Chapulines (grasshoppers) in first-grade class
I don’t have an exact date. It was at the time when animals could speak with people. But the grandparents of Xoxocotlán said that when humans insisted on acting with superiority over animals, they could no longer understand each other. So, with her clothes of death, the Mother of everything blew into a ball and gave it life, which multiplied with each bounce. The balls were called chapulines (grasshoppers), and they ate all living plants. Then there was hunger, a lot of hunger. After seeing the suffering of humanity, the goddess of life and death took pity on humans, and the chapulines allowed themselves to get caught. That is why under the volcano, a taco of chapulines with lemon and salt, in the worst and the best of cases is always available.
As a child, I used to go out with my cousins to hunt chapulines. We perfected the technique, catching them by surprise in the morning when they were still numb from the morning chill. We trapped them with our hands without pressing too much to avoid spreading their entrails, their treasures. We put them in a plastic bag with small holes for them to breathe and fast overnight. The next day, once clean, we toasted them on a griddle to make them crispy.
The chapulines, like me, have also jumped to this side of the pond. We arrived to the lands of the salmon, and here there are no milpas (cornfields) where you can catch chapulines. But still, they make a presence at our table. They arrive by plane in boxes with gifts from Mexico, accompanied by dried chiles, marzipan, tamarind candies, and, sometimes, letters full of kisses and longing.
When my son Santos arrives at his elementary school, he plays and runs with his classmates.
But at lunch, he sits down, and when he opens his backpack, colors and smells unfold, and the song “Mexico lindo y querido” is heard. And then, to the stunned gaze of the first-grade class, my son rips the legs off the grasshoppers and eats them crisp as potato chips. Some of his classmates look at him with admiration and others with disgust. Santos eats chapulines confidently because he knows they carry within the breath of the Mother of life and death.
On the other hand, I eat them on a blue corn tortilla and think about how far away the Popocatépetl volcano is.