The next day, as I thought about that dream, I realized it was un sueño so powerful I could still smell centuries of smoke, campfires, and ancient times emanating from their cuerpos. Just months later, their prophetic mensaje came true. I was hired to work in New York City as a television reporter and anchor.
When I was a child, my abuelita Toribia would take me to lunch in downtown San Antonio at a restaurant where we ate chalupas; a dish with a flotilla of sliced tomatoes, a froth of shredded lettuce, and curly-cues of shaved queso that inspired the name of the book I was to later write, The Chalupa Rules. The restaurant is called Mexican Manhattan.
I guess my grandmother and those two enchanted Indios knew I was destined to be a Mexican in Manhattan.
For 14 años, I called on my Mexican/Tejano/Chicano cultural awareness and sensibilities to report on, cope with, and survive such Capital Letter events as: The World Trade Center Attacks, The Anthrax Scare, y La Muerte de Celia Cruz.
ccheechmarinjoséfeliciano are among the people I have interviewed.
Now I divide my time between San Antonio and Manhattan, while staying true to my cultura (my New York apartment looks like a Mariachi threw up in it) and to the proper, accepted, and inarguably true superstitions that muchos Mexicanos hold dear to our corazones.
Ejemplo: In Manhattan, every resident owns at least one dog, so I always spit on the ground every time I see a dog pee on the street. Every scientist knows you will get a sty in your eye (perría) if you don’t take that necessary precaution.
If I see a thunderstorm threatening, I get a knife from my kitchen and, with that cuchillo, slash at the sky in wide, sweeping, stabbing motions. Everyone knows that’s how you make a thunderstorm go away.
If I admire someone’s clothing, purse, or body part (face, hands, etc.) I do the right Latino thing and reach out and touch whatever item I like to avoid giving that person mal de ojo.
So, if you are ever in New York City and see a sidewalk-spitting, sky-slashing, shirt-grabbing Mexican, that’s me.
Along the way, I put the television microphone down and picked up a pen to write a book called The Chalupa Rules: A Latino Guide to Gringolandia, a collection of traditional dichos, hand-crafted rules-of-life, and images from the Mexican bingo game called Lotería or Chalupa.
Now, with this column, I continue to observe el mundo with the perspective of a Mexican-American who lives in San Antonio and Manhattan (or as the increasing Mexican presence sometimes calls it, Manhatitlán.
Every column includes a Chalupa Rule, something you can take away and think about the rest of the day. My sign-off? Pues, that is what my older relatives used when writing letters to each other. They always ended their correspondence with Sin más, which basically means “Without anything more to say.”
So I’ll see you next time and we’ll explore life’s misterios, such as:
Why do Latino men love old, beat-up pickup trucks?
How should we answer when someone says, “You don’t loooooook Latino?”
And, why am I afraid of biscuits?
San Antonio. Manhattan. See you somewhere in between.
Keep the spitting, knives, and touching to a minimum;
unless they are part of an important Latino superstition.
No escupa, cuchille, o atoque mucho; a menos
que sea parte de superstición Latina importante.
Look for Mexican in Manhattan every other week in the San Antonio Current.