Yesterday we went up to visit Don A and Doña J and their daughter in Xico for comida, the main meal of the day, which people customarily eat sometime between 2 and 4. There was a whole bunch of guests already there sitting around two long tables that had been pushed together and covered with tablecloths and placemats. As happens here in our area more than any place I've lived since I was a kid in the Bronx, I feel the same rush of warmth I used to feel going into my grandmother's house for big family meals.
The tables were already laden with piles of tortillas and bowls of beans and bean broth and guacomole and bottles of Fresca and tequila and alcohol de caña. The men were, at the moment, clustered at one end while the women bustled in the kitchen which opened onto the dining room. Introductions all around: Three sisters of Doña J, two of their adult children, one ten year old, two husbands, and one husband's brothers. A little later, a goddaughter came with her two kids, a couple of other friends, and Doña J's and Don A's son and his novia and her mother, Doña G., whom we know pretty well. People brought more chairs, shifted seats. Everyone fit.
The meal was prepared from a recently slaughtered pig: the bean caldo being broth, big hunks of boiled meat wrapped in hoja santa, pork blood cooked into a kind of dark porridgy concoction called morunga seasoned with onions and chiles and spices, and large wavy sheets of chicharrón. Everything tasted wonderful, though I had a hard time having more than a taste of the morunga even though the taste was good. Blood sausage and blood pudding were not so rare in NYC. My mom and dad would eat it in German restaurants. But some things I'm not good at. My parents used to eat lung stew and my mom tried to get me to eat that to no avail, and tripe, here served in a soup called menudo. Still can't do it. Liver I like.
Doña J and her family originally were from the state of Guerrero. A number of years ago, one sister married a man from Xico. Later, more siblings, including Doña J and her husband, Don A who is from the state of Michoacán, followed. Some family still remains in Guerrero. Two of the brothers have worked over the years in the US, one still does and is married to a white woman (as he says) from the States and lives quite legally in a Michigan where he owns a house and some land and is a foreman. He has been in the States with a few breaks for over forty years. For eighteen of them he worked in the heat of Florida summers as well as through the winters sowing and harvesting. He has had a green card for many years, but cannot become a citizen because he cannot read English sufficiently well for the test. He is a jovial man, kind of the life of the party. He was home on a visit. We asked him how life was these days for an immigrant. He said it has gotten much worse in recent years, much more prejudice and overt hatred, many more immigrants, legal as well as illegal, picked up and thrown into privately-owned jails without cause being given. It sounded as if his life in his town was okay because he was well-established there.
When we were all at the table together, the bantering began: I don't remember what started it, but there we women were, united in praise of ourselves, our intelligence, our quickness to learn, etc. etc. The men had no defense except that they were stronger. Of course we women laughed at that. And there was some discussion over who was really the boss of the family. The men told lots of jokes, including some immigrant jokes and lots of jokes at the expense of women. We women laughed at them, too, and had some comebacks, of course. Some of the jokes were over Jim's and my head. It's often really hard to translate jokes from one language to another, and lots of Mexican jokes involve puns, making it harder. One joke was about confusion between a border guard and a hungry inmigrante, centered on an armadillo. It went past me completely. Although I did get that the word chicharron was also slang for breasts.
We talked about a lot of stuff. Of course we compared countries and experiences from driving to prices to public manners to Social Security benefits to living apart from one's family and living in a foreign country: when does it start to feel like home? At around 4:00 the television went on: Football. Soccer, that is, a World Cup game between Mexico and El Salvador. Unlike in the US, only one person went over to sit and watch it deliberately. The sound of the game wove in an out of the talk around the table.
We finally left as people drifted from the table to the kitchen, to the living room, and to go home. As usual I ate too much. I am still feeling the consequences. I think I will avoid eating much today.