Time for a Puerto Rican fiesta!

Time for a Puerto Rican fiesta!

The author's family celebrates by playing dominoes.

Alexia Reyes, Free-lance Writer

The sound of keys unlocking the backdoor and then a gush of cold wind; yup there is my dad and his big bright smile holding two big jugs of coquito.

Coquito baby!!” he says excitedly while rising up the full jugs. This is when I know the crazy fun holiday season is right around the corner. Coquito is like eggnog but with a Puerto Rican twist to it. The main ingredients to this seasonal island drink are rum, coconut milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

It is rich in flavor and has a wintry coconut taste; a taste all we Latinos can’t wait to experience once more for the holiday season.

Then the evening finally comes when my dad gets that expected call from one of my uncles inviting us over for a family party. We immediately get ready even though the party isn’t for another two hours.  By midnight, for sure, we will all look a hot mess but we still take our time to look good at least for the first few hours. These parties are most definitely the highlights to the season.

After waiting anxiously we finally get there; early of course. As soon as I walk in the aroma of deliciously prepared Hispanic food draws me to the kitchen where everyone is waiting with loving smiles. I go kissing cheek to cheek while I greet everyone with a “Hola!” by the time I’m done more people have arrived which means its time for round two.

And then there’s the food. Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) is the most popular dish in many Hispanic homes no matter what time of the year it is. The women will usually make a BIG caldero (cauldron) of it; big enough to feed her whole family twice.

While the women work inside the house, the men are in charged of the lechon asado (roasting pig) outside. This process is very interesting because after the insides are taken out of the pig, a rod is put through it and then placed to spin in an open fire pit.

Pernil (shredded pork) is the best part of the roasted pig. It is very well seasoned with Adobo, the most common Puerto Rican spice, and just falls apart in your mouth. The Smokey, garlic taste deliciously overpowers the moist pork.

Pasteles are most popular during this time of year. They are made of mashed guineo verde (green banana) stuffed with meat, potatoes, and olives. After being stuffed they are wrapped in plantain leaves. Then all that needs to be done is boil them and they’re ready to be served.

Tostones are a perfect accompaniment to any dish. Tostones are pieces of fried plantain that are crisp and salty served with a home made sauce called mayo ketchup. This sauce is made of mayonnaise, ketchup, and garlic; you can just imagine how flavorful this easy to make snack is.

Many go for seconds and even thirds sometimes; having to unbutton their jeans once they’re done. But that’s not all; now it’s time for dessert.

Tembleque is made similarly to flan, but instead of being caramel custard it is a coconut pudding, topped with cinnamon. Tembleque means trembling and it’s called this because of its “wobbly wiggle” which makes it seem it’s dancing on the plate.

So by this point everyone is full but that wont stop us; we eat it anyways making it fit and after we just dance off the calories.

You know you are Puerto Rican when your family will stay up all night dancing, blasting the salsa, and playing dominoes.

No matter how small the house is we will always find a way to make our BIG family fit. I’m talking about an average size house with 20 to 30 people inside it. Can you imagine the loudness?

The women will serve their husbands and children a mountain of food encouraging them to “get some meat on your bones”

Trust me; we don’t need a dance floor to bust a move. You could be eating or relaxing and someone will just grab you and pull you into a series of dances whether it is in the kitchen, in the hallway, or in the living room. Spinning and turning, moving our feet quickly to the beat all around the house and laughing whenever we bump into others.

My family definitely is not shy when it comes to singing. Someone will randomly start singing a popular Spanish song and next thing you know everyone joins and we sound like a parranda (carolers). Someone might even whip out a few Spanish guitars and play some beautiful notes that accompany the vocals.

The rest of the night consists of the clank, clank, clank of the dominoes, the victory yells of the men, and winning words like, chuchaso and chiva! The men bond over this traditional game showing off their skills and cracking jokes on one another. They act as if every time they win a round they win money, when in reality they are playing for nothing but fun.

Meanwhile the women will finally take a few minutes of rest and talk to the other women while the children knock out all over the house. It’s either that or the children start complaining about how they are so tired and want to go home. We teenagers, on the other side, don’t want to leave because we are having a lot of fun.

“It’s onlymidnight” we say.

Meanwhile, the men are still focused on dominoes, “stuck to their chairs” But once the women say “ok ya that’s enough vamonos (lets go)”, that’s when the men know its time to go.

So once again we go through our rounds of kissing cheeks and saying goodnights; wondering when the next party will be.