The editor of the El Paso, Texas Cathedral High School alumni newsletter is Jose Luis Sanchez who also happens to be my father-in-law. “Chacho”, as his friends call him, is well known for his wit and wisdom which is evident in the various captivating short stories he has penned over the years. Many of them are oriented towards friends and family and are definitely gems worth reprinting to include the one below.
In keeping with the annual “Tamalada” (tamale dinner) fundraiser held each fall, Chacho wrote the following article for the September 2011edition describing a rather peculiar episode from his childhood that occurred one day in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico:
As we prepare for our annual Tamalada, memory recalls an event where similar preparations were made many years ago for a birthday party by a park and swimming pool in the outskirts of Juarez.
My parents had invited over one hundred guests to be treated to “Carnitas’ from a freshly slaughtered pork that “Tony”, my dad’s compadre, would prepare in the grounds just steps away from the main party.
The main cooking area was nothing more than a huge tub over a wood bonfire where the cut pieces of pork would be cooked to perfection and from there would be served on plates accompanied with some homemade red chile sauce and corn tortillas.
Compadre Tony had done this many times before and he worked alone as he chopped and fed the tub with the cut pieces of pork and braved the ensuing boiling grease with nothing more than a special leather glove to protect against a rather hazardous undertaking.
The bad pieces he would just throw to a lively pack of dogs that kept their distance but came closer as the pack grew larger. My job was to keep throwing rocks at the dogs to keep them away.
Without warning a medium size dog approached the boiling tub and to our surprise jumped directly into the tub of boiling grease and probably died instantly.
Tony reached with his glove and grabbed the boiled dog by the tail and threw him to the side.
By this time the guests were clamoring for the crisp Carnitas so Tony made me a sign to keep quiet as he served the pork to the ladies who took them to their respective tables.
Everybody congratulated Tony for the tasty pork but I passed on a plate as I disappeared behind some bushes to bury the lifeless dog. Somewhere along that evening, I had lost my appetite.
I admit to consuming a few plates of carnitas in my day, and they are indeed “tasty”, but I will no doubt remember my father-in-law’s story and that poor dog the next time carnitas present themselves on the menu. Bon appetite!