Churpa's Dispatch from San Miguel #1

By Churpa Rosa Rogers

When it comes to Mexico, I tend to experience one-sided culture shock: I am shocked by my inevitable and unwilling return to the United States, but rarely shocked to find myself down south. Even if it’s been a year or more, a return to Mexico always feels as natural as slipping into a warm bath. That said, I always experience a few days of jubilation at all the tiny Mexican details that make me feel so at home: the smell of cement dust and Mexican laundry detergent and tortillas;  dueling banda, corridos, and hip-hop blasting from the ranchitos that spot the seemingly peaceful countryside; the array of sagging cement balconies, unmarked construction holes in the middle of pedestrian thoroughfares, and other minor dangers that give a middle finger to our American culture of litigation.

Like the delicious smell of tacos al pastor or the late afternoon light saturating the Colonial facades of San Miguel de Allende, the constant murmur of Spanish soothes a soul battered by an overly long stay in the el norte.  Speaking of which, my friend Chelsea and I met a  kindly gentleman in Mexico City who offered to tell us about the nuances in Diego Rivera’s murals in the Palacio Nacional. As Angel showed us the panel that illustrates the Colombian exchange and the importance of American native plants, Chelsea and I exclaimed “Muy interesante!”. When Angel expounded on dogs as an Aztec delicacy and drew our attention to the various fat canines in Rivera’s murals, Chelsea and I exclaimed “Muy interesante!”. When Angel pointed out the image of a Spaniard branding an Indian slave, Chelsea and I exclaimed…well you get the drift. Sluggish from a long damp autumn in Oregon, my brain seems incapable of generating appropriate adjectives. Which brings me back to my annual realization: I don’t so much need to expand my vocabulary as I need to bring words that I already know into circulation. To brush up, I’ve been eavesdropping, reading Mexican Glamour,  and perusing the glossaries of two of my favorite books on Mexico:  El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City by John Ross and, of course, The People’s Guide.



Here’s some words I hope I’ll be using on this trip:



neta—the coolest


banquetazo—big meal

fritanga—greasy fried snack


Here’s some words I hope won’t be needing:

bruja—broke, poor




fracaso—bungled mess, failure

foco—guerilla grouplet

vacunacion de rabia—rabies vaccination






One Response to “Churpa's Dispatch from San Miguel #1”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    My underarms get damp, my eyes hurt, I worry like hell about border traffic. Where did I stuff that goddamned list? I explain to the agent “It’s been ages” he smiles and waves me on.

    Oh shit, there sits a Highway Patrolman on the shoulder just waiting to nab someone for the slightest real or perceived infraction. I exit the highway. The bank ATM machine is surrounded by waiting hordes. What IS that goddamned stench? Oh the fried chicken place. No need to worry about speeders, traffic is crawling at 5.8 kph. Not a place to park within blocks. Businesses here don’t accept REAL money. I have to endure the masses to extract money. HOW MUCH? JHC I will not pay that for a motel of that caliber. I wanna go home.

    -Welcome to the USA