Thursday, June 8, 2006


World Cup 2006. Mexico plays for the first time on Sunday. What do you need to watch this game like a Mexican?

Responses vary, of course (post yours on the comment section). This Mexican recommends you arm yourself with:

1. A Mexican breakfast (or brunch, depending on time zone). Chilaquiles, black beans, and fresh squeezed orange juice.
2. Cold Mexican beer. Some might argue it's too early for beer, but not anyone I know.
3. A soccer blog where you can be opinionated.
4. The proper use of the expression "culero" (spelled c-u-l-e-r-o but pronounced "culeeeeeero".)

1. A Mexican breakfast.
Chilaquiles are easy. You take tortillas and either bake or fry them - or let them harden on the open fire. Then, break them up and place them into good green salsa. They'll absorb it and become soft - if done well, the edges will be slightly crunchy. Add a dollop of cream on top, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and dry chile pasilla flakes.

Black beans. (Mmmmm. This is my answer to "what would you take to a desert island?") You can soak them overnight, then cook them in a pressure cooker, adding salt and a laurel leaf to the water. Or, you could buy them canned, rinse them and heat them up with a large spoonful of fresh salsa.

2. Cold Mexican beer.
I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking (my father says he doesn’t know where he went wrong.) I will drink half a beer, though. I recommend Corona, Dos Equis, or (my favorite) Bohemia, icy with a good squeeze of lemon. (Yes. Mexicans do add lemon to everything.)

3. A good soccer blog. I'm biased, but think the best one ever to grace the Internet is this one.

4. Now, for "culero". First of all, make no mistake. It's a swear word. Do not use in front of Mexican in-laws (unless you're watching a soccer game with them.) Let's skip the etymology and jump right into how to insert it into the appropriate context.

When I was in my teens, I went with a group of friends to Teotihuacan, to witness the marvel that is a solar eclipse from the top of the pyramid of the Sun. It was a mob scene. We all stood there at the appointed time, looking up (but not directly at it). The moon, as expected, slowly slid over the sun, blocking its rays. It turned dark. The temperature dropped. A wave of awed, reverential silence came over the crowd.

Two minutes later, a thick cloud moved over both the sun and the moon, effectively putting a damper on the experience. What happened next seemed choreographed. In unison, everyone erupted into "culeeeeeeeero! Culeeeeeeeero!"

"Culero" is like you telling someone "you suck!"; except "you suck" is active judgment, an accusation, and you, the accuser, are invested in it. Culero is passive. The person saying it makes a general – never direct - vaguely appreciative exclamation that implies detachment. "You suck" comes from the gut. "Culero" comes from the shoulders, like a shrug.

When you are faced with something you don't understand or disagree with, you could exclaim "whatever!" or even "whatEVER!" but "whatever" tries too hard to not care. It's deliberate attitude. Culero is in fact discerning, but void of resentment or indignation. It is the absence of hostility. It carries no conviction. It sneers without affectation. It is apathetic, yet celebratory. It's a very clear "I can do better than you", without a trace of superiority. Passionate indifference. It teases, but it's not cruel. "Culero" is the mark of my people.

To say it right you do so by slightly turning up the corner of your lip, as if you were holding back a smile. Then you throw your head back just a touch, and ever so gently, conspiratorially, elbow the person next to you.

Now you're ready. You have a calculated chilaquiles/beans ratio. You're gripping your beer by the neck of the bottle so your hand doesn't alter its temperature. Your computer - with a wireless connection - sits on your lap, and you in turn sit in front of the television. If a referee makes an unfair call, if the other team displays too fancy footwork, or (God forbid) scores, if anyone seems to be gloating, you know exactly the word you’re looking for to use in the comment section of that excellent soccer blog.

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