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A little music, food and prayer

I don’t have a drop of Spanish or Mexican blood in me, but every year I practically squirm with glee when Cinco de Mayo rolls around. The music, the colors, the food. And the excuse to experience them all at once.

I must confess that my forays into Spanish and Mexican culture and arts are far from broad—mostly peripheral and eclectic at best—but over the years I’ve appreciated and enjoyed what I have encountered. I grew up in Arizona, where Mexican culture and food were a regular part of Phoenix life. Then I had a prof in college who spent I-don’t-how-many decades as a missionary in Spanish-speaking countries (and who used to roll his Rs everytime he said my name) who instilled in me the love of Latin American literature. After that, it didn’t take long to discover that I also loved a wide segment of Spanish and Latin American music. Later (and perhaps most significantly), when I was an editor for a denominational magazine, I spent about a week on the Texas-Mexico border touring, visiting and eating with and listening to the stories of immigrants and residents on both sides of the border, who opened up an entire new world to me.

So, when Cinco de Mayo rolls around, it just gives me an excuse to break out my favorite things with a Spanish flavor—and over the last few days I’ve been doing just that. Joan Baez’s Gracias a la Vida, a collection of mostly traditional Mexican ballads, has gotten more than its share of play time. And then there’s Spanish guitar music—like David Russell’s Music of Barrios. And there are the Gypsy Kings, of whom I own several CDs (one of which played most of this afternoon in my player). As to the food, if I wasn’t trying to lose a few pounds we’d be at one of the many Mexican food establishments in the D.C. Metro area tonight. Not that there aren’t some good foods that won’t add the pounds—like tortilla soup, fresh salsa (of which we just consumed two containers this weekend) and this yummy chicken taco dish with enchilada sauce I picked up from an old friend of ours. Add a pitcher of sangria and, well, yum. If it wasn’t a school night, we might have sought out a Cinco de Mayo celebration, but alas it is. So tonight, I’m hoping to instead break out one of my favorite films, Tortilla Soup (an American version of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman), which leaves my foot taping, my mouth watering and my heart believing again that love finds a way. Then maybe tomorrow I’ll pull out my worn-out, dog-eared and underlined copies of Stones for Ibarra or Like Water for Chocolate and read a few chapters.

But on this day, I can’t help but think of the men, women and children I met in those border towns in Texas and Mexico. They are living a toe-to-toe battle with poverty while longing for and doing what they can to make a better life for themselves and their children. As we in the U.S. struggle to work out immigration policies, it is easy to focus on the laws and economics, but then we lose sight of what’s at stake: real, individual people. And days like today call them to my mind and prayers again.

Again, my forays into Mexican life, culture and arts are limited, but I’ve loved and been moved by much of what I’ve discovered so far. And I’m glad for the excuse to immerse myself in it again.


And, to think the only thing I think of for May 5th is that it is my wedding anniversary! LOL Not a whole lot of Cinco de Mayo flava goin' on in this part of Michigan! LOL
Don said…
OK Carmen, I'm old enough to be your uncle but our lives seem mentally connected. As I read your post I am loading the Ipod Classic Laura gave me for Christmas, and here sits my copy of The Best of the Gypsy Kings ready to get Appled. We were eating in a Mexican Restaurant years ago and I had to ask the owner about the music that was playing. When you bring your family to see the Grand Canyon and show them where you lived in Phoenix we will get together at a Mexican Restaurant so tht Laura and I can meet your family. My current fav places are Serranos and Abeulos. This year I will remember Cinco De Mayo as the day it got hot enough here to turn on the AC in our home. Thanks for the movie and book recommend.

Don in AZ
Carmen Andres said…
holy smokes, beth, if i had your anniversary i'd have yet one more reason to cinco-de-mayo things up, heh. congratulations, btw.

don, part of the joy of the blogging innovation is running across folks who share some of the same paths in life--and age seems to make no difference, heh. my folks still live in phoenix, so we'll be getting down that way again at some point. thanks for the invite - we'd love to meet both of you - hope it works out. also, regarding the books, "stones for ibarra" is one of my all time favorite novels - start with that one!
Troy said…
I read Stones for Ibarra right after I graduated from college. I think I will pull it back out and read it again. I bet I will get a lot more out of it this time around. My wife looked over my shoulder at the Gypsy Kings CD cover and started singing some of the songs on it.
Carmen Andres said…
every time i read that book i get something more. i discovered it in one of my college lit classes, and i even gave a lecture on it once to an intro class of freshman. i can't remember for the life of me what i said, heh. but it is a moving story.