Fruit and Nuts
Dear Mexican: Can you tell me the meaning of the word aguacate? All I know about this delicious fruit is that it originated on this continent.
Dear Gabacho: Aguacate is the Spanish word for "avocado," but its Nahuatl meaning is more rustic: balls. According to Ana María de Benítez's 1974 classic, Pre-Hispanic Cooking, "The name aguacate (avocado) comes from Ahuaca Cuahuitl, ahuacatl meaning testicle and cuahuitl meaning tree, hence: tree of testicles." A Freudian might argue, then, that guacamole is castration gone gourmet. Women prepare it so they can symbolically crush the macho huevos that keep them repressed; Mexican hombres scarf it down in the belief that they'll become manlier. And the popularity of guacamole among gabachos -- the California Avocado Commission estimates that consumers purchase 40 million pounds of their cash crop during Super Bowl weekend alone -- is actually an American plot to de-ball the Mexican nation. Then again, an avocado might just be an avocado: a wrinkly -- and sure, testicular -- fruit.
Dear Mexican: I love Mexican hombres! They treat their women like queens. But my friend disagrees; he says Mexican husbands make their wives sleep on the floor. Who's right?
Dear Negrita: Both of you. All cultures vacillate between two archetypes in how they treat women: the saintly Madonna and the Great Whore. But few societies have institutionalized this Manichean duality like Mexico. Consider the country's founding mothers: la Malinche and la Guadalupana. Malinche (alternately known as "Malintzin" and "Marina") was an Indian maiden who served as translator and mistress for Cortés on his bloody march to Tenochtitl´n during the Conquest. Mexico has reviled her ever since; indeed, the term malinchista is a synonym for "traitor." Twelve years after the fall of the Aztec empire, on Dec. 12, 1531, another brown-skinned woman changed Mexico's course: Our Lady of Guadalupe. Whereas la Malinche brought the sword of Spain to the indios of America, Guadalupe rewarded Her children with salvation by fusing the Catholic Virgin Mary with the Aztec earth goddess Tonantzin. Freud might say that the fact these two epic mujeres appeared so early in Mexico's gestation explains why they're seared into the Mexican psyche. Would that also explain the extreme positions Mexican men take toward their women? But really: Every woman has a bit of Mother María and a butt slut in her; men just react accordingly.
Dear Mexican: If you haven't already, I would suggest you read The Labyrinth of Solitude, by Octavio Paz. The book is a classic study of the Mexican character. I highly recommend it. By the way, I really like the humor you put into your column.
Dear Gabacho: Gracias. As for the book, been there, done that!
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