexican favorites and have more or less the same consistency as Jello.
Happy fiestas!

Mexican alternatives to gelatina that achieve the same effect in the mouth:

Barbacoa (sheep cooked under the Agave cactus in a pit) All Mexican mouths are watering at the sight of this image. :)

Menudo (Cow stomach lining in a spicy stew) Mmmm! Perfect for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast.

Carnitas (deep fried pork parts) I can taste the jellowy goodness now!

10 Dec

garrisonmi:

This week we celebrate the birthday of the blessed Virgencita: 12 diciembre.
Viva la Reina de México!

Originally posted on Stuff Mexicans Like:

All Mexican culture revolves around its core, its center, its lifesource, its sun: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Actually she is such a staple presence in daily Mexican life that sometimes her effects go unnoticed by Mexicans. (But not by me.) :)
Present-Day Effects
Have you ever gone to a department store in Mexico wanting to purchase a new brasierre only to learn that trying on any kind of under garment is strictly forbidden in most states in the republic? Have you looked for tampons in a local pharmacy (outside of foreigner-laden San Miguel de Allende or la playa)? They are rarely to be found. Want to buy a transparent shower curtain? Think again, pervert! These kinds of behaviors and dry goods simply do not jive well with virginity.
How Can I Know La Virgen?
Who is the first person one should approach with a problem, worry, or confession? La Virgencita, that’s who! Light her a candle…

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Stuff Mexicans Like #19: El Gel (Hair Gel)

7 Jun

A man’s manliness can be measured by three key factors: the number of children he bears; the amount of amantes (lovers) he maintains; and the quantity of hair gel he uses. All three are imperative. Let’s see how our 2012 Mexican presidential candidates stack up.

One candidate uses no gel (pronounced hail), clearly a bad choice for the future of the republic. This candidate has promised to drastically cut his own pay, as well as all other public officials’ pay. He is socialist and interested in protecting the rights of native Mexican landowners & farmers. Not very manly at all by European Spanish standards.

Our next candidate uses only a dollop or small squirt of hair gel, and that, only for the purpose of maintaining the shine and vitality of his luscious curls. He is all about women’s rights and prevention for addictions, which he calls enfermedades (diseases). Obviously the wrong choice for a country dominated by traditional Spanish manliness & alcoholism. He may as well be gay. Or a woman.

The third candidate is a woman. It doesn’t matter whether or not she uses gel. Her haircare is irrelevant. This candidate is concerned with preserving la cultura (Mexican culture). In the last presidential debate she said, “The child who picks up an instrument is highly unlikely to pick up a weapon.” The rest of the time she’s rambling on about adequate living conditions and proper nutrition for all children. She is not, and never will be, un rey, a king (as canonized by Guanajuato’s own Jose Alfredo Jimenez),and therefore is disqualified as a candidate for the race to be the next leader of the republic of Mexico.Gracias por su tiempo. Don’t call us; we’ll call you.


Our fourth and final candidate, however, uses a good handful, un chorro, of gel; more gel than Elvis Presley used in his lifetime.
This man is young, virile, and sports a gorgeous curvy Mexican telenovela (soap opera) star for a wife. A man’s man. He has read a total of two books in his lifetime, if that, according to his recount in a national radio interview, when asked to cite 3 books that most profoundly inpacted him on his journey. He is very liberal and generous with his hair product at least, if not with the Mexican people. The more the better is his policy when it comes to styling, but less is more is his policy when it comes to helping out the poor, young, indigenous, and female of this great nation. This is clearly a Whiskey & Tecate drinker. (See SML #18: Whiskey, Tequila, & Tecate.) Our hard-headed helmet-hair candidate supports big business, clear-cutting indigenous land, and privatizing basic human necessities. This is the obvious choice for Mexico. This is our front-runner.

The above is a spoof ad for the Mexican bookstore chain, Gandhi. Our frontrunner’s political party is called “PRI.” The ad says, “First, learn to read.”

Our new potential president may not read or know the national minimum wage off-hand, but he is a man’s man by all three counts. Check the bouffant.

Viva Mexico!

 

Stuff Mexicans Like #18: Whiskey, Tequila, & Tecate

2 Jun

 There are certain unfallible truths that all Mexicans hold to be self-evident: La Virgen de Guadalupe is everything. Family always comes first. Everything is better with limon and chile. Futbol (soccer) is the only real sport. Seat belts are overrated. Real men drink Tecate beer.

While Corona maintains a cult-following in the states as well as among those in Mexico who do not have access to Tecate or are on a Mega Caguama budget (pronounced cahWAHmah; the Mega Caguama costs only $24 pesos for your giant 1.2 liter brown bottle), everyone knows Tecate is the only option for true red-blooded, cock-fighting, mariachi-singing Mexicans.

El Wiski

Whiskey (pronounced WEE-ski for those of you trying to improve your espanol), is the standard drink of all fresas (literally strawberries, fresa  refers to snobby, money-hungry, high-society Mexicans). Whiskey is synonymous for wealth, prestige, and power in Mexican society. A bottle or 16 are bought for the whole fresa table at upscale night clubs, like our own Mint, on Mesones here in SMA. Wiski is normally enjoyed with mineral water on the rocas or with la coca (see SML #12: La Coca).

El Tequila

Tequila, the staple beverage of Mexico made from the agave plant in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, is classic. Timeless. Mexicans abroad who want to publicize their Mexican pride drink Tequila. Wealthy high-class Mexicans drink Tequila. Poor Mexicans and nacos (low-class, uneducated Mexicans) drink Tequila. Housewives drink Tequila. 12 year-old boys drink Tequila. Singer/activist, Mexi-Tica, Chavela Vargas, reportedly drank at least one shot of Tequila everyday.

Malinchistas (sell-outs)

Many of my Mexican male friends, however, claim that Tequila makes them bravo (aggressive/violent), thus the standard replacement beverage: wiski. I don’t buy it though. When I hear the bravo argument, I interpret it as, “I have shame because I am Mexican but prefer to drink a foreign alcoholic beverage over my country’s own specialty:Tequila. The real reason I prefer Johnie Walker to Don Julio is because I am Malinchista.” (Malinchista refers to a Mexican who prefers a foreign culture over his or her own, usually due to an inferiority complex. The root word is Malinche, the Spanish name of the beautiful Aztec lover of Cortez and original sell-out/second mother of the Mexican race. She is the root of the famed Mexican word Chingada, the violated one)

Tequila is usually taken straight with sal y limon (salt & lime). It is sipped like tea, not downed into a greedy open throat, like some of my paisanos (fellow countrymen) are so fond of while on vacation in Cabo. Tequila is also popular in margaritas and palomas. Literally dove, a paloma is tequila with lime, salt, and grapefruit flavored soda, like Squirt, (or Esqueert, for those of you who are improving your espanol). Lastly, no visit to Mexico is complete without experiencing la bandera. La bandera (the flag) consists of a red, white, and green shot, just one of many drinks and recipes representing Mexican pride. In this case, you need a shot of white Tequila, a shot of fresh squeezed lime juice, and a shot of spicy bloody-mary mix. Don’t forget the salt. You take a sip of each, swirl them in your mouth, and swallow. Repeat. Yum! 

Top Shelf Tequilas

While Patron is the king of top-shelf Tequila where I come from in the states, Don Julio reigns south of the border. “Patron who?” my Mexican friends asked me when I first mentioned the big time label. Patron is a nobody in Mexico. Opening a bottle of Patron at a real Mexican fiesta would be like busting out the Taco Bell at Doña Maria’s rancho. It is not the same as the original. Not even close.

How much is too much?

“No menos de tres, no mas de seis” (no less than 3, no more than 6) is the conventional Mexican wisdom. I find, however, that this little gem of advice is only used for women, as men drink no less than 12, no more than 22. Double A, as Mexicans call it, is also quite popular for those who don’t know when to say when. This binge drinking is not, however, at all related to indigenous Mexican societies. Though Tequila was well-known and cultivated, it was punishable by death to get inebriated in Aztec culture. It was the benditos españoles (blessed Spanish) no less, who brought with them the love of excess and el machismo to the New World.

Want to get around a Mexican’s extreme manners (see SML #3: Manners) and hear what he or she really thinks? Offer him or her a drink or 5 of Wiski, Tequila, or Tecate. Los niños y los borrachos siempre dicen la verdad.”  (Children and drunks always tell the truth.) Or so goes the Mexican proverb anyway.

Salud!

Stuff Mexicans Like #17: Las Curvas

2 Jun Stuff Mexicans Like #17: Las Curvas
In many societies, the thinner the woman, the more attractive one considers her to be. (Just watch the latest Victoria’s Secret fashion show to get a glimpse of what the USA considers feminine and sexy these days.) Here’s a lil hint: 32-24-32. As for Mexico, turn on your television between the hours of 8am and 11pm tuned into any telenovela to see what Mexicans consider attractive for a woman. Hint: 38-27-40. 

Memories of nursing, the image of the capable chef, or likely childbearing abilities?
Perhaps it is the image of the soft, affectionate, nursing mother that draws Mexicans to curves like American travellers to backpacks and athletic sandals. Maybe it has more to do with the image of the capable cook, the provider of delicious meals, and the perception of “lacking for nothing” that Mexicans love. Studies have shown that men are more attracted to women who appear to be quite capable of bearing healthy children and continuing their family line. These traits are generally recognized by rosy cheeks and wide hips. Whatever the reason, women in Mexico can be seen daily in all their curvaceuos glory sporting xx-small t-shirts and size 4 jeans with their actual 34-38-38 flesh wedged in nicely.
Oprah’s “Women at 30 Around the World”
Oprah does a show called “Women at 30 Around the World” once a year. She asks each international woman what life is like for her in her country, in her family, what is expected of her, etc. Last time I saw it, the Mexican 30 year old representative was a soap opera actress who still ives at home with la familia (see Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia & Stuff Mexicans Like #16: 20 en la Casa; 10 en el Carro; y 5 en la Cama). She said with a laugh, “Women eat as much as we want and we definitely don’t excercise in Mexico. Men like us soft with curves. Diets do not exist.” I think she was onto something.
Exhibit A:
Famous Mexican Actresses & Singers
    
Exhibit B:
Famous UnitedStatesian & Canadian Actresses & Singers
     

Stuff Mexicans Like #16: 20 en la Casa; 10 en el Carro; 5 en la Cama

2 Jun truck
Headed to Rosa & Fernando’s wedding at the Rancho.
Mexico is a Catholic country. Very Catholic. It is also, like Catholocism, full of contrasts and contradictions. Ie; It is not ok to be gay. It is not ok to have sex outside of marriage. It is not ok to use condoms or other birth control. HOWEVER, if you are gay and do happen to be having sex outside of marriage, you fall into a lucky loophole which says that you, sir, can use condoms! Unfortunately, poor Sra. Fulana, with 8 small mouths to feed and an overworked, under-paid husband, cannot. Go figure. (Did I mention that it is also not ok to refuse conjugal relations with your mate, even if you are already sleeping 7 to the “matrimonial” size bed, with 2 on the sofa?)
Well, this is orthodox Mexican Catholic thinking, anyway.Which brings me to the topic: highly populated casas, coches, & camas. Thanks to extremely strict catholic sex rules and extremely lax Mexican seat belt laws, one can find 16-24 people in any small home or flat-bed pickup truck at any given time. I go to visit some of my Sanmiguelense friends and while they slip off to the bathroom, people- men, women, teens,  small children, and the elderly- begin seeping out of every nook and cranny like kitchen-counter ants.
“Ummm…. Who was that group of people that just came out of door #2?” I ask inquisitively. Seems like a logical question to me. What people, he says. “That family of 6?” I say. “Oh, probably just my brother or my cousin, Juana.” He tells me. “And the three elderly men out on the patio?” I inquire. “Es el primo y los hermanos de mi mama,” I am informed. (It’s the cousin & the brothers of my mother.)
EL COCHE
When it is time to take a trip to el mercado in Celaya, which we all know is the biggest and most ghetto-fabulous of all Guanajuato markets, anyone and everyone interested heads out to the family’s 3 cylander pickup for an adventure. “You sat by the cab window last time,” whines Tia Carla to Abuelita. Eventually, everyone is squeezed in, often with Popis, the family Terrier-Retriever-Poodle-Rot mix, and a handful of livestock. No one usually falls out along the way, due to Mexican Personal Responsability (see Stuff Mexicans Like #8), but if someone does happen to take a spill on the carretera hacia Celaya (the freeway to Celaya) or at the Pipila Glorieta (the roundabout with the Pipila monument), no te preocupes! (Don’t worry!) Everyone works together to pull Great Grandpa Pablo back to the safety of the truck bed and all cross themselves, giving thanks to La Virgencita (see Stuff Mexicans Like #2), for Seguro Popular (Mexican Free Public Health Insurance). (See Stuff Mexicans Like #6: Personal Responsability.)
I digress. Back to this Mexican Population Mentality. When my 15 year-old niece, Amanda, and I flew back to Seattle after her 6 month stay with me in Queretaro, my sister, Melodie, and younger niece picked us up at the airport. Walking to the car, Amanda and I were still in culture shock over the luxury one can encounter in the SeaTac Airport bathrooms. Things like toilet seats, locking stall doors, and soap had somehow eluded us for a great deal of time. “Oh shoot,” said my sister, looking at her four-door sedan with fatality in her eyes. “I didn’t think of all the luggage. How are all four of us going to fit in the car with three suitcases?”
Amanda and I silently turned to look at one another, then burst into laughter. “What?!?” challenged Melodie. “Actually,” ventured Manda, “I’m pretty sure this vehicle could hold at least 12 or maybe even 13 people. With luggage.” Our thinking had changed. When instructed sternly to “Get your seat belts on!”  by my sister, before even inserting the key into the ignition, Amanda and I exchanged yet another glance that said, “Do not let your mother become aware of the fact that you haven’t worn a seatbelt for 6 months.” Ni modo. (See Stuff Mexicans Like #12: Ni Modo.)
LA CASA
Some 6 months after arriving to Mexico, I found myself with two teenagers, a small dog, and no employment. I reluctantly procured a large room for rent at a local frat house from UVM (Valley of Mexico University) for half of what I was paying in our spacious home. My 15 year-old niece; 13 year-old son; Mercy, the yellow Pomeranian; and I hauled our suitcases and mattresses (no bed bases) into the room with the concrete slab floor and thus began our one-room, “Night, John-Boy,” adventure. (I had to explain to the teens where “Night, John-Boy” originated. They just stared blankly.)
It was fun! At night I would turn on my cell phone flashlight and read short stories and poetry to them from my corner of the room. Though no light shone from under our bedroom door, laughter and loud English could be heard throughout the casa every night. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves or out-of-place because all my kids’ friends in their new public junior high had the same living accommodations or worse! I did makeovers on my girl and homemade haircuts on my boy. We each dressed in the bathroom after showering. The occassional late-night mellow college party was a welcome distraction from our sparse living conditions; we all practiced our Spanish and dance skills. When we needed space, we headed out to the one of the front yard hammocks or up to the roof to bask in the sun. My now young adult babies still laugh, telling people about the time three of us and a small dog lived on floor mattresses in one frat house bedroom in central Mexico.
Whether it’s 20 to a home, 10 to a car, or 5 to a bed, Mexicans love Family and Togetherness (See Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia).  Night, John-Boy!
Exhibit A:
This family is waiting for the rest of the relatives to arrive so they can leave.    
 On the way to La Placita (Tuesday Market).
Exhibit B: 
Siblings of all ages often sleep together in the same bed.
It’s always nice to snuggle & keep warm on cold nights.
       
  Grandparents are no exception!
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