My Old Indita

Toña spooks me now and then in the middle of the night. It’s almost as if she is here. Like she never died. Like all that nonsense she told me would happen. The way she knew I would fall for it, and all the tricks she loved playing on my mind.

It’s been, uff, more years than I can remember…that last time I saw her before she passed on with her trenzas she pretended hid her secret stashes of treasure. The ones she would say kept her hair from dragging behind her on the floor.  You know, her hair she swore – y te lo juraba con palabra de Dios – had never in her entire life felt the sharpness of scissors.

And now she comes to bug me in the middle of the night knowing how that frightens me, even when I say I don’t believe in it. She likes that her stroke on my left arm can get me to praying 40, that’s right, 40 Hail Mary’s.

Pero you wouldn’t even believe me if I tell you I don’t even believe so much in the Santisima Virgen Guadalupana. I pray those 40 Hail Mary’s because my instincts tell me to respect the old Indita. Uh, the dead old Indita.

I don’t call her it in a callous way. She is dead. And old, well, that’s what she called herself. “¡Ay!, esta indita tuya. Esta india vieja.”  If she called herself that, well then, it was okay by her book. Toña didn’t seem to mind.

Her relationship to me is still mysterious. But somehow, she’s related. And somewhere along the line, she became so close to my mother’s side of the family that she became a part of them. That is how Toña the old indita ended up being my abuelita.

Her presence shaped my world. She became my never-ending book with stories I had never heard of. A breathing novel and a dancing radio of Mexican corridos. Dancing to whatever songs we requested.  Sometimes La Cucaracha, sometimes La Del Moño Colora’o.

In turn, I became her annoying know it all who asked way too many. She was a chatterbox. But I was more so a preguntona.

“But why do I have to pray so much?” I asked her once.

“¡Aiii! niña malinche. It is to prepare you for the other side. You have to be prepared.”

Maybe I didn’t understand what she was speaking of. How could I actually know what she meant, when religion was anything but a part of our family traditions?  All I knew was the other side was a scary place I wanted to be prepared for.

By morning, I was chirping ‘el gallo’ into her ear, hungry for her atole de arroz. By night she was grinding a billion prayers into my head. I could fall asleep when I couldn’t help myself any longer. But before long, there she was nudging my left arm to finish praying my 40 Hail Mary’s.

And off I went with the Santa Maria’s until it became a tongue twister I mumbled through. Possibly, I would be rewarded with a cuento once we were done with all that praying. You know, those cuentos that make a kid get soothed back to sleep. That is how I came to be a superstitious nut.

There was La Llorona, El Cucuy del Sur, Las Lechusas, and La Mano Pachona, amongst her collection of legends. You know, those myths which contradict all that praying we might’a just finished repeating over and over. Prayers to the santitos y luego leyendas de los cucuys.

She’d tell me there would never be a time when she would actually stop checking up on me. And I believed her. I believe all that even now when I am old enough to know it is almost impossible for her to come back from the dead.

But,chinelas, I don’t know. Everything I know I don’t believe gets mixed up with promises she made. And because of my superstitious side, I know that stroke on my left arm is from her. My old Indita is preparing me for something.

Maybe that other side she is in requires a ticket of prayers.

Maybe it is just my imagination.

But let’s not take a risk. If Toña is to be my never-ending book, there has to be more to death than I want to let myself imagine. There has to be an end to my old indita’s praying.

Name That Brings Back a Memory: Timbiriche

Timbiriche is the name of a popular 80’s Mexican pop group with the likes of Paulina Rubio, Eduardo Capetillo, Sasha Sokol, and Thalia having been members of it.  Their music still has a great influence on mainstream pop culture.

They remind me of being a kid, visiting Tia Chuy and ‘buelita Linda in Reynosa.  Of the coca-cola bottles fresh outta the ice box and dulces I could buy for a peso from the tiendita near tia’s house.

More specifically, Timbiriche reminds me of my flower girl days and of mi primo Pilarin, a teenage noviero with the hugest celeb crush on Thalia.

Timbiriche reminds of one particular flower girl dress my mother had to put away.  Of being 7 years old and taking a cruise down the streets of Reynosa, being coerced by a handsome primo to sing ‘Si no es Ahora’ as we pretended to be running mandados with the extra time it took us to get back home.  Of his secret novias I could tell nobody about.  Of the Gansitos he bribed me with so I could ask tía to let him take me de paseo, when all it was really for was to visit a new girl he wanted to pay a visit to.

The Quinceañera song reminds me of his silent goodbyes.  Of the news nobody expected as we prepared for his sister’s wedding.  Timbiriche reminds me of those days before his mother’s forever grief.

I can picture her still, sitting in her rocking chair in the wee morning hours as she prepared last minute details for her eldest daughter’s wedding.  I can hear her impatience, knowing something was wrong when her son wouldn’t come home as the morning hours passed. I wasn’t there but I can hear her shrieks when police walked up to her as she sat in that rocking chair, telling her of her only son’s death in a freak car accident.

Timbiriche reminds me of that morning when we learned that instead of a wedding, we should dress for a funeral.

Cuentos Wela Told Me: That Scared the Beeswax Out of Me!

theworldis youroyster.

Author: Priscilla Celina Suarez
Cover Image: Chusy Ocala

Purchase a copy of my new ebook by clicking here!

Have you experienced an eerie chill crawl your skin and give you goosebumps for no apparent reason? Have you been haunted by an apparition you can’t explain? Has your abuelita told you stories about the legendary cucuys that have, for centuries, been a part of our valley folklore?

These stories are simply cuentos many are skeptical to believe in. Leyendas my family has shared with me.

It is up to you to decide whether to believe in these stories or not. Regardless, they are intriguing and will continue to be told for generations on end.

Read on, enjoy, and beware of the cucuys!


Tristes Recuerdos: My Primo Eddie

There is something about primos in my family that embraces all aspects of my life. They are my best friends. My worst enemies. My sidekicks and my lifelines. They have been the bad influences and have given me the greatest heartaches.

The idea is that we will grow old together and be tíos and tías to each other’s kids, our kids being each other’s primos. We want for them to experience the essence of belonging to a big Mexican family – or, Tex-Mex, in their case.

Our favorite memories seem to include one primo or another, and a tejano, corrido, or norteño song. For us, that has to include Ramon Ayala. Ramon has been there with us from since I can remember.

At Christmas, he’s there in the newspapers with his ever famous party and toy drives. At parties and bailes, he’s there with his Tragos Amargos and what not. Boots stomping a tipsy step, step. Hats waiving in the air. Voices belting out the tune – if not tipsy yet, drunk because of the song. He was there at my quinceañera with his verses coming from a band that played an imitation of his song. Not cheap, the emotions were all there. Maybe just not original.

Ramon Ayala is there all those times mis primos and I are together, enjoying what has been more than a friendship and a blood bond. My family, mis primos, they aren’t just my best friends. They’re keepers of my past and the backbone that’s there any time I’ve needed them.

Ramon Ayala, he has been there to witness everything, and to make it all more emotional. He was there the day Eddie died, with his Tragos Amargos. He was there the day we buried my primo, with his Un Rinconcito en el Cielo. Ramon was there all those days afterwards that we mourned his death and had only each other, primos and primas, dealing with the greatest loss we’d ever dealt with.

That is the roughest part of listening to Ramon Ayala when I tune in to his music while trying to get work done. The ambient is always there reminding me of my primo Eddie. Of his young life taken without giving us a chance say goodbye. Of all those signs that could’ve been read beforehand, the superstitious nuts we are. The mirror falling when he touched it a couple of days before he died in that horrible car accident. Him asking his mother what death was like just a few days before. Him trying to get us together one last time. It was always him. And it is him that I’ll always remember with the Tristes Recuerdos that Ramon sings.

I swear to you, that day we buried him, when the mariachis played Eddie’s favorite music – Ramon’s music – I swear to you that we all felt him there. Maybe kicking back his legs a little, stomping down his boots. With a step, step. A black hat flying in the air, chiflando and singing. His bootie shaking just a little.

And a vuelta here.

And a vuelta there.

Invisible Borders

Deslenguadas. Somos los del español deficiente. We are your linguistic nightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mestizaje, the subject of your burla. Because we speak with tongues of fire we are culturally crucified. Racially, culturally and linguistically somos huerfanos – we speak an orphan tongue.”  — excerpt from Borderlands, Gloria Anzaldua

I was eight years old the first time I was taught to be ashamed of my language. Growing up in a household on this side of the frontera, it wasn’t strange for my parents to choose teaching me their primary language when it was what everyone in our community spoke. Sometimes a bit of English, but with our raza, it was either Spanish or Spanglish.

My parents were (are) pochos and grew up in America as migrant farmworkers, traveling the nation every year for work opportunities and witnessing firsthand discrimination towards their language and skin color. But it wasn’t only from those unlike them that they experienced the burlas. What was worse was that it would be from mejicanos like them that didn’t have to live their childhood working in the labores or go to school in the migrant portable rooms, where they were labeled as outcasts of the regular school system. Mejicanos like them that didn’t have papeles and spoke with an accent in their everyday lives. Eating the same type of meals but yet, felt superior because they didn’t have to come to school smelling like cebolla and prietos from the valley sun.

I remember listening to my mother and brother speak in English, with no idea as to what they were saying. I was curious, for sure. I’ve asked my parents why they chose to speak only Spanish in our household when we were kids, and they insist it is because they knew the opportunity had to be seized- you see, they knew that eventually, our way of being would become Americanized.

Moving school districts from PSJA to McAllen was a major shock to my younger brother, Luis, and me. Moving from a school where all other children were Spanish speakers like me, to a school where ESL students were placed in a portable that separated them from the ‘regular’ students. There were about 7 other kids in my particular grade level, our connection instant because we were unlike the others. We were children and naive, but we understood why we couldn’t be with the other kids. Our lunches, library visits and PE classes always consisted of us being in the corner.

That is my memory.

It took me less than six months to assimilate with the English language and move into a ‘regular’ classroom. After that experience, I decided to speak only in English when in school and around my friends. Peer pressure to fit in, I suppose. But I still had the environment of our frontera culture to let me fit in with my relatives on the other side, in Reynosa.

Times have changed. It’s been almost five years since the last time I crossed the frontera, and what saddens me most is realizing my nieces and nephews will never know the frontera as I do. Their world only consists of este la’o and they have never met or visited la familia in Mexico.

Not because of a physical border, but that invisible border called fear.

My Crazy Familia

One of the projects on my list is uploading all the details I’ve discovered de mi familia and sharing it with my relatives online. As you’ll notice, I have a link under the ‘Projects’ tab dedicated to my family – it’s a work in progress, but eventually, I hope to have a page full of family stories, picture albums, family newsletters, genealogy trees, and DNA tests.

I ❤ discovering new details about my family. I ❤ the chismes that keep us on our toes. I especially ❤ that my parents have allowed me to do Ancestry DNA tests on them to discover more of our ancestral traces! And I’m sooooo excited to share the deets with my relatives!

But, as I said…WORK IN PROGRESS!

Familia De La Garza.