Archive for October, 2006

March 2005

A Rind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

We can all be seen sneaking a pork taco at Barajas Tacos at one time or another, right? It’s been there for ten years now and for five of them Rubén Vicente Higuera has been our very own Beni Hana of pork. He’s a vision with a cleaver.

Todos Santos El Kuino

MM: Rubén, do you have a nickname?

RVH: Yes, when I was born I was really big….I weighed 4.8 kilos, and I immediately became “El Kuino.” It means baby pig.

MM: No way! How could anyone know you’d actually end up in the business of selling pork? Strange how that seems to happen around here. Did you grow up in Todos Santos?

RVH: No, I was born in Sinaloa and moved here 15 years ago. My Aunt Maria del Rosario and Uncle Hugo Díaz were living in Todos Santos. I actually sneaked across the border at 14 years old and was working in a Chinese restaurant when I was caught and deported back to Mexico.

MM: That must have been hard for you.

RVH: Yes, at first it was difficult to make friends, but I’ve worked here for 5 years and I know all of Todos Santos now.

MM: What do you like about your job?

RVH: I like everything, especially talking to the customers.

MM: What did you think you would be when you grew up?

RVH: I wanted to be a musician. I play keyboards. I play and sing romantic love songs, but only at home.

MM: Have you been able to travel anywhere or dream about going someplace special?

RVH: I’ve been to Mexico City, Ensenada, Long Beach and San Diego. I would really love to go to Las Vegas and gamble.

MM: Do you cook at home? What do you like to make?

RVH: Yes, I cook everything, especially mariscos. There’s a special dish I like to make called gorditas a centadas. It means seated fat ladies. It’s made from corn, pork, and meat fried in lard and smashed a lot.

MM: What about here at the stand….what is the specialty?

RVH: Definitely ribs. Most people eat the backs and that’s the driest part. The juicy part, called costillitas, is the best. I save certain parts of the ribs for my friends.

MM: Do you do the cooking here, too?

RVH: No, a young guy named Juan José cooks in the kitchen across the street. I just serve.

MM: Are there other Tacos Barajas elsewhere?

RVH: Yes, there are three brothers and they each have one. The other two are in La Paz and Guadalajara.

MM: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened here?

RVH: The shrimp cart exploded once, but nobody got hurt.

MM: Remind me not to sit near it. So Rubén, what do you think of all the changes happening around here?

RVH: I think they’re good. I talk to more Americans than Mexicans. I think we all have a good relationship. I would like to see a movie theater, though. And it would be great if we had a performing arts school. I enjoy going to hear music every Sunday at Santanas.

MM: Is there anything special you would like to say to all your friends?

RVH: Yes, stay away from drugs. Play sports. You know, we have a lot of really good baseball players here.

MM: That’s good advice, Rubén. Keep on chopping!

Many thanks to Eric Ochoa for translating


February 2005

Casa Lotta Stuff

There’s a special tienda in town that stocks the most diverse items. It reminds me of the “curiosity” shops that existed on the east coast when I was a kid. You never know what you will find there, and it’s so much fun looking. There’s no name outside the door, but everyone in town knows it as “Casa Tota,” the nickname of Carlotta Salgado de Arnaut, the owner. It’s the oldest store in town and carries everything from scotch tape, fabrics, and panty hose to candy, ranchero hats, baby clothes, lingerie and beer.

Dona Tota and Saul Todos Santos

MM: “How long has this tienda existed, Doña Tota?”

CSA: “My husband, Carlos, and I built this place 55 years ago. This space was just part of the hill next to our home.”

MM: “Did you grow up here in Todos Santos?”

CSA: “My grandparents were founders of Pescadero, and that’s where I was born. My older brothers were born in the United States. My father was in school in Los Angeles. My mother was a teacher. They met here to Todos Santos. Unfortunately my father died before I was born while my mother was pregnant with me. I attended school in La Paz since there was no school in this area at the time.”

MM: “When you were a little girl growing up here what did you imagine your life would be like as an adult?”

CSA:“I never imagined my future. I married Carlos when I was 18 and he was 35. He was a professor.  Our children were spread out between the United States and the mainland. We worked very hard to support and educate them. Carlos died seven years ago. The store was closed for a year afterwards until I reopened it. I’m 78 years old now, and this is my life.”

MM: “There’s so much rich history here, like this beautiful wood counter and bench. What can you tell me about this old metal scale?”

CSA: “It’s 55 years old, too. I used to measure beans, corn, sugar and coffee on it. You used to have to officially register a scale each year, so there are stickers all over it showing the various years. This is the only one I’ve kept of all the ones I had. It holds many fond memories for me.”

Saul (Doña Tota’s son) interjects: “You should interview that bench! Talk about the stories it can tell!”

MM: “I’ll bet. That seat has seen a lot of seats! So, Doña Tota, what is your biggest selling item, and where do you do your buying?”

CSA: “I sell clothing the most. There’s a whole room full of clothes for everybody for every season. I get things from Guadalajara and my daughter sends items from San Luis Potosi. I try to bring in what the town needs.”

MM: “Do you have many gringo customers and friends?”

Saul: “She has so many American friends. They all care about her so much, since she’s alone. She knows so much about everybody. She prefers to sit here and be social rather than just watch TV.”

CSA: “I don’t like to open until 9 a.m., though, because I sell beer, and guys with hangovers like to come early in the mornings. I don’t want any drunks here. And I close whenever I feel like it.”

MM: “Have you seen any of the rest of the world?”

CSA: “I’ve been as far as San Francisco and Los Angeles many times, as well as the mainland. Years ago I had knee replacement surgery in La Jolla and stayed there over a month.”

MM: “What do you think of all the changes that have happened here over the years?”

CSA: “It’s incredible how the town is changing. I really like the changes. There are so many every day. I like that the people coming here want to maintain the atmosphere of the town, its charm and historic nature. I like how the new people are integrating into the community.”

MM: “Well no wonder you have so many friends. It was a pleasure meeting you, Doña Tota. And you, too, Saul. Now I know where to get some really cool things!”

December 2004

Hear El! Hear El!

What is coming from that garbled loudspeaker on top of that car? Is that the carnival coming to Todos Santos or an announcement of some impending doom? Is it something I should know about? Could be. Meet Joel Cadena. He’s Megaphonia, and is the “driving” dejay behind the wheel. A ’91 Ford Festiva, covered in sponsors’ decals, to be exact.

Joel Cadena

MM: “Do you have a childhood nickname, Joel?”

JC: “Yes, it’s Canta Recio. It means to sing loudly.”

MM: “Hmmm, that was prophetic. What do you like about what you do?”

JC: “I like being the one to deliver the news…especially during a hurricane. I will go all over town to make important announcements to people. I work any day, even weekends, whenever someone pays me to broadcast their message.”

MM: “So, there’s a charge for your service? And anyone can hire you to say whatever they want?”

JC: “Yes, Megaphonia is my business. It costs 250 pesos for two hours (plus IVA) to hire me.”

MM: Are you ever embarrassed by what you’re announcing?”

JC: “Yes, and I know I can be annoying, but I’m very proud of what I do. Sometimes I don’t always agree with the message I’m giving, but I like to help people.”

MM: “What’s the weirdest thing you were ever paid to announce?”

JC: “A lady in Pescadero had me go all over town to announce her wedding.”

MM: “Has anything really funny happened to you?”

JC: “Once an American mooned me! Oh and sometimes I give the wrong dates for events.”

MM: “I have to admit, I can’t understand a word that comes out of that speaker, anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter. Do you ever make important public service announcements in English?”

JC: “I record everything myself and then put it on a disc to play in the car. I would need to find someone who speaks English to do that, but I am willing to go where most of the Americans live if there’s something they need to know. It all depends on the message. The saddest thing I ever did was go all over town after Maureen Osterich’s murder to help find the killer.”

MM: “That must have been a very difficult time. Do you interact much with the ex-patriot community? How do you feel about all the changes that have taken place here?”

JC: “Yes, I am friendly with a few Americans. I’ve done this job for 7 years. I’m 29 years old. I grew up here and think the changes are good.

MM: “What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?”

JC: “ I am an active volunteer in Grupo Tortuguero Todos Santos A.C. We work hard to save the local sea turtles and collect their eggs. A lot of Americans come to our turtle releases. We need donations! Also, I enjoy politics and I like to paint. I make signs. I sometimes have time to visit the local art galleries. I would be interested in going to art school.”

MM: “Is there anywhere you’ve dreamt about traveling?”

JC: “I would like to go to Italy. I can understand a little Italian.”

MM: “Is there anything you would like all your friends to know?”

JC: “Yes. I love this place because it is peaceful. I feel the locals need to pay more attention to the town and work harder. It seems to me that the visitors and ex-patriots are the only ones caring.”

MM: “Does this job help you get girls?”

JC: “Yes, would you like a ride?”

November 2004

The Postman Almost Rings Twice

Ever wonder what it’s like being a mailman in a town with no addresses? I was aware of our Todos Santos post office, but had no idea we have a mailman who actually delivers the mail… on a motorcycle! Meet Crispin Garcia Flores, Guri to his friends and family.

Crisp�n Garc�a Flores

MM: So, Crispin, do you know just about EVERYBODY?

CGF: Yes, I know very many people in town and all the locals. I know the new people by references. If I see your car, I can find where you live.

MM: You mean you would bring me my mail in person? I don’t have to come by the post office to check if my name is on the list?

CGF: That’s right. If you have a mailbox on the outside of your house, I can deliver your mail. If you receive a package, I will leave you a notification slip to come pick it up.

MM: How long have you been the Todos Santos mailman?

CGF: My brother, Arturo, was the mailman first, for 16 years. He hired me when he got bored and quit, and I’ve been here 17 years now.

MM: Having grown up here and gone to school here, how do you feel about all the changes in Todos Santos over the past ten years? And tell the truth!

CGF: It is very different now. The amazing increase in population has been very positive for the community. There are more jobs and more interesting things happening. It was really dull before.

MM: How do you view the relationship between the ex-patriot community and the locals?

CGF: Many Americans feel like my own family. I think there are many of them who do really well with the locals.

MM:  What do you love about being here?

CGF: Everybody knows each other and it is really peaceful and quiet here, even at midnight.

MM: Where do you dream about traveling?

CGF: I have only traveled in Baja. I like to dream about going to Rome. I think I could give speaking Italian a try. I have no desire to go to the mainland or Mexico City.

MM: Do you ever get a chance to visit the art galleries here?

CGF: I stop and take a look when I deliver the mail. I don’t have a lot of time and sometimes I am too tired. I have three children, ages thirteen, six and one month old.

MM:  Do you collect stamps, by any chance?

CGF: Yes, I have my family’s collection besides the ones I collect. I always ask foreigners for the stamps from their letters. You have to be so careful when you try to remove them.

MM: What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you as the mailman? 

CGF: When the Anthrax scare was happening, I delivered a letter to a local from the US. He insisted on wearing gloves to receive it and to take it to a lab for testing. I just laughed. Gloves were sent to me from the mainland, but I never used them. They are still hanging on the wall.

MM: Is there something you would like to say to all your friends here in Todos Santos?

CGF: Yes, it seems a lot of my friends last in their jobs for only six months or so. I want to tell them to stick to their work and be the best you can be in your job.

MM: Thank you Crispín. You are very passionate about your work.

All photos by the Milkmaid herself unless noted. Thanks to Erick Ochoa for his help translating. Copyright 2004-2006, all rights reserved. Any and all manners of reproduction including digital are expressly prohibited without written permission.
October 2006
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