From "Goatish On America"
One of our famous family anecdotes that always comes out on holidays or visits to restaurants with goat meat, was the time my brother "made eyes" at Cladita.
Clara was the youngest of the eight girls and was always very tender and impressionable. Even now we call her Cladita, as she called herself before she could pronounce Clarita. By the time she was four or five, she was always crying for dead animals in the streets, and having her tender sensibilities victimized by my three brothers. She never learned to watch horror movies, even to this day, and now her children tease her the way we used to.
One Sunday at La Enramada, Cladita got a seat that forced her to look right at the pans of red-dripping bones and the staring, diabolic goat skulls on top of the piles. She got very upset and couldn't order anything to eat. Finally my brother Juan Jose volunteered to get her something else from the little fonda next door. I saw Juanjo stuff some radishes in his pocket as he left, but my only thoughts were on eating without getting my Sunday dress messy and maybe wondering why Juanjo would be nice to Cladita for a change. He was a typical ten year old brother, maybe a little worse.
He came back to the table carrying a plate covered with a copper pan. With a gentlemanly gesture he slid the plate in front of Cladita and whisked away the cover. When she jumped up screaming we all looked to see what Juanjo had done. He'd cut the ends off the radishes, leaving slick red balls with big white spots, then stuck the radishes in the eye sockets of the most evil-looking of the wet, red goat skulls and put in on her plate. When he lifted the copper cover, she was served with the delight of a lurid, pop-eyed vision from hell staring right back at her.
Naturally she became completely discomposed by the sight of the goat head, and started dancing up and down, shrieking. And I'm afraid the rest of us made it worse because the skull looked so comical with its cross-eyed stare. We all laughed until we were crying, especially when one of the "eyes" fell out and rolled off the table toward Clara and her collapse became complete. When Omar picked the "eye" up, toasted Cladita with it and took a big bite we were laughing so hard the red sauce was running out of our mouths and down our chins. Clara must have thought her family had suddenly turned into Satanist vampires because she ran out into the street crying for help. Even though we were all punished for torturing her so, she still reacts very ungraciously if anyone waves a pair of radishes at her, generally calling us all a pile of cabrones.
From "Faith, Aphrodisiacs, and Freeze-Dried Blood"
Maybe this is the famous Latin tendency towards "magical realism". Having the disadvantage of being an actual Latina, rather than a New York literary critic, I'm not really sure what "magical realism" actually is. It seems to be a sort of infection which causes otherwise normal books suddenly to develop characters who are surrounded by butterflies. But the point of all these potions and lucky charms is the engineering of belief. Since belief is the strongest power in the world, the technology is potent, if shadowy and poorly-understood. What is important to the normal believer is to believe in something that works.
And so we come again to the important and tiresome matter of proofs and facts, supposedly the very things that differentiate the sheep from the goats, the light from the darkness. Everybody wants faith in things unseen, but also everybody wants to see for themselves. How wide is the circle of light, how broad the umbrella of faith? Who among us understands even the simplest miracle?
As a Catholic, I believe that if a certain man says certain words he can convert ordinary wine and bread into the actual, literal blood and flesh of a man who died twenty centuries ago but it's certainly nothing I would try to prove to anyone. It is one of the oldest and most widely held beliefs in the world: scientifically ridiculous. So should I laugh at the superstitions of the ignorant? Or condemn them as inferior competitors of the true faith? Or sympathize with the odd perversions and contaminations we render to the spirit when we try to apply it to the weakness of the flesh?
Life, health and sanity are all circles of light surrounded by endless darkness. Perhaps it is in the twilight between the two that the nature of both become more clear to us. If we're going to have faith, we might as well have blind faith: if we're going to be realists, we might as well be a magical realists.
From: “For Love Nor Money”
My life in Vallarta was sweet and successful from the day I arrived. It's a pretty little whore of a town, with a slightly corrupt whiff of tropical mystique. Unlike Mazatlan or Acapulco, Vallarta is an Elizabeth Taylor kind of place, a place people go to look for a certain kind of experience. The kind of experience I was learning how to become. Sitting on the beach under the palapas sipping rum from a coconut and listening to jumpy music on "Radio Paradise", I could look up at wealthy homes, flashy colored flowers and birds, slim beautiful natives. A paradise where even money was as available as the ripe mangos on the trees. I applied myself to learning how to harvest that particular fruit.
This matter of money is, obviously, a quite delicate part of such a business. Most women have a need to nurture the illusion that there is romance, that they are giving gifts rather than merely paying for services rendered. And cash is the least romantic of gifts. On the other hand, a man needs only so much of clothes, jewelry, and sexy curios--what is requried is rent, your own car, your own retirement fund. The real difference between a professional like myself and the muscular beach boys that last only a few seasons is the ability to extract liquid assets. The odd thing is, the women don't really object to this, are only too glad to part with their money—the problem is inventing a scenario that will allow their social upbringing and feminine ego to do what they want to do in the first place. But now that I mention it, isn't that always the problem with a woman? And those who solve the problem find that the same techniques work equally well with all women.
From: “Flowers In The Dust”
The fence had been cut very straight and hooked on nails on the south side of the pole so the cuts could not be seen from the other side. Javi motioned us out of the taxi and through the opening in the fence. The driver was closing it behind us. Javi told us, very casually, to just walk behind him and keep quiet. But if he said, "Drop," we were to fall flat on the ground and if he said, "Back," we should run back to the fence and the taxista would be waiting to open it for us. But there was no need. We walked across the weeds like strolling through a park. And just when we reached a highway a van pulled over, Javi opened the door and we jumped in and drove off. Javi smiled at me and said, "See? You could have worn your high heels." I realized that we were in the United States, that I was an outlaw.
At the Vons store in Bonita where I was to meet my new patrones, Javi got out with me and walked me over to a parked car, a huge blue Cadillac. The people in the car looked like good people to me, a middle-aged couple that you could tell had been married a long time by the way they sat. As we walked up, Javi told me it was my last chance to save three hundred dollars and have the thrill of my life. I glanced at him and shook my head, but I smiled. He wasn't a bad type, really. He smiled back and said, "Come look for me when you grow up. When you return." Actually, I found him very attractive. He must be one of the very best polleros and we were very lucky to have found him.
He took money from the man in the car, counted it, then told me, "Get in, go with them. They just bought you for a month, a year, who knows how long. For what I'd have given you for a single night." I told him he wasn't a very good businessman after all. He laughed and walked back to the van and drove away. I got in the back seat of the Cadillac and the lady turned around and smiled at me. She said, "Bienvenido," then she kept on talking to me, but I couldn't understand her. I felt like I'd jumped off a bridge and was washing down the river. It was two weeks before Christmas. I had just turned sixteen.