Boricua medicine… Part 1

Yes damas y caballeros… I’m back. After a two week hiatus, the Boricua blog writer is here. Why was I out? Different stuff in my life right now, other than the fact that I felt that I was out of material to write (interesting material at least). But as any Boricua would do, I turned to my parents for advice and I think I have enough material for a year, or at least two weeks. I sat with my parents and they were reminiscing (I even learned bigger words, you see!) about childhood and the remedies that were used as pain relievers and to cure cuts and minor injuries.

Helps cure everything
Helps cure everything

In my time growing up, and that I continue using to this day, is Vick’s Vapo Rub (they should pay for this mention). Not only is good to clear sinus and chest congestion, it works for almost everything else. If you get a mosquito bite, rub on some Vicks. If you get a chichón (head bump) rub on some Vicks. If your muscles hurt, some Vicks will help (definitely I will charge for this. Sounds like a commercial.). But how was life when these recognized brands were not available for the poorest part of society? I don’t know in Unites States or around the world, but in Puerto Rico families had to cure everything with what was available. This is where my parents’ stories begin.

When I was around seven years old, I used to be in the floor too often. I fell even walking, and it was just because I was not careful at all (has nothing to do with me being a dumb little kid). Elbows, knees and hands were cut all the time. My parents had to treat those cuts and, after removing the dirt from the cut, they used a red product that really felt bad, like a burn sensation, called Zefiran. I hated the damn thing! When I got cut I tried not to cry because I knew my mom would spray some Zefiran (I know my brother feels the same). What did it do? I guess it cleaned the area or kept it from getting infections. But I was with a red knee or elbow for a couple of days.

Coño, qué dolor.
Coño, qué dolor.

Something else that my mom used to help reduce the size of a head bump was mixing butter and salt and spread it in the affected area (there are many pictures of my childhood to prove this). How does it work? I have no idea, it does not make any sense for me. I mean, butter and salt??? Really?? Does it work? YES, IT DOES WORK. Maybe the salt absorbs something in the bump and the butter is just so it can stick to your head. But there are studies about this and it can work. Doctors from nowadays could say its nonsense but there is no better doctor than a desperate mother trying to calm a kid.

Hiccups
Hiccups

How many of us parents had to deal with a baby having hiccups? It’s not fun to have a newborn with hiccups. To some people is really disturbing. My sister, for example, is one of those. If any of her nephews and niece had the hiccups when they were babies, she just gave them to someone else and ran somewhere where she could not hear the poor baby and hiccups (love you sis!). Some remedies for that are: to drink water upside down (pretty dangerous to do to a baby), a tablespoon of sugar (babies should not be eating sugar), scaring the hell out of the person with hiccups (c’mon… don’t even try this with a baby) and many more that are not safe for babies. If you find yourself in this situation, stop and think for a minute, “What would a Boricua do?” Find a piece of a cotton string, put it in you mouth and make a ball of it. Then take it out of your mouth and stick it to the baby’s head. Yes, you read the right thing, use a string with saliva and stick it to the baby’s head (Clean process, right?). Why does it work (because it does work)? It could be that the change in temperature in the baby’s forehead helps stop the hiccups and the saliva is just to help it stick (because using gum or glue would be cruel). So, if you see a baby with a string stuck to his forehead, it must be the son of a Boricua.

Yeah... it hurts!
Yeah… it hurts!

Sports are amazing. They help develop many things for kids including self esteem and respect sometimes. But you can get hurt, and many of the times it is not because something you did. Usually is just an accident, something that could be prevented if you stayed on the bench (and no one wants to stay on the bench). My brother was a great basketball player when we were kids. I mean, he still is but the story is from our childhood. He hurt his ankle a couple of times to the point of almost breaking it (scary stuff at the time). Many people would take you to the doctor and wait there for a couple of hours, and go to the orthopedist the next day. My parents did that, but it was so common with him that in the times where he could walk without much pain and the ankle looking like a big ham, my dad would take him (and he did to me too once) to this old lady that could cure that just by rubbing it. La Curandera sat there is her old house and rubbed something in the ankle and started talking to you. Then, while you were distracted, she pulled your foot and you screamed full of pain to the point that you could even see God laughing at you. And a second or two later, you were better, much better. Manteca de ubreThen just apply some manteca de ubre (udder balm) and you are as good as new. With the pull, the ankle and everything in there, goes back to its original place. And the udder balm is just to help reduce the inflammation. This remedy helps you save a couple of bucks and some painful time in the ER.

Medicina
Medicina

 As you can see, Boricuas can solve problems and save some bucks in the process. I know that science may have not been used when these remedies were made. But if it works, it works. Do I have more? You bet I do! But I would like your comment about this and many other remedies used by us Boricuas. And if you are not a Boricua, I bet your folks or grandparents had some weird home remedies too. Let me know about them. You can comment in this post or email me at enlopositivo@gmail.com. I even have a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/enlopositiv0. Next week is part two with even more weird remedies that were proven to work (or so I’ve heard). Until next time, cójanlo suave!

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Only in Borinquen

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Cristóbal Colón
Cristóbal Colón

As Puerto Ricans, there is stuff that belongs to us. Not stuff like the statue of Christopher Columbus, or El Morro fort or the word Puñeta. There are things that we do as Boricuas, just because that’s how we are. I have a couple of examples that will help me explain that. Most of us have been to concerts. We listen to the music and we scream the lyrics and we even wave at the singer (like she can see us, right!). We sing and scream for two hours and the band goes: “Thanks for your energy… See you next time” and they extend the last song and that’s it; they are gone and you are happy because it was a great concert (and you have no voice). Maybe that happens in some places, but not here, not in Borinquen. In Puerto Rico, after we hear the “Thanks for your energy…” and the final drum rolls, we start screaming “Otra, otra, otra…” and after five minutes of screaming, and the lights of the stadium burning in our faces, the band has no choice but to come back and sing a little more. And that little more better not be one song; we want at least 20 more minutes of music. After that time, we are happy and the band has earned their money. I was in a salsa concert and after the last song, the singer went backstage and almost one third of the people left. Of course, we wanted more music and he returned to the stage. I think the people who left were not from around because he came back and played for two more hours. If you are Boricua, you know the singer will be back, even if we need to scream for one full hour (Yes, we are that serious!). That’s as Boricuas as giving a round of applause to the airplane pilot when we arrive at the airport.

Pack... we are leaving!
Pack… we are leaving!

Next topic: Packing for a Trip. As Boricuas we don’t understand the meaning of “traveling light”. We think it has to do with what we eat before the plane leaves (some cookies and water maybe). When some of my friends from United States travel for three or four days, they pack maybe five sets of clothing; underwear, shirts, pants, socks and maybe one or two pairs of shoes. Why packing that light? Because they are not Boricuas. If we are traveling for five days, we refuse to pack for five days, or maybe we will change our clothing more than once in a day. We will pack more socks (in case it’s cold), more pants (in case we get dirty), more shirts (same reason as before) and maybe two or three “looking good” dresses and suits (just in case we go dancing to a hotel). Then we pack food for the plane (even when airlines provided food), a pillow (in case we need to sleep on the plane), a blanket (because the extra socks are in the luggage) and two changes of cloth in the carry-on in case they loose our huge luggage (better really safe than sorry). When it’s time to fly back home it’s even worse because we need to fit in the same luggage all the new stuff we bought for our mother, father, brother, sister, dog, neighbor, mistress, ex mistress, even for the store clerk. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying this is wrong. I see it as normal and unique.

4726976269_7a9e9c160d_zAlso going to the beach is fun, and that word includes a lot of things. First, what do you include in your bag when you travel to the beach? Sunscreen lotion, towels, dry clothes and some chips maybe. If you are Boricua, most likely you will include bread (not a sandwich, and actual loaf of bread) a pack of cheese slices, ham straight from the bakery and butter, of course. We don’t have peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a Ziploc bag, we will build the sandwich (like Subway). And that is only when three Boricuas are together. Remember I used the word FUN before. It gets a new meaning when a trip to the beach, turns into a family trip. We will not only pack bread and cheese and ham; we will also have a big caldero of rice and beans and some meat (not hotdogs, real meat). It will get warm on the beach and we will make some chicken in the grill. Doing it any other way would be a sin, the kind you don’t enjoy.

As you see, we have our way of doing stuff. It could be a weird way for you, but it’s definitely the good way for us, the right way to do it. We are not recognized only by the way we speak, the way we look or the way we dance; we are recognized by the things we do and where we do them. We are proud. So much that we don’t believe things should be done a certain way, we KNOW that’s the way to do it. Even this blog: my way, because I am Boricua, is the way to do it (not really). Until next time, cójanlo suave and bring me some bread!

Back then…

A brincar cuica
A brincar cuica

Last week I was looking back in my life when I was a child and I remembered a lot of things that I used to do and kids nowadays don’t do anymore. For example, I played canicas (marbles), trompo (no translation for that, watch the video), gallito (watch the video, ‘cause this Boricua stuff is hard to explain), fighting with my brother every other day, or trying to explain my sister that she could not eat as much cookies as we did. We even used to play basketball on Saturdays under the burning sun from noon until dawn. Now I get a little bit of sun and I complain. Even my parents used to get the rope out and play with all the kids of the neighborhood. We did all that during the Summer, or when we had the whole week off from school like Semana Santa (Holly Week).

That week was a good one, most of the time. We woke up around seven or eight in the morning (for some stupid reason), we had our breakfast and headed out to play until 10:00 am when my mother had the cookies and juice ready (still a great snack). Then we headed out some more until lunch time or when our stomachs started growling. And when I say we, I’m not just referring to me, my brother and my sister. I know pretty much every friend of ours did the same thing. WE were a lot of kids. We got dirty, if it rained we got wet and then dirtier, until my mom called us in to have lunch.

Not a fun movie for a kid
Not a fun movie for a kid

We really had lots of fun, until Viernes Santo. When I discovered that term in English is Good Friday, I never understood why. I mean, it was not a good day; we did not have cable TV in my house when I was a kid, so we had to wake up to no cartoons on TV. It was a day to be calm and try not to scream or run around the house too much, so you can imagine how hard it was for us. Back then we used to go to Church and listen to the Siete Palabras (seven words). The only words I wanted to hear were Ya nos podemos ir para la casa (We can go home now, that’s seven words in Spanish). And the time we were home, before or after church, we had no option but to watch Ben Hur, or the Story of Moses, Joseph, and of course The Bible. There are TV stations in Puerto Rico that still show those movies in Semana Santa. It’s hard when you are a kid to watch Charlton Heston (even for a grownup is hard) when you want to play outside.

We had fun bothering each other and fighting and arguing with my brother and sister: “Mom, I told her not to touch me and she is touching me”, “Stop touching me”, “Mom, he looked at me”, “Mom, I will hit him”, “Tell him to stop”, “He’s blinking funny”, and all that stuff was heard around the house all day. I have two children now and I don’t understand how my mom was able to hold herself and not give us as a present to God. I mean, we fought a lot.Good Saturday was actually good. We played outside and exchanged stories with the other kids on what was done or what kind of fish they ate the day before. Easter Sunday was kind of nice. Playing and fighting with siblings, you know the normal stuff. But it also meant it was time to go back to school and go to bed early. We never believed in the Easter bunny, which I think is dumb (a bunny laying eggs, really?), but we had fun that day at home, and regular programs were shown on TV for most of the day, with the occasional Bible story, but we managed.

I know this is not much of a Boricua thing, but I was with some friends and we started thinking about what we did in a week like that when we were kids. As I grew older I understood all the Bible stories, enjoyed those days at Church, and still hate Charlton Heston. I’m not sure what kids do nowadays, but I sure enjoyed that time, even the sibling rivalries (sometimes I got away with it). Just as my father does to me, I will make sure my children listen to these stories when we sit at the table or spend a long drive together. Until next time, cójanlo suave!