Bienvenido a Del Rio

I went to visit my relatives in southwest Texas and when I found a role I could fill in helping my cousin take care of her kids, I decided to stay. Since we’re about 3 miles from the Mexican city of Acuña, the food we eat has influences from both the American state of Texas and the Estado Libre y Soberano de Coahuila de Zaragoza.

Julio’s, a brand of chips and salsa that are only made in Del Rio and San Angelo (and whose owner was personally known by my great aunt and uncle), are eaten quite frequently when my cousin’s son has his friends over at the house. The nearby supermarkets (Wal Mart and H.E.B.) carry varieties of soft drinks such as “Manzanita Sol” and “Tamarindo” that I’ve never seen anywhere else and “pan dulce”, a.k.a. Mexican sweet bread. We don’t cross the bridge into Mexico very often, but when we go it’s always as a large group and always with my great aunt and uncle since they can translate for us. Acuña isn’t like the tourist destination cities of Cancun or Cabo San Lucas; it’s a city for the working class, the students, the Indians who wander from the mountains to sell their trinkets, and so on. It’s not uncommon to see the remnants of a gang attack, bicycle vendors using bottles found in the trash to serve diced fruit, or discovering someone tried to steal your license plate during the 3 minutes you were parked. There’s a restaurant we visit for lunch that serves large, sectioned platters of beef, chicken, rice, cheese, etc, and tortillas for us to build our own tacos and the last time we were there a mariachi band wandered in and played songs of lost loves, fighting for the future of Mexico, resting under a moonlit night, and others. We stopped at a small market to get avocados and when we paid for them, the cashier pulled out a foot long machete and cut the cores out right on the counter. We also visited a candy store where the father and mother were at the cash register and the kids were watching American cartoons broadcasted in English with Spanish subtitles. We picked up a bag of watermelon suckers coated with chili powder (which I later tried and promptly spit out), flour-based “pork rinds”, and a jar of individually wrapped cups of flavored gelatin with bits of fruit suspended in them. I can eat a breakfast of huevos rancheros con chorizo y queso, a lunch of fried chicken gizzards over a bed of shredded lime and cream soaked cabbage, and a dinner of menudo with beef brisket and not know whether I’m in the United States of America or Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

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