As I may have mentioned before, it’s not easy being a Mexican and a Zombie. It’s caused me to be a bit of a loner–not out of preference, mind you, just kind of the way things turned out. I think  it all goes back to my eighth birthday and my loving ‘ama’s efforts to throw me a birthday party “just like the other niños have,  Mijo!”  Uh-huh.

So I’m eight years old and all my friends at school are having birthday parties. First its Juanito, then Maria, then Carlitos, then Oswaldo– not that I ever get invited. At first I try to overlook all the kids talking about how great the birthday party for so-and-so- was the week-end before. And how much fun it was breaking the piñata. And all the great candies that came flying out. And how great the birthday cake tasted. And its so clear that everyone had a great time. Except for me. Who wasn’t invited. And I’m  wondering to myself, “why wasn’t I invited?”

Soon enough, I find myself sitting at the bottom of the steps in the school hallway one day after classes when I hear the approach of two barrio moms coming to pick up their kids. Something is up and I hide behind the stairwell. They’re so caught up in their platica, they don’t see me and that’s when the heartbreaking news blindsides me like a baseball bat across the forehead.

“Miguelito is turning eight tomorrow and I’m having all his friends from school over. I’ve even gotten a piñata!

“Well I hope you’re not inviting that horrible De La Tierra kid. Oooph! What a smell!”

“Ni hablar, comadre, you’d think Angie would bath the poor boy now and then, que no?  How can she put up with that stench? Poor kid, he’s really likeable, but I’ll not have that terrible smell in my house!”

They walk away down the hallway, wheaties, wheaties, and there I am eight years old and feeling like the world has just collapsed on my head.

That’s why nobody wants to be my friend…I stink! Do I really smell that bad? I can’t really tell, you see. I ask my mom.

“Hay, mijo,” she replies, sucking in her breath, “it’s not that you stink… exactly. It’s just the residue of that night you spent at the Evergreen Cemetery. Well, it’s hard to shake off. And so you do have little algo perfumado that people may notice. Mijo, I’m sure eventually it will go away. But in the meantime, just make sure to use your deodorant before you go out to play with your friends.

“How come the other kids don’t smell?” I ask.

“Mijo,” my mom explains in her direct matter-of-fact way, “you are special, you’re a Zombie. Not everyone can be a Zombie, you know.  You just have to take things in stride.“

Right. In stride.

And that’s when mom gets her great brainstorm. “Mijo,” you don’t need to go to some one else’s birthday, party. Why, I’m going to throw you your own birthday party! And it will be the best birthday party ever! And we’ll invite all of your friends! “

Two weeks later my birthday comes round and my ‘ama makes out these little cute invitations on three-by-five cards. And she gives me a stack of them and I give them to each of the kids in my third grade classroom.


Some of the kids accept the cards willingly, really happy and thanking me for inviting them to the birthday party. Others are a little more reserved. “Yeah, I’ll check it out. Gotta ask my mom.”

The day of my party: it’s a Saturday, and my mom has prepared the house for a super party. Decorations all around, rented one of those inflatable castle jumpers, the kind where all the kids jump up and down on this inflated cushion. And a spread you wouldn’t believe! punch bowls, soft drinks, platters of snacks and, of course, a big birthday cake which she baked herself.  And she’s lit up incense everywhere around the house just to make sure that smell is not a problem. And I made sure to ask everyone if they were coming and they all said yes. Especially little Pearl Gonzalez. Sits in front of me.  I’m kind of sweet on her.

And soon it’s magic hour–three o’clock in the afternoon –and,  you guessed it,  no one shows.

And my mom is,  of course, frantic. “No te preocupes, mijo,. “ They’re all just a little late. Traffic probably.”

And a hour goes by y nada. And then another hour and still no one shows up.

Okay, I get it. I may be Mexican and a Zombie, but I’m not a pendejo. I realize that everyone has decided to boycott my birthday party.

And that hurts, gotta tell you, really hurts. But okay, I’m a zombie, I learn to suck up things like this. Got to. I guess I’m going to have my own kind of birthday party.

And so I tell my mom, “I’m going to break the piñata myself! Here, put the blindfold on me!”

“Sí mijo,” she says putting on the blindfold, “it’s such a great piñata. Don’t peek now!“

I had personally stuffed the pinata myself earlier in the morning. This was going to be a great surprise. Not only did I load it up with candies and chocolates, bubble gum and tiny toys, but I decided to insert a little of me in it as well. Heck, I figured, it’s my birthday! So why not stuff the pinata with something I would also enjoy? So I also threw in some chicken gizzards, some tripas, some raw liver, and, my favorite, some left over cow brains I had been hoarding from a taco stand visit the night before. Tasty!

So I busted the pinata open by myself. At first my mom applauded, then she noticed the tripas and cow brains and a pale look came over her. “Hay, mijo, “ she said, “what am I going to do with you?” She looked at me for a moment and then a big smile crossed her face as she helped me pick up the pinata prizes. She served me the cow brains and fresh liver on a platter

I only wish Pearl Gonzalez could have been there. It would have been special to have her share the cow brains with me at my birthday party.