LUMPENPROLETARIAT Americans and capitalist modes of production have thoroughly commodified Mexican food. But, unless your family hails from Mexican (or Latin American) village life, you’ve probably never heard of pajaretes, a pastoral tradition practiced by cowboys and cowgirls when herding and milking cattle. 
 GONZO: Thanks to RDM for sharing this archival footage filmed on Sunday, 29 DEC 2013, at Rancho Alegre in Tracy, California. You may notice two generations of Messinas filmed here imbibing in pajaretes and singing from the great Mexican songbook.
In the black cardigan and UMKC Economics Club t-shirt is Messina, singing with Messina, Sr. (blue polo shirt). Nope, we ain’t afraid to sing off-key. Although, if you notice, I was holding it down as a back-up singer for dear old dad, who was having trouble with Juan Záizar‘s “Cruz de Olvido“. (I think I was quite on key in this recording, although dear old dad is usually an excellent singer. But I wasn’t trying to steal his thunder, homie. I think my pitch, timbre, and vibrato were alright that morning. There are at least a couple of Mexican songs, and maybe some English language ones, too, which I can execute without going off key, at least not unintentionally. Some of my very oldest memories are of being a toddler hanging out with dad and his record collection of Mexican songs, which included Pedro Infante, Los Hermanos Záizar, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Vicente Fernandez, and way too many more to mention here. I’ve always admired the black church for its dedication to song, the human voice, harmony, and musicianship. Growing up in California, and being dragged to Catholic Church by mom, was a much more solemn affair with very minimal singing, usually brief bridled interludes, which were the same each Sunday. Perhaps, the closest to a tradition of singing in my experience as a Chicano in California has come from inebriated gatherings of mirth and merriment. But every culture surely has a tradition of popular song.)
“Cruz de Olvido” is a very famous Mexican song composed by Juan Záizar and performed and recorded by him, as well as by his brother, David Záizar, as well as recorded by the two brothers as a duo, Los Hermanos Záizar.
The second bloke who joined in afterwards sings a song, which I am not familiar with. If you know, please leave us a comment. I’ll have to ask dad if he knows what song it is.
No, these aren’t the sharpest musical performances, but they’re cherished all the same.
A pajarete, for those who don’t know, is a beverage consisting of pure alcohol, chocolate powder, granulated sugar, and cow’s milk squeezed directly from the cow’s udder into the mug. The pure alcohol is intended to kill off any harmful bacteria, which may be present in the fresh cow’s milk (as well as provide a uniquely intense alcohol buzz).
The first time I had one of those was during a family trip to the Mexican state of Michoacán, visiting my grandmother’s village, my father’s mother. (The last time I visited was in 1998 before my grandmother’s death. In the 2000s, drug cartel violence in Michoacán, particularly the rural region where my family comes from, made family trips to the old country rather forbidding.)
Visiting the pastoral beauty (and poverty) of the village, or township, known locally as Chila in Michoacán, if you woke up early enough, you could ride up to help milk the cows. As an occasional (or frequent, depending on one’s disposition) treat, the vaqueros or vaqueras would pack some Choc-O-Milk or some such cocoa powder, pure alcohol (which I don’t think is available in the USA), and sugar. Then we’d mix the ingredients in a mug or glass and milk the cow straight into that concoction. And, voila, you have a pajarete.
In this video clip, you can see our family friend actually making us a flambee version of the pajarete, as pure alcohol is obviously flammable. This gives the pajarete a smokier quality. You gotta have a really strong stomach for that one. (Poor cow, I thought to meself.)
[6 MAY 2016]
[Last modified 07:57 PDT 6 MAY 2016]