Pete’s Market

Pete’s Fresh Market, Chicago, Illinois

Because of its large Mexican community, you can shop for Mexican food at many grocery stores in the Chicagoland area. There are the real supermercados like El Güero or La Internacional in Chicago, but Pete’s Market has been expanding recently. There are several stores on the south side of Chicago, one in Evergreen Park, and one in Calumet City. They’re very successful because they sell authentic Mexican products at low prices, although I’ve heard that they are Greek-owned.

I love their tamales. I used to go the Pete’s Market on 47th and Kedzie early in the morning just to buy tamales because they tasted great and I didn’t have to make them myself. If you love authentic Mexican food, you will certainly find it here.

They also sell Mexican candy and piñatas. Most of the employees speak Spanish. Even in Evergreen Park where you wouldn’t expect to find many Spanish speakers. Actually, I was surprised to see a Mexican grocery store open in Evergreen Park. But then again, Chicago wouldn’t allow a Walmart to open within the city limits, so they opened a store across the street in Evergreen Park, a suburb that always finds new and creative ways to generate tax revenue.

Don’t be surprised if a Pete’s Market opens up near you.


Happy New Year

El Ángel de la Victoria

I want to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year! ¡Próspero Año Nuevo! I was too busy to write this post on New Year’s Day because I celebrated in Mexico City. This was the only the second time I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Mexico. The first time was way back in 1965, but all I really remember is breaking a piñata with my cousins. I do remember this New Year’s Eve, however.

We started with a few drinks on an empty stomach because dinner wasn’t served until after midnight! We watched celebrations from other cities on TV. When the countdown to the New Year started, we were all ready with a glass of apple cider, a glass of water, and twelve grapes. The tradition of eating twelve grapes began in 1909 in Spain and is now also followed in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina–Chile and Argentina eat raisins instead. No one is sure why we eat twelve grapes, but speculation is that it’s one for each month of the year or one for each toll of the bell at midnight. At the stroke of midnight, we ate the grapes to bring us good luck throughout the year. (I learned these interesting tidbits of information while watching TV before our New Year’s Eve celebration!) We had a toast with the glass of cider. Then we threw out the glass of water in the yard. The water represents the tears we will avoid throughout the rest of the year. Everyone danced in yard–including me, but not very well. Everyone took turns walking around the yard rolling a suitcase behind them. This was done with the hopes that they get to travel somewhere exotic on vacation during the next year.

I make no New Year’s resolutions this year since I never manage to keep them for very long anyway.

Vote for Pedro

From my DVD collection

In the movie Napoleon Dynamite, we see Mexicans in, of all places, the state of Idaho! As an added bonus, you may also listen to the movie dubbed in Spanish. The first time I saw the movie, I thought, “But there are no Mexicans in Idaho!” Then I met a Mexican name Irene from Idaho. So I guess there really are Mexicans in Idaho after all. In the movie, Pedro the Mexican is viewed as a foreigner by the high school principal who tells Pedro on his first day of school, “You do understand English. This isn’t really that complex.” And Pedro just stares at the principal, so the principal asks Napoleon Dynamite to show Pedro where his locker is. Pedro is the only boy at the high school with a mustache that Napoleon admires.

Napoleon and Pedro become friends because they’re both outsiders in this cliquish world of jocks and cheerleaders. They get along so well because they complement each other very well. Napoleon accepts Pedro for what he is and Pedro listens to Napoleon’s stories and lies without questioning them. Pedro speaks English, but sometimes it’s not perfect. For example, Pedro plans to ask to ask the cheerleader Summer Wheatley to the dance. When Napoleon asks how Pedro will get Summer to go to the dance with him, Pedro says, “I’ll build her a cake or something,” with a heavy Mexican accent. When Summer says no, Pedro asks Deb, Napoleon’s prospective date, to go to the dance. So that leaves Napoleon without a date. Pedro offers advice and Napoleon follows it. Napoleon is on his home turf in that high school, but Pedro seems to exude more self-confidence than Napoleon throughout the movie.

Pedro even has the courage to run for school president. Napoleon uses his skills to help Pedro for the school election. Later when Pedro runs for school president, Napoleon tells a kid who is being bullied, “Pedro offers you his protection.” When one of the school bullies tries to take that kid’s bike, Pedro’s cousins, listed as Cholo #1 and Cholo #2 in the final movie credits, show up in their low rider that says, “Vote 4 Pedro” on the door, and they gesture to the bully to stop. The bully runs away without the bike. Of course, Pedro’s cousins look like the stereotypical gangbangers from East L.A. who would beat up the bully if necessary. The two cholos merely shake their head and the bully gets scared and runs away. The movie purposely plays into these Mexican stereotypes.

When Pedro makes a piñata of Summer Wheatly and the students break it, the principal calls Pedro into his office “Look, Pedro. I don’t know how you people do things down in Juarez … Smashing in the face of a piñata that resembles Summer Wheatly is a disgrace to you, and me, and the entire Gem State.” But Pedro doesn’t understand why not since they do it in Mexico all the time. Pedro and his family represent the foreign element in the otherwise homogenized American society of Idaho. Pedro really stands out at the high school as being an outsider because he hasn’t assimilated yet.

In the end, there is a school assembly for the presidential candidates Summer Wheatly and Pedro Sánchez to address the school. In Summer’s campaign speech, she promises two new pop machines in the cafeteria, new cheerleader uniforms, among other things, and then asks, “Who wants to eat chimney-changas next year? Not me! With me, it would summer all year long. Vote for Summer.” Of course, Summer, too, uses the Mexican stereotype for the purpose of fear mongering. For his speech, Pedro promises, “I think it would be good to have some holy Santos brought to the high school to guard the hallway and to bring us good luck. El Santo Niño de Atoche, is a good one. … If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true.” Pedro doesn’t change his speech despite the fact that Summer Wheatly made Pedro look like an undesirable foreigner.

In the end, Pedro wins the election and becomes school president with the help of Napoleon’s skit. Well, the students accept Pedro and Napoleon for being themselves. Pedro’s family celebrates by having a picnic for Pedro. Of course, there’s a cake with red, white, and green stripes that says, “Presidente Pedro! Felicidades!”

I think this movie illustrates how people have accepted Mexicans without realizing it. Until the immigrant marches last year, Mexicans were largely invisible. No one saw them as individuals doing landscaping, housekeeping, working in factories, among other jobs. And they seemed to accept Mexicans exactly for who they were. Whether America admits it or not, a lot of people are voting for Pedro.

Vote for Pedro and Napoleon!

My father and I

David Diego and José Diego Rodríguez

One day, I realized that I had become my father and had married my mother. Not literally, of course. Once, when I was at the show with my sons, I fell asleep during the movie. My oldest son woke me up, but I told him that I wasn’t sleeping. So he asked, “Then what was the movie about?” And I didn’t know. So he updated me on the movie.

But I had to ask myself, “What was this movie REALLY about?” Well, the truth is that I realized that I had become my father, who used to take us to the show and then fall asleep. The poor man worked the night shift, slept a few hours, and then would take us out to the movies on Saturdays without our mother. I have now become my father when I take my sons to the show, and fall asleep at the show. But we all enjoy going to the show together! I was happy to go the show with my father even if he did fall asleep. Otherwise, I would have missed a lot of good movies. My sons are happy going to the show, too, and they never complain if I fall asleep.

As a child, my father always took us to the circus every year. When I had children, I began taking my sons to the circus. The last few years, I have been going to the circus with my sons and my father, who is now 81 years old. On the last trip to the circus with my father, I told my sons, “See how I take my father to the circus? When I get that old, I want you to take me to the circus with your children!”

Well, it turns out that I did, indeed, become my father and marry my mother. But then I divorced her, just as my father did. Like father, like son. The candy doesn’t fall far from the piñata!

Have I really become my father? ¡No me digas!