Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chuy and the Empanadas

Chuy, our housekeeper Irma’s son, wants a Play Station 3. We’ve known Chuy since he was five years old; he’s eleven now. When he was about eight he and my husband Bill used to go to the soccer field to “play golf.” Chuy doesn’t speak English, and Bill doesn’t speak Spanish, but off they’d go for hours, chatting as if they understood each other. They hit golf balls from one end of the field to the other and back again. Afterward they bought bags of treats to eat on the way home.

Chuy outgrew golf. He preferred surfing instead, surfing his favorite web sites on our computer, that is. He looked at hundreds of photos of the Lucha Libre (free wrestling) performers called luchadores. Famous for their high flying moves, colorful masks and costumes, luchadores are legendary characters celebrated by their fans all over Mexico. After serious consideration, Chuy selected three new performers to add to his collection. He showed us his choices naming each one, “Blue Panther, Atlantis, and Mistico.”

“Puedo imprimirlos? Can I print these?” he asked each time. We always said yes. He knew he could print three in full color each visit. Before going home, he put them neatly in his special folder.

But the time for childish things has passed. Chuy has a job. Determined to earn the money for the Play Station, he goes door to door in the pueblo selling empanadas, flaky sweet-filled turnovers, that Irma makes. Because we’re neighbors, our house is always his first stop.

Carrying a cloth-covered basket filled with fragrant warm-from-the-oven empanadas, Chuy appears at our door. He is ready for serious business.

“Cuestan cinco pesos, the cost is five pesos,” Chuy explains. “Estos son de vainilla, these are vanilla.”

He waits while I ponder how many to buy. I decide on ten, but then I always buy ten. Quietly counting to himself, Chuy selects each one and places it carefully on the plate for me. I, in turn, count out the correct amount of pesos for my purchase.

“Gracias, adios,” he says. No time for chit-chat now. Chuy has work to do.

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