Tag Archives: La Vecindad

Feel Good 5 Friday on Saturday … Chente Edition

18 Dec

Presence is a big thing.

You notice it when it’s missing. I mean when it’s there in the crowd or group you see it, but when it’s gone that void is there. You feel the heaviness of it.

This week my people lost a big voice.

Big.

Irreplaceable.

Chente.

Or as people who didn’t know him … Vicente Fernandez.

Had the presence so big and voice so powerful that he pulled off the one name. In my household seeing how my family is Guat, we listened mostly to cumbias, marimba, and merengue. However, when you live in something called “la vecindad” everybody be hearing your music. From the morning sounds of Apartment 6’s “I’m Your Puppet,” to Apartment 3’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” to Apartment 9’s “The Dream Team is in the House.” However, when it came to these carne asadas where everyone was considered family, the sounds of La Sonora Dinamita and the rest of the Sonoras dominated the cassette players or record players, but towards the end of the night, when most of the Budweisers were gone, Chente would come on the loudspeakers. There would be other rancheras, but Chente’s voice was accompanied by a chorus of neighbors singing. And singing. And singing.

In this neighborhood we had birthday parties, first communion parties, baptism parties, graduation parties, all kinds of parties, where every family in the building participated. You got everyone’s 1970’s orange flowered and avocado green linoleum kitchen chairs out in the large patios, with the large Sanyo speakers connected through multiple chords. The drumbeats, the trumpets, accordions, saxophones, keyboards, everything blaring and everyone dancing it up. But as the night ended there would be the deep, smooth voice echoing through the party and everyone sitting there feeling the mood of the song and the feelings in his voice. And they’d raise the cans in another toast.

As soon as I heard the news that Chente passed away, I thought of “la vecindad”. I thought about my childhood friends, I thought about red-light-green-light, tag, I thought about the food, the pinatas, I thought about the impromptu karaoke at the end of the night, and Budweiser cans raised in a toast. I thought about the parties and how the memories are some of the best ones to this date. And how along with La Sonora Dinimata, and Johnny Ventura, Chente was also very much present during the soundtrack of my childhood.

I got a chance to see him twice in concert when he came to town, and I was glad I did. One of the best shows I’ve seen. Definitely will be missed by me and even more so by la vecindad.

Buen Camino …

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Volver, Volver — Vicente Fernandez

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El Rey — Vicente Fernandez

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Me Voy a Quitar de en Medio — Vicente Fernandez

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No Me Se Rajar — Vicente Fernandez

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Aca Entre Nos — Vicente Fernandez

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La Vecindad, Duct Tape, and Our Own Water Slide

23 May

The heat. It brings out the humidity in your hair, the sweat from your pores, and the inflatable pool your kid has been asking about. Well, that is unless you have a house with a regular pool and aren’t a starving writer like myself.

In any case it’s pool time, and while I was filling up the pool with hot air I started thinking about my own inflatable pool growing up. Yeah the nonexistent one. My parents believed in the beach or your bathtub. No in between. But luckily I lived in La Vecindad.

Photo via gadgetrivia.com

La Vecindad  was a Latino populated nine unit building in the inner city. A community — an extended family of sorts — where everyone knew everyone, and if you had a family disagreement all the families knew about it. Thin walls. We were joined together through the good, the bad, and the ugly. But we enjoyed our stay there, because when it came to the summer the kid with the giant inflatable pool, which was usually Marisolita, always shared. It was the La Vecindad code.

One year someone got a Slip-N-Slide, but we soon realized that Slip-N-Slides and concrete patios aren’t a good combination. So we stuck with the pool.

It was always a team effort to blow that thing up and make sure there were no holes. If there were we’d find a solution — Vecindad Style. Ahhhh. The magic of duct tape. That swimming pool must’ve had at least four patches, but we loved it. It was our own upscale getaway, and if it happened to leak we always had more tape.

It would get filled with massive gallons of water and we would splash and swim around pretending we were Aquaman, have relay races and swim like we were Michael Phelps, then play volleyball with our makeshift net — duct tape also involved the creation of this sporting equipment. We were resourceful inner city kids.

But one of the best parts was the end — when we let the water out. We’d all position ourselves at the top of the stairs, give someone the signal with our pruney hands and whoosh! Niagara Falls in La Vecindad.  Gallons upon gallons of water creating mini tidal waves that allowed us to “slide” down the 24 steps and race back up for another run. We didn’t care whether there was dirt, insects, gum, or Budweiser residue on the patio floors and steps, we were sliding down those steps. And it was awesome. 

I loved our little Raging Waters experience. 

So as my son was done swimming and splashing around, I tried to replicate the same childhood moment, but seeing how we didn’t have 24 steps,  it wasn’t the same. However he still had a good time slipping and sliding … him and his Batman figurines.