Spicy Food and Mexican Identity

If there is one thing that can define a Mexican or Latino, it’s our ability to eat spices and hot peppers. As a matter of fact, it strengthens our Latino Heat and intensifies it through our auras. Spices can be traced back to our ancestors and its use in traditional Mexican cuisine is long standing and very much alive today. I still remember eating basic beans and rice as a kid with a spoon on my right hand and a very spicy green pepper on my left hand. I was about 5 or 6 years old and as I would bite the green pepper my mouth and lips would start throbbing with life. The spicier the pepper, the more my mouth and lips lit on fire and the more enjoyable the meal. I remember sitting outside on the sidewalk after the meal, facing the ground with my mouth open and tongue sticking out slowly waiting for the sting and burn of the peppers to cool off and fade away. Now I understand why dogs do the same during the summer months 🙂

Mexicans put spices on everything! That’s right, and it tastes really good too! We put spice on candy, fruits, chips, even beer. As a matter of fact, it is quite common to see kids eating “chile” alone from their palm as a snack! I remember those days and boy do I miss them…

But I must confess that I can no longer handle it. I love the taste of spices and the flavor it provides to many meals. The thing is that I have no problem consuming and tasting spices so the “coming in” process is completely fine. The problem is the process of it coming out! You may be thinking, “Payazaro, that is TMI (too much information)!” but it’s really important to think about issues like this. Where did this problem come from and why?! I’ve always had a sensitive stomach but spices were like oxygen to my tummy. Part of the Mexican identity is that we can handle all the spices and chili peppers the world has to offer. We embrace them and desperately look for them. However, there comes a time when a body just decides it no longer wants to process a certain food or ingredient like it used to. Like a digestive divorce and it ain’t going back! I’m not even 30 and my body is already breaking down! This side effect crept up on me like lactose intolerance does to others. But at least those people can drink soy milk and other lactose free products. You can’t get a pseudo spice! That’s like having Michael Jackson replace the leader of the Ku Klux Klan!

Re-immersing myself back into Mexico has been tough in this regard. Whenever I visit family, it is expected that their meals will have spices. Whenever I tell my aunts if they could lay off the spice just a bit I get shit for it. They act like it makes me less Mexican. They’ll tell me, “If that’s what happens when you go to the US, then I don’t ever want to go!”

Leave me alone people, my stomach can’t take it anymore. I think the eagle on the Mexican flag should have a chipotle pepper rather than a snake. It would be more accurate.

6 thoughts on “Spicy Food and Mexican Identity

  1. You should remind the family that our father has the same problem…even before he met my mom no le ha gustado lo picoso.

  2. I don’t have the digestive problem, but ever since I’ve moved to Puerto Rico, spicy food isn’t as important to me anymore. People over here can not stand any type of spicy food, so I’ve become accustomed to not eating chiles and when I do I get really bad heart burn!! Am I becoming less mexican and more Puerto Rican?

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