You know you’re Mexican if …

La Virgen de Guadalupe en Pilsen, Chicago, Illinois.

You know you’re Mexican if …

  1. Your whole family goes to the laundromat.
  2. You grow corn in your garden.
  3. You have a birthday party for your son or daughter and you invite more adults than children.
  4. You beep your horn instead of ringing the doorbell.
  5. You go to McDonald’s or Burger King and you bring your own salsa and jalapeños.
  6. You took Spanish in high school for an easy A and got a C.
  7. You take your family on un paseo through the car wash and tell them that the ride is called “The Tidal Wave.”
  8. You’re married, but your mother still hits you in public.
  9. The police pull you over and you pretend not to speak English.
  10. You have a statue of la Virgen in a half-buried bathtub in your front lawn.
This isn't spicy enough!

Just click your heels

Deposit toilet paper in wastebasket.

“Wait! I have to go to the bathroom!” my son Adam shouted when we entered our room at the Days Inn Motel in Laredo, Texas. He pushed Alex and me aside and then ran to the bathroom. He immediately called us into the bathroom. “Watch,” he said as he dropped one sheet of toilet paper into the toilet and flushed it down. We watched it spiral downward until it vanished with a roar into the underworld of sewers.

My sons were glad to be back in the U.S. after spending two whole weeks in Mexico without all of the creature comforts to which they are accustomed here in Chicago. I explained that we would lack some of these American luxuries to them, but they were still unprepared mentally for what was in store for them in Mexico.

For example, I told them that in Mexico they only served Mexican food. They were surprised that even the McDonald’s and Burger King food tasted a little Mexican. I think going to the bathroom was activity that most struck home with them. They didn’t like the idea of putting the used toilet paper in the wastebasket next to the toilet instead of just flushing it down the way we do here.

Overall, I think they adapted well, but I don’t think they ever want to go to Mexico again!




Would you believe I never took guitar lessons?
He sure plays a mean guitar. Guitar Hero, that is!

When I lived in Back of the Yards, I met a wide variety of Mexicans. Rubén Martínez was an unusual acquaintance of mine in that he was more the friend of a friend rather than a direct friend. He always seemed so full of energy for someone who was always high. He looked like your typical drug burnout with shoulder length hair that he parted down the middle.

In the seventies, no one wanted to part their hair in the middle lest anyone think that they smoked pot. Rubén, however, always parted his hair down the middle to flaunt the fact that he was a burnout and smoked pot. And he wore a miniature coke spoon around his neck just in case the occasion to get high on cocaine presented itself. Because of the thousands of people like Rubén, McDonald’s had to change their coffee stirrer from a little spoon on a long stem because people like Rubén used it to snort coke, to a flat paddle and later a small straw. Needless to say, he was always high and always looking to get higher. Sometimes he wouldn’t even respond to his own name. I once had to explain to him that he was Rubén and that’s why people who wanted to talk to him called his name. He was too high to understand me, though.

Anyway, thanks to Rubén, I attended my first rock concert. Led Zeppelin came to Chicago in January of 1975 and word was out that all the tickets would sell out immediately. We went to old Chicago Stadium box office about two hours before it opened at 10:00 a.m. We didn’t want to oversleep the time of the first ticket sales, so we stayed up all night drinking wine. We also contemplated doing immoral and illegal deeds, but we decided against that in order to buy the Led Zeppelin tickets without incident.

When we arrived at the ticket office at 8:00 a.m., we were tired, but determined to obtain tickets. I drove my 1975 Pontiac Firebird as close to the box office as the police permitted me. Rubén collected our ticket money and ran toward the Stadium like a deranged lunatic. Several policemen tried to stop him, but he dodged them, jumped onto the hood of their unmarked police car, then to the car roof, before leaping to the front of the ticket line. When he dissolved into the crowd, the police stop chasing him. We waited patiently for him in my Firebird that was parked a block away, but within view of the ticket office. An elderly woman, perhaps the grandmother of one of the expectant concertgoers, passed out hot chocolate from a thermos into Styrofoam cups. About four hours later, Rubén emerged from the ticket office with six concert tickets! We were going to see Led Zeppelin in concert!

When we went to the concert, I was shocked that everyone was smoking pot. I had never smoked pot in my life, but I got high just breathing in the concert air. I’ll never forget my first concert!

The last time I saw Rubén was at that Led Zeppelin concert, partying, getting high, and bouncing his head to the music. Years later, I heard that he was arrested several times for drug sales. He finally made the big time and was arrested for a million dollar drug bust. For me, he just vanished into the crowd of drug dealers and addicts, never to emerge again.


Señor Jalapeño is everywhere.

I just drove through the McDonald’s in Pilsen and was I ever surprised! You can now buy jalapeño peppers for 25 cents each at McDonald’s! Where were those jalapeños when I was little. Whenever we ordered at McDonald’s or Burger King, my father would invariably ask for salsa or jalapeños, depending on his mood. Of course, they would always tell him that they didn’t have salsa or jalapeños. And my father, being my one and only father, would say, “That’s okay! I brought my own!”