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ken_in_dfw

Jan 2, 2010, 11:56 AM

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Flowers in the Desert

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In an earlier thread, I posted a comment about paying my paper bill and giving "money for nothing." It was a cheeky comment and not really true. I continue to be impressed by the level of reporting that comes out of the Dallas Morning News México Bureau and, in particular, Alfredo Corchado.

Alfredo is a border boy - born in El Paso. So it shouldn't have surprised me to read this outstanding article on the front page of the paper this morning about a cheekily named band comprised of Anglos, called "Los P**ches Gringos." These four "white guys," who live in the Texas Big Bend, play Mexican corridos, cumbia and norteño music with heart, and bring together people of vastly different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as only music, passionately played, can do. You can get a sample of the magic they conjure here.

As for those of you who are having the vapors and need to break open your smelling salts over the band's name, I think their lead singer explains that pretty well:

"After being called 'p**che gringo' by so many, so often and in so many ways," quipped lead singer Ted Arbogast, 57, "the name just stuck."

The article continues the explanation: "The Gringos know their name raises eyebrows – "shock value," they say – but they won't have it any other way. They concede that their name and music may not sit well in cities like Dallas, San Antonio or even liberal-minded Austin.

[snip]And at a time when the Texas-Mexico border and the issues it represents – illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violence – are highly politicized, the Gringos say they are reminding people that for many, band members included, the border remains a "hell of a place to live."

Terlingua sits in the shadow of Big Bend National Park, with its brilliant blue skies and deep canyons, a rugged region known for its natural beauty and the quirkiness of its residents.

"People here have a sense of humor," said Mike Davidson, the band's guitarist and executive director of Brewster County Tourism Council. "You have to laugh, or otherwise you go crazy with the way the border is portrayed by the 24-hour news folks and conservative commentators."

Los P**che Gringos appear like una flor en el desierto - magical and miraculous for the environment in which they thrive. At a time when everybody, whether en el Norte or México, querido y lindo, is busy pointing their fingers at somebody else for the various messes that we have all made, it seems to me that what we desperately need are a few more menders, bridge-builders and gardeners, willing to pick up the pieces, lend a hand, and quietly make the deserts bloom once more.

I thought about the conditions necessary for life to bloom in improbable places like Cd. Juárez, Culiacán, Terlingua, East. St. Louis, southside Chicago, Detroit, and the anonymous sterile suburbs of Orange County, Collin County, and southwest Connecticut. And what I concluded is that it requires each of us to have both the desire to improve our neighborhood and the inability to tolerate the status quo. Each of us has to say, "no más; no more."

The readers of MexConnect are particularly well suited to make the deserts bloom, as you have "seen both sides now." Similarly well situated are many of my friends, neighbors and co-workers here in DFW and across the USA, who have made the journey north from México or lands south and east of there.

As I thought about this, I did some surfing, and came across a post on the subject of flowers in the desert, by a very wise and thoughtful writer from Argentina, Rafael Castellano, an organizational and human performance professional. I thought it was an apt description of our current condition and the actions needed for change. Following is my translation of parts of his post:

"My idea of a desert is an eternal agony, plotted by the fury of the aridity, by the implacable confusion of a sun which, trampled by the wind, melts with the sand, until there is no other landscape than the sand dominating the sky, the ground, the wind. There is no voice that can be heard in the fury of the desert, swirled around and blind. Threatening or non-threatening. Who can tell the difference? The desert is not a good place, and the storm is not a good moment to notice the difference. The routine of the sand repeats inexhaustibly. The sands rise up for no other reason than to fall back down again. Each grain of sand falls in some place, whether far or near to its previous location, in a landscape that has, essentially, not been changed. The primordial emotion that I associate with the dryness is impotency, a desperate resignation.

"The society in which I live, I believe, suffers a growing desertification. Every day, "word storms" rise up, angry epithets, acts of "declared corruption," criminal neglect, and other number-less calamities that do nothing more than terrorize, in short order, the landscape of nothingness, and the eternal repetition.

"The warning that I try to remember, every day, is to resist the advance of the impotency, of the insensitivity, of the desperation, of the nihilism. Of the nausea. Is it possible? How?

"It is possible. Each time, unpredictably, a flower in the desert appears."

Rafael then goes on to talk about the life of Rosa Parks as an example of such a flower. At the end of his post, he concludes:

"Rosa was the flower in the desert. She was a shoot, but there were gardeners willing to care for it, protect it and grow it.

"I know that in our modern desert there are flowers. My challenge is to not lose hope that the garderners will appear."

I have been impressed with the examples of such gardening I have seen by many of the contributors here at MexConnect. I'd like to encourage you to spread that passion to others around you. In time, we can make the deserts bloom. Peace.


(This post was edited by ken_in_dfw on Jan 2, 2010, 3:10 PM)



mazbook1


Jan 2, 2010, 12:57 PM

Post #2 of 21 (6869 views)

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Re: [ken_in_dfw] Flowers in the Desert

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Good article and good thoughts Ken. One note of interest, although pinche – worthless – has evolved into a much stronger adjective (beginning with f and ending with ng) in the FRONTERA area, especially NOB, no one here in Mazatlán would lift an eyebrow at the name Los Pinches Gringos. Now if they made that name Los Pinches Gringos Pe***jos, it would definitely get the attention of everyone in México!

A laugh for everyone is that at the Terlingua high school—where a friend of mine teaches—using the adjective pinche before someone's name in front of a teacher gets the kid an instant suspension. Just goes to show how word usage/meaning can vary radically in just a short distance.


richmx2


Jan 2, 2010, 2:03 PM

Post #3 of 21 (6851 views)

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Re: [ken_in_dfw] Flowers in the Desert

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I'd assumed the band's name was an homage to the Molotov classic "Frijolero/Beaner":

"No dime 'frijolero' pinche gringo..."


http://mexfiles.net
http://editorialmazatlan.com


mazbook1


Jan 2, 2010, 2:23 PM

Post #4 of 21 (6845 views)

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Re: [richmx2] Flowers in the Desert

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Very, very likely, Rich. I didn't even think of that. But the Molotov song works with either my (more standard) translation of pinche or the Frontera translation, both all in the ear of the beholder/listener.


esperanza

Jan 2, 2010, 3:01 PM

Post #5 of 21 (6832 views)

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Re: [mazbook1] Flowers in the Desert

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The other meaning of 'pinche', which never has a sense of profanity attached to it, is 'kitchen help'...as in the person who peels the potatoes, chops the veggies, and generally does all of the lowest form of kitchen drudgery except wash the dishes.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









mazbook1


Jan 2, 2010, 4:18 PM

Post #6 of 21 (6808 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Flowers in the Desert

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Yes, esperanza, pinche as a noun is still in use in Spain and has been extended to the lowest level of help in many trades, but in México it is primarily an adjective. I find that "worthless" is the closest translation to English that works in 99% of the uses.

I like worthless, as the pinche, what the English called the scullery maid, was quite often a retarded girl (or sometimes boy) that did the lowest, dirtiest sorts of jobs in the kitchen and was often referred to (in English) as that worthless girl or boy. Often the scullery maid (in England) wasn't even given a room, just a sleeping pad and blanket next to the kitchen stove.


(This post was edited by mazbook1 on Jan 2, 2010, 4:21 PM)


richmx2


Jan 2, 2010, 5:25 PM

Post #7 of 21 (6788 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Flowers in the Desert

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I have a friend who describes his stint as a busboy in Madrid as being a "pinche pinche".


http://mexfiles.net
http://editorialmazatlan.com


tashby


Jan 2, 2010, 5:52 PM

Post #8 of 21 (6782 views)

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Re: [ken_in_dfw] Flowers in the Desert

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Of course, this thread isn't about the band's name.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, ken in dfw. Maybe it isn't the best grist for an internet message board, even MexConnect, but this part particularly struck a chord with me:


Quote
"The warning that I try to remember, every day, is to resist the advance of the impotency, of the insensitivity, of the desperation, of the nihilism. Of the nausea. Is it possible? How?


I've been thinking a lot lately about some of these same themes, and just the other day wrote down a (partially borrowed, obviously) thought that coalesced it in my mind: The "Audacity of Hope" versus the "Complacency of Cynicism". Nothing smarty-pants about that, just a useful sound-bite guideline that I try to keep posted in my head.

It's a tough time right now. But is it ever not?

Here's to the gardeners...


ken_in_dfw

Jan 2, 2010, 7:48 PM

Post #9 of 21 (6745 views)

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Re: [tashby] Flowers in the Desert

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Thanks, tashby. I think I rather like that bit of dialecticism! Audacity and complacency do seem to be battling it out these days.

Of course, I would argue that the Big Bend band wears its shocking label like a desert paintbrush flaunts its garish shade of scarlet red - and to the same effect. I can raise my glass to gardeners, and lovers, and musicians the world over.



And thanks to Rich and mazbook1 and esperanza for your insights on the multiple flavors of "pinche." Language is a funny, fluid thing, n'est-ce pas?


frito

Jan 2, 2010, 8:24 PM

Post #10 of 21 (6732 views)

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Re: [ken_in_dfw] Flowers in the Desert

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Read that in the paper at lunch today. Interesting how Terlingua/Study Butte has become a little Anglo outpost on the border. I'm going to buy 5 acres on Terlingua Ranch eventually to always have a place to come back to. Few places offer as much for a few dollars NOB!


esperanza

Jan 3, 2010, 7:49 AM

Post #11 of 21 (6670 views)

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Re: [mazbook1] Flowers in the Desert

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Yes, esperanza, pinche as a noun is still in use in Spain and has been extended to the lowest level of help in many trades, but in México it is primarily an adjective. I find that "worthless" is the closest translation to English that works in 99% of the uses.

Mazbook1, I spend a lot of time in professional kitchens here in Mexico. Trust me when I tell you that pinche, the noun for low-level kitchen help, is common usage here. It's so common that the other night Judy and I were watching one of those American chef's TV shows--Iron Chef, I believe--and were tickled to hear the challenger, a Mexican chef, screeching "Pinche! Rápido!" at his pot-bearing, hard-pressed assistant.

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mazbook1


Jan 3, 2010, 10:43 AM

Post #12 of 21 (6637 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Flowers in the Desert

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esperanza, I certainly bow to your experience. Having never spent ANY time in a professional kitchen in México (or really anywhere), I had never heard pinche used in any manner except the almost purely Mexican use as an adjective. It's good to hear that it's still alive and well in its original meaning, although I think chef's assistant is a bit of a promotion for the kitchen pinche. LOL


Manuel Dexterity

Jan 3, 2010, 10:52 AM

Post #13 of 21 (6636 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Flowers in the Desert

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Iron Chef is dubbed in Spanish, even the Spanish speaking participants.

My wife's familiy has been in the restaurant business for over 50 years. Ayudante de cocina is the most common term used. Want ads for the position are found under ayudante de cocina in this country while you will find pinche used in Spain.

The word pinche in Mexico is such a commonly used palabra despectiva that most people only associate with its vulgar meaning. Using it to refer to a kitchen helper would more than likely be misunderstood even by native speakers.


mazbook1


Jan 3, 2010, 11:05 AM

Post #14 of 21 (6625 views)

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Re: [Manuel Dexterity] Flowers in the Desert

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Thanks for the clarification, M.D. That has been my experience, but here in Sinaloa the word isn't nearly as despectiva as the truly vulgar usage in the frontera and NOB.


tepetapan

Jan 3, 2010, 11:35 AM

Post #15 of 21 (6619 views)

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Re: [Manuel Dexterity] Flowers in the Desert

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my wife´s family also has a large restaurant and help is called the same...aydante de cocina...when advertised for help. In the restaurant they ( and everyone) are called by name. The family restaurant handles 3 tour buses plus extras many times a month and respect is always given to the workers, Then again when my wife´s best friend calls on the phone my wife will answer " pinche co-madre, como esta?" Go figure


esperanza

Jan 3, 2010, 12:09 PM

Post #16 of 21 (6606 views)

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Re: [Manuel Dexterity] Flowers in the Desert

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Want ads would never use pinche to describe a restaurant position, any more than want ads for a restaurant dishwasher in the USA would say "pearl diver".

Commonly spoken restaurant Spanish, though, is another story. Pinche used as a name for a restaurant worker has absolutely no negative connotation--unless, of course, one is talking about the pinche pinche.

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Manuel Dexterity

Jan 3, 2010, 12:24 PM

Post #17 of 21 (6603 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Flowers in the Desert

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Want ads would never use pinche to describe a restaurant position, any more than want ads for a restaurant dishwasher in the USA would say "pearl diver".


There is an old saying "never say never".

Actually want ads in Spain do use the term "pinche".



"Pinche de cocina (ayudante de cocina)
Sistema Nacional de Empleo - Alovera, Guadalajara
Ver oferta de empleo original en Sistema Nacional de Empleo » PINCHE DE COCINA (AYUDANTE DE COCINA)

Datos:

Localidad de Ubicación del Puesto:

ALOVERA(GUADALAJARA)

Datos adicionales:

EDAD: 16-17 AÑOS. JORNADA COMPLETA PARTIDA. PUESTO DE TRABAJO: ALOVERA
"


wendy devlin

Jan 3, 2010, 2:12 PM

Post #18 of 21 (6569 views)

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Re: [tepetapan] Flowers in the Desert

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Flowers bloom in deserts, everywhere.

Threads(in my opinion) sometimes wander from Timbuktu or Timboctoo. Be patient. They tend to wander back again in time.

Your comment about your wife´s best friend calling on the phone and your wife answering " pinche co-madre, como esta?" Gave me a laugh. Can so, imagine, several people I know, answering this same way.


Rolly


Jan 6, 2010, 11:21 AM

Post #19 of 21 (6451 views)

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Re:Pinche

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To add to the confusion:

I did some inquiring about "pinche" in local restaurants in my area. I was told that the word is used for the number 2 cook (sous chef), not the scullery workers.

Rolly Pirate


esperanza

Jan 6, 2010, 12:09 PM

Post #20 of 21 (6432 views)

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Re: [Rolly] Re:Pinche

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Judy always says she's my pinche--and that I'd have to promote her a notch or two before she could be my sous chef.

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johanson


Jan 6, 2010, 12:33 PM

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Re: [esperanza] Re:Pinche

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After maybe 9 years out of the last 13 having been in Mexico, I am getting almost mediocre at Spanish. I can speak it all of the time if necessary, but my Spanish pales (or is it pails) in comparison to you two (Esperanza and Rolly).

Folks. The better you speak Spanish the easier life gets. I'm always making mistakes, some of them pretty bad, but it makes life so much easier, and I often get quite a laugh especially when the word I incorrectly pronounce means something really stupid.

I remember a few weeks ago when I meant to say to charge the cell phone, but it came out to take a dump (sh*t) on the cell phone.

When it's an honest mistake, folks laugh with, not at you.
 
 
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