Why I Love a Particular Albuquerque McDonald's

I love the sound of New Mexico Spanish. For me, it’s like a warm blanket.

The sound of it reminds me of my grandmother's tiny kitchen up north. She can ramble on, mixing Spanish words with English with ease as her hands turn white with flour over the stove. Then, of course, there's the crackling AM radio station with barely audible Spanish corridos about heartbreak and death, and the dusty dog slobbering all over the screen door just waiting to devour our leftovers, no matter how hot the chile.

I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents in their modest home up north in San Jose, a small village just below Glorieta Mesa, 30 miles east of Santa Fe.

I learned how to swim in the Pecos, collected red dirt in my sneakers, spent days throwing rocks at birds and rabbits, and rode around dangerously in the beds of rusty pickups while picking up words like ¿Que bruto no?

When I took a Spanish 101 test in seventh grade back at my old home in Reno, I used what I learned in my grandmother’s kitchen, expecting to ace it. I failed miserably.

Troca doesn’t mean truck.
Shortes doesn’t mean shorts.

At least that’s what I was told by my Spanish teacher who always proudly proclaimed he studied in Spain. I was wrong and needed to relearn he said.

In high school and college I learned textbook Spanish during cold classroom lectures about how to use vosotros and how to speak Spanish correctly.

Gracias Raquel!

Today I still prefer New Mexico Spanglish with its drawn out accents and hybrid words mixed into run-on sentences like:

Vamo pa’ ya, next to the river.

Tengo mi troca that I bought in Albuquerque, but the windshield is cracked, y no hay gas for the ride home.

¿Que te dijo? ¡Eeeee hooo laaaaaa! I can’t believe she would say such a thing. ¡Entremetira!

Aqui ‘sta tu sneakers that you left outside. Check ‘em for bugs.

Muchacho, grab those palitos so we can make a fire. Eeeee, ‘sta frio. ¡Que bruto!


My grandma still lives in that house about two hours from my place in Albuquerque.
Often, working and living in the city, it feels as if my grandmother's kitchen is a million miles away.

But thanks to this Albuquerque McDonald’s, I find a piece of it....almost.

Almost every morning, I stop in this McDonald's and pick up a coffee. I could go through the drive-thru, but I walk inside so I can listen to a group of lively, gray haired elderly men that are always there.

There’s always six or seven of them, sitting around the tables with their coffees. Some are dressed in perfectly pressed polyester pants, brightly colored net hats, and worn out windbreakers advertising long out-of-business mechanic shops. Their outfits likely put together in the morning without thought or concern of style, just like their Spanglish banter. It’s nearly identical to what I learned in San Jose.

For the first time this morning, I introduced myself, confessing with some embarrassment I’ve been enjoying their conversations in the mornings for the past several years years. I sat down with them, listened, and laughed while they talked in Spanglish about land grants, the pinche weather, and their idea of language.

They told me they are often corrected by people from Mexico. I smiled, understanding Spanish here in New Mexico is neither right or wrong...it's correct by itself.There’s even a dictionary.

I left their table, feeling very young as if I had some trouble to get into. And I did see a pick-up truck in the parking lot with a broken windshield. I felt like jumping in the back and going pa’ un ride.

Views: 37

Tags: albuquerque, mcdonald's, spanish

Comment by Lisa Abeyta on October 23, 2008 at 3:37pm
Wonderful post, Jeremy. Made me smile. Yes, NM Spanish is a wonderful, living thing, and your description captured its nuances and charm perfectly.
Comment by Jeremy Jojola on October 23, 2008 at 3:54pm
Thanks Lisa!
Comment by Adelita on October 23, 2008 at 3:55pm
Jeremy, my Uncle Ramon used to hang out at a McDonald's on the west side with his buddies every morning for coffee. Thanks for a wonderful reminder of a wonderful man.

Also, I love NM Spanglish. I wrote this a while back.

Ay te watcho, bro!
Comment by Barelas Babe on October 23, 2008 at 9:36pm
Jeremy - Thanks for the vivid descriptions of a slice of life in Albuquerque and the tribute to NM Spanglish. Great post!
Comment by Laura on October 23, 2008 at 11:00pm
Thanks, Jeremy. New Mexico spanglish is not all that different from the Tejano spanglish that my in-laws speak. Oooeee...I can almost see them "putting" the stove on and "mixteando" the tortilla dough now. Mmmm...heaven!
Comment by Jeremy Jojola on October 24, 2008 at 8:42am
Thanks for the nice comments ladies :)
Comment by Masshole in Fringecrest on October 24, 2008 at 9:10am
Jeremy, thanks for the great post. It touches me in no less than three ways, I'm sure you'll be happy to know:

1. In Grad School at UNM, one of my favorite topics of study was "code-switching", as my Master's Thesis was a study of El Vez.

2. While working for Nielsen TV Ratings, I had the opportunity to knock on doors all over the place, and San Jose was one of them, and Ribera, and Ilfeld, El Ancon, and N. & S. San Isidro... What a wonderful place to have childhood experiences!

3. Lastly, the Albuquerque Spanglish-- one day whilst performing the aforementioned rounds of Nielsen duty in the La Mesa neighborhood here in town, I came to a door with a hand written note-- "Estoy en la Backyarda"...

Isn't this place the most amazing place in the country?

Thanks for the post, man.
Comment by mombat on October 24, 2008 at 9:40am
NM spanish is wonderful mix of things, really old spanish, english, spanish from mexico.
I love being in line at the grocery store and hearing it, it reminds of being a little kid in the south valley and visiting with neighbors.
Comment by Mary Schmidt on October 24, 2008 at 9:57am
Jeremy, thanks for a great example of our "real" America. As a New Mexico native, it always makes me smile when I hear Spanglish. One reason I enjoy shopping at El Mezquite on Saturdays is that I'm surrounded by families happily chattering away. (The Mexican Coca-Cola and oh-so-fresh still-warm tortillas are also a draw... ;-)
Comment by Rita on October 24, 2008 at 11:09am
Jeremy, thanks for the seriously laugh out loud chuckles! I miss home so much you just wouldn't understand. This sounded like my mom's kitchen when one of my uncles drops by, and when all three are there with my mom cooking away, it all fits together perfectly! Gracias, bro!

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