Many Mexican husbands and wives know this is an unsaid rule. If the rule is broken, the woman will forget the unsaid part and make it clear. You don’t feed another woman’s man. You just don’t.
For those who have not experienced life outside the city, fields that go on for miles growing this or that destined to land on a dinner plate is as foreign to them as men wearing skinny jeans is to me. The dusty concrete trench at the edge of this field will soon be filled with irrigation water. My father would insert curved aluminum tubes in to the ditch. The shape of the tube and quick back and forth get the water flowing from the ditch into the rows of the thirsty earth.
Aside from their primary duty, the ditches served as a wonderland to me. I would walk barefoot in the ditch searching for polliwogs. With a giant empty pickle jar in one hand, I would think about where I could hide the soon to be frogs so my
mom wouldn’t make me dump them out. No matter how hard I
tried, I could not convince her that the polliwogs were harmless. She was anti-polliwogs. This new batch of tadpoles had nothing to do with my little brother trying to drink the last group of swimmers. He never
got warts so I never understood why the grudge lasted so long. It’s possible that he now had an acquired taste being as he had previously eaten one before. What happened to forgive and forget?
My dad spent long days in the fields doing whatever needed to be done. Even though he was going to work in the field, my mother would always make sure he had ironed clothes to wear. We had all heard ladies comment on men with wrinkled clothes, “It looks like he doesn’t have a wife” they’d whisper, sometimes loudly. They had even more to say if a man showed up with a sandwich. What kind of wife would make her husband just a sandwich? My dad had a wife alright. Pity on the woman who dared comment on his status or criticize the ironing skills of my mother, indirectly or not. We didn’t buy sandwich bread so no chance of my father ever running the risk of passing through that awful shame.
There is a fierceness in all women, this is especially true in Mexicans. You don’t throw indirectas out and not expect a fight. I once worked with a young man who wasn’t privy to the ailments that Mexican women must learn to live with. The most common, the Taco Syndrome. This young man, who we will call Tom, was a supervisor in a plant that employed mostly Mexicans, me included. He enjoyed the wonderful cooking of the group known as the ladies. The ladies cooked as wonderfully as they worked. Tom would fill his plate and contemplate what life might be like if he had his own lady. One day at the weekly feast, Tom sat next to the gentleman we will call Tomas. He and Tomas talked and enjoyed the delicious food of the ladies.
After, Tomas stood up and went to the rack where employees stored their lunch bags. It was near the end of the shift. Tomas walked over to the trash and emptied the contents of his lunch bag save some cookies neatly wrapped in a napkin. His wife put them in there because she knew how much he loved them. Tom was surprised at the waste of a good lunch–Tom knew firsthand it was good, Tomas had often shared some of his lunch with the wifeless young man. When Tomas came back to the bench, Tom told him, “Dude, I would have taken those tacos off your hands. I could have eaten them for dinner. You could have just taken them home and eaten them for dinner” Tomas said, “Are you crazy? I can’t go home with a full lunch box. My wife checks my lonchera every night when I get home.” “So?” replied Tom, still not understanding the problem. “So, guey, I want to sleep tonight. If I go home and my wife sees I didn’t eat any of my lunch she will go on all night.” “Oh”, said Tom, “she puts alot of work into making your lunch and you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Just tell her you forgot we were having a potluck.”
Maria jumped in the conversation, she had witnessed the whole thing. She knew Tomas’ wife and told them both he was lucky he threw the lunch away. “You don’t feed another woman’s man tacos. You might as well be sleeping with him. It starts with the lunch and then the desgraciadas use that to move in little by little,” said Maria. The other ladies nodded in agreement. They understood and even though they knew the potluck was neutral territory, they didn’t want to torture Tomas with the hours of unrelenting questions that would start, “who’s tacos are you eating?” “The only thing worse,” the ladies said, “is some cualquiera tirando indirectas sobre la ropa arrugado de tu viejo”— which roughly translates to “..one of those ladies making indirect comments about your husband wearing wrinkled clothes.”
Tom thought they were joking. As he got up to return back to work, he saw Joaquin and Jr. tossing their wonderful lunches. Joaquin even went as far as putting some of the beans on his spoon to make it look legit before putting the empty dishes back into the insulated sacred box of amor– his lunch pail.
The Taco Syndrome and all other content found at 4utu.wordpress.com and material accessed by links to original work, is copyrighted. Original writing, photography, and artwork by Estela Caballero unless otherwise stated. Featuring several pieces of artwork by Vanessa Caballero, Michael Caballero and Gustavo Caballero.