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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 #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 #2: La Virgen de Guadalupe

17 May
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 and take off a load! She can be trusted with everything from small decisions to heavy burdens. Most altares for La Virgen de Guadalupe are placed prominently in one’s entryway or in the sala for easy access. No one knows tristeza and angustia like the Mother of G-d, who bore the Jewish Messiah as a confused 15 year old virgin, only to watch her promised child die in his early 30s a shameful and agonizing death. La Virgencita does not judge or shame, she is all-accepting and all-forgiving.
Image
Tonantzin, Revered Aztec Goddess Mother
Not only is La Virgen the Mother of the new, Mestizo Mexico, but she existed long before as the central Goddess in Aztec society as Tonantzin(Toe-nant-SEEN, or Our Revered Mother/Mother Earth). Lupita, our Lady of Guadalupe, first appeared on December 9, 1531 (not December 12, as she is presently celebrated), the first day of the Goddess Tonantzin’s holy festival. Not only did Lupita speak with Juan Diego on the first day of Tonantzin’s celebration, but she also happend to make her appearance RIGHT ON Tonantzin’s worship shrine at the Cerro de Tepeyac (hill of Tepeyac) in the Aztec center of action, presently Mexico City (El DF: El Distrito Federal)!
Coincidencia? I think not. Whatever her true identity, she remains the central figure of Love and adoration by indigenous Mexicans, Mestizos, and Mexican-born Spaniards alike. She united the indigenous of Mexico with the Europeans, the conquistados or chingados with the conquistadores or los que chingan. She was and remains the Great Mediator of Mexico.
Feminist Brown Mother
Maintaining such high status as La Madre de la Tierra and La Reina de México, La Virgencita helps the poor and downtrodden, the brown-skinned, the lowly, the conquered. Guadalupe (aka: La Morena/brown-skinned) has elevated the female (and the dark-skinned female) back to the highest position of importance in Mexico at a time when the conquistadores had recently arrived with their machista sexist ways. It is no wonder that matriarchs are so common in Mexican society and that La Virgen is prominently mentioned in the most famous Mexican anthem: Cielito Lindo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVQGxFDINng
“Yo a las morenas quiero
desde que supe que…
morena es la Virgen
de Guadalupe…”