I know Cinco de Mayo isn’t until Monday, but I have a feeling that some folks out there want to get the party started over the weekend. Rigoberto Gonzalez has offered up a recipe for Michelada Mexicana, his favorite drink for the holiday. (He is so over the margarita.) But before the recipe, here’s a story about his family and the way they have made a language of their own.
by Rigoberto Gonzales:
Mexicans prefer the version that says “michelada” is an abbreviation of the phrase “mi chela helada” (my cold beer). One, because “chela” is Mexican slang for “beer” and two, because it celebrates a linguistic curiosity of Mexican Spanish—word coinage.
In this case, a double-coinage: “chela” comes from the proper word for beer, “cerveza,” which is then used to coin the second term, “michelada.”
In my memoir, Butterfly Boy, I tapped into how my own family invented words that developed from a series of associations. “Inflarse,” for example, means “to inflate onself,” but is used to describe a person who gets angry. How do members of the González family get angry: we inflate like toads. To say that someone got angry, you simply point with your chin and say, “Se infló.”
As if it needs to be said.
We are a family of big people, so the image really works on multiple levels.
In a González family dinner, if you want someone to take something from the table, like the last tortilla or the final slice of pizza, you simply say, “Mariátela.” The word, still in use today, can be traced to a moment twenty years ago when our little cousin Mario, without asking, took the last piece of bread, entitled because he had always been considered the greediest glutton of the bunch. And if you look in the refrigerator and can’t find the left-overs you saved for a late-night snack, you can call out in outrage, “¿Quién se la marió.” (Who ate it?)
And then you inflate.
Sometimes the family lore of the genesis of invention is more intimate and a term can be coined and used between two people. My brother Alex and I have many of these. One is “Turrutút.” As in, “What’s up, Turrutút? What are you up to?” It’s a term of endearment coined after we made fun of our father, who asked us one day how one would say in English “en mi reloj son dos para las dos también” (it is two minutes to two o’clock on my watch as well). We told him our correct English grammar translation, but my father insisted: wouldn’t it be, “two to two too.”
My brother and I rolled our eyes and, fifteen years later, we’re calling ourselves “Turrutút,” in order to remember our now-deceased father, and the sacred moment when the word first entered our world.
In turn, to honor the beauty of my beloved Mexican Spanish, I’d like to offer a michelada recipe, which, you will notice, is very close to the bloody mary, except that we use beer instead of vodka. It’s not a hangover cure, however, nor a brunch drink. And the rule is, drink it outside, not inside.