Thursday, March 17, 2011

Salsa Picante

How long is too long to remember?  And when is it time to let the hour glass count no more?

These two related questions drawn from a conversation with a friend dominated my thinking today.  To answer I got to remembering.  And strayed too far off.  Again.

I like salsa picante.  And for this reason I spent many years eating on the far east side of Portland in almost-authentic taquerias stuffing down flautas, burritos, and plates of Carne Tampiqueña smothered in Tamazula Salsa Picante or or my favorite Tapatio Hot Sauce with a side of fiery jalapeños.

My Favorite Salsa Picante
I am such a salsa picante devotee that I caught the express train to Tijuana (Mexico) from San Diego where I was visiting almost everyday for a week just to eat at a smokin' family eatery where the owner thought he remembered meeting me in Guadalajara (the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco).

"Was it not you and a young gringo woman in 2006 or maybe later?" he asked.

"Ummmm no," I said but started shaking my head in vigorous agreement soon after he introduced me to his beautiful daughter and my focus changed.

"This is my daughter Marisol.  She is studying to be a lawyer like you.  You are a lawyer, no?  Maybe you can tell her what it is like to be a lawyer in the United States and in your country.  Are you sure you from South Africa?"

"Si señor I am from South Africa but it is a long story.  My ancestors were out late one night and they really should not have been and the next thing you know the white eye snapped 'em up and bam! we ended up in Africa chained to identities like Cape Malays and Indians and coloureds all at the same time."

"We have Indians in Mexico.  They are the original descendants of the Aztecs and Mayans.  They look a little like you but different than you too," he said.

"Yeah I know.  See that time when you saw me in Guadalajara I was making my way to the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán. I met a man and his wife in Mérida who said they were Indian of the Mayan kind and he told me I looked like his nephew.  We spent a day together before I traveled to the ruins in Tulum."

"You and the young gringo woman?  What happened to that woman?  She run from you?" he asked with a wry smile.

"I don't remember," I answered looking down at my plate.

Señorita Marisol remained tucked behind her father most days I visited and we never really got to talking about lawyering and my thinking that I could live in Tijuana if she wanted and would even learn Spanish beyond "muy bonita" (very beautiful) to go with my Los Lobos goatee and shades.

But I digress.  Lo siento  (I'm sorry).  But for a good reason though I can't quite remember it all because memory is always selective and fragmented.

Largely for this reason the meaning we attach to memory is an interpretation (sometimes an embellishment) and, consequently, we cultivate memory(s) to tell stories about ourselves and the world that surrounds us as we search for meaning(s).

In these terms memory (including collective memory) is about establishing an identity and interpreting it through the hourglass of time.  Memory, then, is never just a coherent collection of things that happened.  It is always in flux.

The Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Márquez reminds us that memory is also a politics of resistance and struggle against casual acts of forgetting or the greater injustice of being forced to forget.

Today when you asked me to remember for you to free you from three decades of bondage I thought it signaled your defeat.

Don't despair though because there is still time to recover and even to rediscover you.

So, you start working on your resistance, your recovery, and your identity while I try to remember whether Señorita Marisol recommended chilaquiles or quesadillas for breakfast.

I think for lunch she said for me to try the enchiladas verdes or was it chimichangas?

Adiós and Onward!

Picture Credit


Anonymous said...

Who cares whats on the menu? As long as choices on the Menu cause indigestion, it needs to be addressed
Process via elimination iro.relevant criteria and "bucket" classification.Mixes are not an 'OOPs" moment, but rather a "I"ll put my ass on the kine moment. I'm proudly colored even though I more often get mistaken for being Indian by Indians. WTF??? ARIES

Ridwan said...

Anonymous I think we gonna need a translation of your comment.

Thanks nonetheless for dropping words.



Anonymous said...

I guess many are kept in time warps sometime in their lives. Still a struggle but does not necessarily signify a defeat. Interesting analogy though. Food for thought...P

Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment anonymous.

Can't quite take credit for thinking through an analogy (at least not about food and memory).

The post is real in its intent but the pulling together of thinking is a free write, or is that free right?

I do, however, think that not remembering for yourself (even in a collective sense) is dangerous and signals a larger defeat.

There is also a difference between memory, remembering, and being caught in the past.

Like I said memory is not merely a collection of things that happened.

It is also interpreting things. Bringing new meaning. Learning, etc.

But just living in the past and being caught there for me is a defeat (and a destructive one at that).


pserean said...


I have a half written blog post sitting on my cyber shelf waiting to be finished- for the past few months....on memory and actual occurrences.
now there's no need to bother with it, after reading your post ;)
this made me really did. when i wasn't trying to pronounce the foods.

Anyways...kudos to you for remembering her name.
Freud says we remember what we want to remember, and forget what we want to forget.

Ridwan said...

SLM pserean:

I am so sorry for the late reply. I have been without internet access since last Thursday.

I spent my weekend writing by hand! And in pencil too!! :)

Thank you ever so kindly for your words about this post.

I would luv to read your "half written" post on memory.

In my academic life I spend a lot of time thinking about remembering ... and how we remember and for what reasons.

The trouble sometimes is that the present only becomes relevant when it is the past.

And then life has moved by so quickly.

I must remember (invoke memory) to live in the present ... now there is a whole reverse thinking and even maybe an article there.

Yeah I remember her name (means sunflower in English ;)

I wish Freud was completely right hey. There are a few things (and people) I'd like to forget ...

Please remember to finish your post on memory :0)

Peace to you,

pserean said...


Hope you don't mind, I linked a post to your site.
Pencil's good for erasing :)


Ridwan said...

SLM pserean:

I absolutely do not mind.