Sunday, May 18, 2014

Look What I Found in My Burrito!

I Went to Bed Wishing Upon a Burrito

I want substance in a burrito. Not just chorizo con papas, machaca con huevo, chicharron en chile verde, or carne asada. Not just beans, rice, guacamole. I want a burrito with integrity, a burrito that values Mexicans on both sides of the border. A Mexican burrito should have some basic self-respect and self-awareness. It should know and love Lo Mexicano, que no? Not just our guacamole, our chiles, tequila, our Day of the Dead, our hijacked Cinco de Mayo, but also our history, our culture, our art, our literature. And if burritos are suddenly going to go literary, showcasing the works of famous authors, then I want a burrito that reads Mexican literature or at least knows that it exists and does not devalue it in relation to other literatures of the world. I want a burrito who can look at itself in the mirror after being called out and admit, “Shit! That was pretty ignorant of me. Bad, bad, burrito.” Mexicans are generally very forgiving. We believe in penance and redemption. Burritos who f-up should keep this in mind because a burrito-audience is a terrible thing to lose, especially if you happen to be in the burrito business. A burrito that can pause, reflect, repent, act, and do the right thing gains value in the eyes of burrito-eaters. It is like the parable of the Prodigal Son, only we can call it the Prodigal Burrito. I want a burrito that will not flake or break under pressure. Instead it stretches. It has guts. It does not stink of exclusion nor does it act like a stubborn burro.

OMG, Look What I Found In My Burrito This Morning!

The following are short literary excerpts (about 2 minutes each) that I found in my homemade burrito the day after making my burrito wishes. Nellie Campobello, Rosario Castellanos, Elena Poniatowska. Enjoy with a burrito of your own. Warning: this is Mexican literature, so expect some poetic violence, magical creatures, and down-to-earth rawness from the scenes. Y que viva la literatura Mexican y la Mexicana-Americana (which I will discuss in another, not-so-distant blog).

"Zafiro and Zequiel"
(Vignette from Cartucho, 1931)
by Nellie Campobello
Translated by Doris Meyer

      Two Mayo friends of mine, Indians from San Pablo de Balleza. They didn't speak Spanish but made themselves understood through sign language. They were fair skinned, with blue eyes and long hair, and they wore big heavy shoes that looked as though they weighed ten kilos. They used to go by the house every day, and I would startle them by squirting streams of water at them with a big syringe, like those used to treat horses. I laughed at how their hair would fly when they ran off. Their shoes looked like two big houses awkwardly dragged along.
      One cold, cold morning I was told as I left my house, “Hey, they've executed Zequiel and his brother. They're lying up there outside the cemetery, and no one's left in the soldiers' barracks.”
      My heart didn't leap, nor was I frightened or even curious, but I started to run. I found them next to one another. Zequiel face down and his brother looking at the sky. Their eyes were wide open, very blue and clouded over, as if they had been crying. I couldn't ask them anything. I counted the bullet wounds, turned Zequiel's head around, cleaned the dirt from the right side of face, which rather upset me, and in my heart said three or more time, “Pobrecitos, pobrecitos, poor things.” Their blood had frozen. I gathered it up and put it in the pocket of one of their blue-tasseled jackets. It was like red crystals that would never again turn into warm threads of blood.
      I saw their shoes, covered with dust. They no longer looked like houses to me. Today they were hunks of black leather that could tell me nothing about my friends.
      I broke the syringe.

Excerpt from The Nine Guardians
(Originally 1957) by Rosario Castellanos
Translated by Irene Nicholson

      “They say that in the forest there's an animal called dzulum. Every night he goes prowling through his kingdom. He goes to where the she-lion is lying with her cubs, and she gives him the carcass of a calf she's just killed. The dzulum takes it, but does not eat it, because he doesn't prowl from hunger but from the will to command. The tigers run away with a crackling of dry leaves when they smell him near. The flocks wake with a tenth of them gone, and the monkeys, shameless things, howl with fear in the treetops.”
       “And what's the dzulum like?”
       “No one's ever seen him and lived to say. But I've a feeling in my bones he's handsome, for even educated people pay him tribute.”
       “Once—it's a long time ago—we were all in Chactajal. Your grandparents chanced upon an orphaned girl whom they treated as their own daughter. Her name was Angelica. She was like a lily on its stem, and so gentle and obedient to her betters, and so meek and thoughtful towards us who looked after her. She had no end of suitors. But she seemed not to notice them, or perhaps she was waiting for another. So the days went by, until one morning a new thing dawned. The dzulum was prowling about the edge of the farm...From that moment she had no peace. The needlework dropped from her hands. She lost her happiness and wandered here and there as if she were searching for it in every corner. She was up betimes to drink spring water because she was burning with thirst...Afternoons she went roaming in the fields, and got back when dark had fallen with the hem of her skirt torn to shreds by the brairs...Until once she didn't come back.”
      Nana picks up the tongs and stirs the embers. Outside, for some time now, a rainstorm has been battering against the tiles...
     “Did the dzulum carry her off?”
     She set her eyes on him, and she followed him as if she were bewitched, and every footstep beckoned to the next one, on and on, to the road's end. He went ahead, beautiful and strong, with his name that means a yearning to be dead.”

Excerpt from Here's to You, Jesusa
(1969) by Elena Poniatowska
Translated by Deanna Heikkinen

      Over there where Mexico City starts getting smaller, where the streets get lost and are deserted, that's where Jesusa lives. It's so warm there's no ice left in the freezers, just water, and the Victoria and Superior beers just float around. The women's hair sticks against the nape of their necks, beaten down by sweat. Sweat dampens the air, clothes, armpits, forehead. The heat buzzes, like the flies. The air of those parts is greasy, dirty; the people live in the very frying pans where they cook garnachas, those thick, filled tortillas covered in chile sauce, and potato or pumpkin-flowered quesadillas, the daily bread that the women heap on tables with uneven legs along the street. The dust is the only dry thing, that and a few gourds.
      Jesusa is dried up, too. She's as old as the century. She's eighty-seven and the years have made her smaller, as it has the houses, bending their backbones. They say that old people get smaller so they'll take up the least possible space inside the earth when they're done living on top of it. Jesusa's eyes, with little red veins, are tired; they've gotten gritty, gray around the pupil, the brown fading a little bit at a time. Tears no longer reach her eyes and the bright red lacrimal ducts are the most instense part of her face. There's no water under her skin either. Jesusa constantly says, “I'm turning into parchment.” But the skin remains stretched over her prominent cheekbones. “Every time I move I lose scales.” She lost a front tooth and she decided: “When I go out somewhere, if I ever go out, I'll put a Chiclet there, I'll chew it up real good and I'll stick it on.”


Diane Loya said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Bad, bad burrito! Gonna get my Poniatowaka out, missed her.

Luna said...

Just what I needed. I want to read it all gonna search those books out!

Amelia ML Montes said...

Orale, Olga! I read this out loud to a friend and it was wonderful reading these piece-- intense burrito stories, mujer! Great stuff! Gracias.