Archive for February 2010

Eating Honey Comb with Niña Heelo   4 comments

After our visit with Marina, on our walk through Naranjos, we stopped by Niña Heelo’s house (I must spell her nickname phonetically, apologies to Spanish-speakers).   She is the grandmother of a boy Carmen is fond of.  What a cheerful woman she is, and always so delighted to see us.

We sat in the corredor at the back side of her house, chatting with her.  Her corredor, a covered patio, is about 8 feet wide and runs the length of the house.  Many houses in El Salvador have a corredor on one or both sides.  A corredor is an type of open-air covered patio covered with a roof, has a tile or ceramic floor, is enclosed with a short cinder block  wall 2-4 feet high and wrought-iron bars from the cinder block to the roof, and usually a wrought-iron door to outside.  Families spend much of their time in the corredor, with each other or entertaining guests, instead of hanging around inside or in front of the TV.   One blessing that makes up for the many difficulties in El Salvador is a constant surplus of sunshine and warm weather.  Often, it is too hot to walk around at length in the sun, but a repose in the shade of the corredor, with a nice breeze to come in, is refreshing and relaxing.

We accompanied Niña Heelo into her kitchen while she made us a fresco**.  We saw her set of “hornillas” (adobe stoves).  An hornilla (pronounced “or-nee-ah”) is a horseshoe-shaped cooking pit, several inches deep and made of adobe / dried mud.  Firewood is inserted on the open side of the horseshoe, and a pot or grill is placed atop the hornilla to cook maize, beans, soup, or place a comal*** to cook tortillas.   We were impressed that she had 3 hornillas.

Heelo also has an old-fashioned grinding stone on which to grind things like maize, chocolate, or maizillo (a grain fed to poultry).  Here is a picture from a great site I found about “how we used to live” in El Salvador, San Jose Las Flores (Click here for translation to ENGLISH with Google Translator ) of an old-fashioned grinder made out of stone just like the one in Heelo’s kitchen:

After we drank our frescos, we walked with Niña Heelo into the backyard area to feed a small calf.  Heelo had a large plastic bottle with a 3-4 inch long nipple, just like a cow’s, filled with milk.  For a  “chibo” (calf) less than one month old, he is quite strong.  While Hello held the bottle, the chibo drank, and would intermittently tug at teh nipple with such force she had the hold the bottle firm with both arms, getting yanked forward every so often.

Back in the corredor, we chatted a bit more, and it turns out that Heelo gave birth to 14 children, just like my mother-in-law.  But unlike our family, where all 14 made it to adulthood and still living today, 5 of Heelo’s children died as children, she told us, of bronchitis.  Of the 9 remaining children she has, 4 are now in the U.S.

Before we left, Heelo pulled out some fresh honey-comb, drenched with honey.  She broke a piece off for me, and said “try it, it’s good, it has honey and the beginnings of ‘babies’ in it.”   You simply chew it, then discard the wax after you’ve eaten all the honey and sweet parts.

I was a bit frightened, especially knowing I might bite into baby bees.   But not wanting to be rude, I chewed a piece.  Having only eaten liquid honey from bottles and jars all my life, it was odd biting into the raw material.

The honey comb was golden-brown looking, and I could see pollen in the pockets.  There were varoius orangy-red colored items throughout it.  I wondered if those were the “babies” and was rather timorous about biting into them.

While working on bite one, Heelo broke off another piece of honey-comb for me, even bigger this time.  “Oh boy!”   So there I was, chewing along, frightened at the thought of a half-dozen bee embryos in my mouth, but heck, one cant be rude, so I kept smacking along and spitting out excess wax, quickly – to extinguish this experience as fast as possible.

I thanked Niña Heelo very much for the snack, and we made our good-byes.

* In El Salvador, older women are addressed with the title Niña in front of their first name; it shows respect for her as an elder and is also endearing.

** fresco = fresh drink usually made out of water mixed with fresh or other fruit juice.  Frescos are often made out of green or ripe mangos, passion fruit, orange juice, or other in-season fruit.  If no fresh fruit available, water mixed with canned or boxed fruit juice doe the trick.

*** comal – a flat pot which functions like a griddle, made out of metal or ceramic (barro) on which to cook tortillas, pupusas, and other griddle-cooked items.

Of Coyotes and Car Crashes (Marathon them In)   2 comments

Carmen and I went for a long walk to the next neighborhood up the road from ours, called Naranjos, 30 minutes by foot and further into the country.  We stopped to visit a woman who owns a small convenience store who has a daughter Carmen’s age.

Marina has 3 children, the last of which is 7, and so severely disabled he will remain an infant forever.  He cannot walk, and has little muscle control – this began shortly after he was born.  Despite his disability, he is a very happy boy.  He sits on his mother’s lap, as if he were a 2 year old.  She is very affectionate with him, and he in turn is very responsive, always smiling and cheerful.

This poor woman was left a widow maybe 5 years back when her husband tried to migrate to the United States.   He was killed in a car accident, along with 6 others, in a car driven by Coyotes while in transit.

If any immigrant family could get permission to migrate via some type of special exception, I think hers would qualify.  I know of no exception in our immigration laws to obtain a work permit for extraordinary circumstances; because truly, the list of persons worldwide who live with a struggle like this is millions of persons long – many more than the approximately 1 million people allowed to legally immigrate to the United States each year.   I think most Americans who could have met this man and know his story would be sympathetic towards his cause, and perhaps even knowingly protect him.   If he made it, that is.

One would think the Coyotes would drive slower, if not for the safety of their passengers, but to avoid getting busted, considering the penalties for human smuggling.  Apparently, greed only drives them harder.  Each warm body is literally thousands of dollars in their pocket – so the faster they marathon immigrants to their destinations, the sooner they return to the frontier to ready up their next load of cargo.

Parakeets! (Pericos)   Leave a comment

My brother-in-law Gito brought back 3 baby parakeets to the house around mid-day.  He took them from their nest, which looks more like a mud-igloo if you’ve every seen it.   Many houses in El Salvador in the country and some in the city have a parakeet (called a “perico” in Spanish) as a pet.

Pericos are funny looking when born.  They have no feathers, and look bald, naked and a bit ugly.   When their feathers do come in at first they are grey, and later, green ones come in.

Parakeets in El Salvador live in nests which they rob from the insect world.  They take over the nest of the comején.which is a type of termite.  My husband says they call the nest a “tarchinohl”  (not sure of spelling and for the life of me I cannot find this Spanish word anywhere, so it’s either Nahuatl and we can’t spell it right or some local Indian word, but definitely where my husband is from that’s the phonetic name for the nest).

My niece and mother-in-law feed them with corn meal mixed with water.



In a bucket with a peat-moss type flooring, with a towel on top mimics the warmth of the nest.



born bald and naked their heads look the funniest



See green feathers sprouting. Younger parakeet still so young he looks naked.



Here Carmen feeds him corn meal with water


picture of comejenParakeets in El Salvador take over termite nests to use as homes. Photo from


"hey, who stole my clothes!". Click for PBS page: Odyssey



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