Fiesta on the Hill: Getting Down in the Barrio

in mexico •  3 years ago 

Everyone who moves to Mexico does so for different reasons; all have different intentions for what their ideal life here would be, myself included. I wanted to get away from standardized, conditioned American culture into a more realistic human culture, which is what I found when I moved to Mexico. This desire to be in a new culture is partially what led John and I to the barrio we ended up in.  We could instantly see that this barrio was full of hard working people, worthy of respect.  From the beginning, we've been friendly to the locals and it shows with how they interact with us.  

Monday my vecino (word for male neighbor in Spanish) showed up and invited me to his wife's 28th birthday party.  He did this through John, and suggested I make a cake for the party.  I decided right then I was probably going to make flan. The intention was to make it by itself, but it didn't take much for John to convince me that it'd be better with cajeta, a famous mexican caramel sauce.  I then decided I might as well make impossible cake, a mexican dessert that I share the process for, here( . What's amazing is that the flan and chocolate cake layers switch places in the oven, which is how it earned it's name.  There's a vanilla cake version referred to as magic custard cake, that I'll make eventually. 

I didn't know much about the woman who's party I was to attend, but what I did know is that she's a cook. She's somewhat timid around me because of the language barrier. Our neighbor has offered to feed us so many times I've lost count.  Considering their drastically different financial situation, we've always politely refused.  A few weeks ago I gave her some cherry tomatoes, which she reportedly made salsa with.  When considering what to give her for her birthday, it came pretty easily.  I transplanted and trellised the tomato plant above and took that over to her.  I also took the bottle of Barcardi white rum, leftover from a recent birthday. 

Due to publishing my last article and general being behind-ness, I was late to the party.  I showed up and caught my neighbor, just as he sat to eat.  I stole him away to smoke first and  had him help me carry the tomato plant back to the party.  The only people that were there was the birthday girl, and her mother in law.  My neighbor mentioned when he invited me that it was a party for women, where the men would be separate for the most part.  In the beginning at least, this held true.  She offered me food, and despite the fact that I wasn't hungry, I accepted.  I wasn't going to refuse her on her birthday, and my chefs curiosity was wondering just how good her food was.  

She brought me out this, which from what I can tell is a cut of pork, marinated and cooked in a rich tomato and chile based sauce....or at least that's my best guess.  John's theory is she cooked it in hot sauce, and he might be correct on it. I'm not a fan of rice, but the sauce and the pork was delicious.  She had locally purchased tortillas that were delicious, good enough to make me suggest we buy some ourselves. They asked me repeatedly while I was eating if it was too hot, and I kept assuring them it wasn't.  While it was spicy, it was spicy in the complex delicious way that chinese food can be, which made it very easy to eat.  Despite my lack of hunger, I picked the plate clean save for the rice.  They brought me out meat without sauce, which I then broke up and added to the spare sauce on the plate, much to their surprise.  It was as if the food was a test, and I was passing.  

Sometime after I finished eating, I noticed the table I had been eating at happened to be the table we recently hired her husband to make.  We gave him some artistic license and he's ran with it.  It's taken him longer than expected, at this point we realize he delayed it partially for her party.  I can't say I minded.  It was funny today to drive by and see him working on it, seemingly sanding out hot sauce stains from the previous night. We should have that today for our pizza party hopefully, I'll share an article soon in regards to the adventures for the table.

From early in the morning the day of the party, there was loud mexican music coming from the place where it was to be held.  I made a comment to my friend when it was quiet, save for the gushy mexican love music, along the lines of "This is what I've got to look forward to".  I'll admit, I'm slightly adverse to a certain kind of mexican music, considering it literally kept me up as a kid many nights.  I had no understanding of or respect for the mexican culture at that time.  Even with my new respect and understanding, there's just some music I'm still not a huge fan of. That music happened to be the primary music played at that party, four different songs to be exact. That loop of songs is what sent us home at the end of the night, our heads reeling from having heard the same bad songs over and over.  Despite this, we had a blast.

The first non-family guests to appear were two women, who I later found out were sisters(maybe). Both were pretty in a different sort of way, and both were dressed to dance.  One seemed to be in her late thirties, wheras the other seemed young, like she was my age. They seemed confused to see me there but both were friendly from the beginning. 

 Something I found out that was interesting is that my neighbor is only 20.  Considering the fact that his wife is 28 and they have a child around the age of 7, this makes for an interesting dynamic.  This suggests that he had his child when he was only 13, a crazy concept to most Americans.  We were both flabber ghasted as it seems like he has it the most together out of everyone we met in his family.  He's a 20 year old professional carpenter that seems to be supporting half of his family in a tiny house.  He's got experience beyond his years and we expected him to be our age at the very least.  This just shows the difference in culture here. 

The party really began when those sisters showed up, as they started by opening the barcardi (provided by me) and the scotch whiskey provided by my neighbor. They seemed fascinated with me, considering I was the only white woman at this party of mexican women, deep in the jungle of Acapulco. The older one was using me to practice her english, she repeatedly expressed a desire to be able to speak english.  The younger one was interested in my weird drinking habits.  They were all mixing their drinks, wheras I don't really do mixed drinks very well.  If I intend on getting an effect off of drinking, I have to drink straight alcohol and chase it, at least at this point in my life. It was interesting explaining this in broken spanish, but she got it.

I had a lot of fun just listening to the conversation and watching the women.  This party was originally pitched as a women only party, and for the first several hours it was.  As the drinks flowed, so did the conversation.  I was able to follow a lot of it, just by body language and context.  I found myself surprised as I'm able to understand a lot more of the language than I expected.  

A local favorite treat sold at markets, made with tamarindo pulp, sugar and chili.  This was brought by a party goer, possibly someone that makes and sells these things.

Since living here, I've taken notice at the amount of hot sauce that mexicans eat with everything, including fruit.  Last night was no exception.  A mexican veggie tray includes chiccarron(pork rinds), sliced carrots and cucumbers and hot sauce.  They left a bottle of hot sauce on the table for the party, which I later saw the women putting in their hands in drops, to lick it off a bit at a time.   At a point later in the day, the younger sister offered me some of her Tajin, which is a popular salt and chile seasoning they put on all sorts of things here.  She was just pouring it onto her hand and licking it of.  I tried it and it honestly wasn't bad, although it was a bit intense to just be eating salt and chile seasoning. The snacked and drank constantly, when they weren't dancing.

Which brings us to dancing, mexicans love to dance, even the shy ones as I learned that night.  The dancing started early in the day, before any real guests showed up.  Once the sisters showed up, and the guests following, there was dancing on and off all day.  They even got me into it, teaching me to dance like them and making funny faces at me to tell me I was doing alright.  

We served the cake and those that ate it loved it.  For the most part, it collapsed due to heat by the time we served it but it was honestly delicious regardless. People picked on it throughout the day, and I'm happy to say some made it to the little neighbor girl, someone I'm fond of in my barrio. I conversed with her a bit in broken spanish at a point, I now finally know her name.  

At a certain point, John showed up with our english friend, who's name I won't disclose. We had discussed earlier in the day the idea of him bringing me a joint of weed to smoke, so I could see how the women respond. I also knew that at a point I'd want to smoke.   He brought me one and I stepped off to the side, smoking it like they smoke their cigarettes.  A few of the women whispered but none seemed offended.  My neighbor's mom responded by lighting a ciggarette, and winking at me. My neighbor had always led me to believe that women would have a negative view of it, as he's always trying to hide his smoking from his wife and mother.  I suspected  his concerns were overblown and I realized last night I was right. 

At some point after rejoining the table after smoking, our english friend got up and joined the dancing, much to our surprise.  He looked to be having fun too, while at the same time making the day of the woman he danced with.  It wasn't long before he inspired John to grab me to join the dancing.  

Not much time went by before the younger sister, dressed in dancing clothes, was asking John to dance.  I could tell when she had an interest, as he's an attractive man with dreadlocks, extremely different than what she's used to.  He told her she had to dance with me first, which we did after the women fiddled around with the radio, reprogramming it back to their four favorites. While they danced, the other guests of the party would pull me up to the dance floor, which ended in partners switching repeatedly. 

When trying to apprehend some dancing friends to smoke, John and I ended up dancing, John with a joint in his mouth unlit.  As the men dipped off to smoke, I cut my dance short with the pretty younger sister in blue to smoke.  She asked me why I smoke and I explained it's medicinal, healthier and better for you than drinking.  She wrinkled her nose and laughed, sending me off to smoke. 

Not long after that, John gave me the last joint of the night, at a point when the party was truly crazy.  All of the women were very drunk, dancing till they couldn't stand. When I lit the joint, the bigger woman who reportedly groped our english friend came over.  She took the joint from my hand and proceeded to show me how she smokes cannabis, ending in saying "is good".  She's the only one to have smoked with me that night, but it made it worth it. 

This same woman later had her friend translate a message for me.  It amounted to "I know I'm sexy but there's nothing going on when I dance with your man. This is mexico, no worries for you.  What made this hysterical is that she was huge, had a fancy hairstyle and a masculine face. I saw the look on John's face when he danced with her, he wasn't having much fun other than laughing at the situation.  

After several hours of shenanagons, we grew tired of the songs and tired in general. Our english friend disappeared, reportedly attempting to escape a large, groping mexican woman. He returned to dance with a pretty lady once again, this one much smaller and prettier being the older of the two sisters.  We decided to leave and go home, starting our goodbyes with our newfound friends. 

The big gropey woman said goodbye last, essentially saying that I am her friend now.  I left that party with the majority of people there having respect for me.  The ones that didn't respect me couldn't figure out why I was there, but honestly we had a blast.  The food was good, the people were better.  I learned a lot about mexican party culture.  

For once, I was a part of one of the loud day long parties we hear on our hill on a constant basis.  I decided from the beginning I was going to dive in and have fun.  As soon as I realized there were five cases of beer, I decided I'd drink some barcardi right along with them and I did.  I wasn't nearly as drunk as them but they had me dancing and I had a blast.  It was probably the most fun I've had at a party here and it was next to a mud brick house with a metal roof. The women were dancing as if they were at the hottest club in Acapulco.  They seemed almost possessed by the jungle at a certain point.  I watched people I I had just met let loose in celebration of a close friend, in a way more primal than I've seen in the states.  Friends don't just get together and dance all night long like they do here. 

Experiences like this are why I moved to my barrio.  I learned a lot about people that day, like mexican women can put back some food, regardless of if they're drinking.  One of the largest women ate four plates of food, snacks, cake and drank beer all night long.  Last I saw her she was swaying around, dancing. I said it last night and I'll say it again now, I feel more at home here than I ever did in the states.  The closest I can think of is in Detroit, a place I refer to as a small Mexico in America. 

Flowers I later brought to the party, in a beer bottle vase

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I lived in Mexico for 10 years. Beautiful people and food. Loved your post.

Great post! You have a new follower, #218.