As I’ve proudly stated on more than one occasion, I’m Mexican. I love being Mexican. I love our culture. I love our food. I love our community. I love being Mexican. There’s even something to love in the putazos.
If you’re not familiar with the word ‘putazo’, it’s a Spanish word for ‘gut punch’. Punches are not great. The emotional ones, well, they’re not great either but at least they make for good life lessons and stories.
Two of my closest friends in the world are also Mexican and grew up the same way I did: getting roasted by our families. It is very hard to hurt our feelings, something that we wear as a badge of honor. You think I’m scared of a Karen? My family eats Karens for breakfast and then regurgitates them in the form of putazos.
These putazos come as a surprise and at warp speed, like a bee sting or a drunken blackout, only sometimes those things are better. It’d been a while since I had a good putazo, so I should’ve known I was due.
Last week, my best friend, Ileen, came down for a benefit being hosted for her aunt who I hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years. She suffers from diabetes but because she hasn’t really taken care of it the nerves in her legs are shot. Her insurance doesn’t cover most of the treatments so Ileen’s mom held a benefit to raise as much money as she could to help pay for it.
The benefit included enchilada plates and Loteria (Mexican bingo) so you know I was down. We arrived at Ileen’s mom’s house before her aunt did so we helped get everything set up, making ourselves useful. Not too long after her aunt arrived so we met her outside to greet her.
I hardly recognized her mainly because it had been so long since the last time I’d seen her but also because her diabetes had really taken over her body. I wasn’t even sure she’d remember me so I was surprised when Ileen sort of reintroduced us and her aunt said: “aww, yes Mija, I remember you”.
Heartwarming, especially when I paint the scene: she was being helped out of the car by two other relatives because she could hardly stand on her own. One leg was bigger than the other and you could tell she was in pain.
She gave me a hug, a quick one so as to not lose her balance. She touched my face with her soft aunt-like hands. And it was just a wonderful reunion. “Of course, I remember you, Mija”.
She held my face in her hands.
“You and Ileen were a lot skinnier back then but I remember you”.
I stood there, a smile on my face. My brain frozen. The side effects of a good putazo.
The smile remained on her face as the two relatives carried her inside the house. I turned to look at Ileen and found her in the same state I was in.
“Did she…?” I said.
“The irony isn’t lost on me”, she replied.
Ileen and I ate 2 enchilada plates that night, mainly to eat our feelings, but mostly because her aunt could not – so that was our putazo back.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and with my family coming into town, I’m sure there’s a putazo with my name on it arriving with them.
But I’ll still have fun.
May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends, and loving putazos.