Every cultural group has their own way of doing things, cuisines, rites of passage, language, and yes, disciplining children. From the Andes Mountains to Bushwick, Brooklyn, the bofetao has many different names and forms. Some deem it archaic, some say it’s old-school child rearing, and yet others justifiably cry out torture. Either way you view it, it’s awfully creative. I have some relatives, including my dearly beloved mom, who would’ve been able to work at Gitmo based on her bofetaos alone.
There was no time out when I was child. If I was particularly bad on a given day, I however might get a “knock out.” Then there was the bare kneeling on uncooked rice. Vittarroz short grain was the brand of choice. I think my cousin was forced to sing the jingle too. “No no diga arroz. Diga, diga…” You know the rest. If parents were feeling particularly religious, they would have you hold a bible on the open palm of an extended arm while the grains made their mark on one’s soft kneecaps. Then of course there was the BELT. Some of us were told to smell the leather before a whipping. If the belt wasn’t immediately available, an indoor clothesline or extension cord would do just fine. Lastly, there was the infamous Chancleta, the medieval weapon of Aztecs, Arawaks, Tainos, and the Toltec before us. Do you really think the easy slip-off design of the Chancleta is for leisure walking? Surely you jest. Easy access to a warrior’s arsenal is essential. Latina moms had different chancletas for different purposes. There’s anything from the 99 cent store flip flop for the daily coctazo to the leather bound, hand sewn chancleta for the forbidden curse- at-your-momma type affair.
However, what good would handing out pelas and cocotazos be if we didn’t have the cure to ease the pain? Mi Gente, we have the ying to that excruciating yang. Our remedies are exceptionally brilliant. We have all bathed in a tub of hot water and alcolado. What about arroz con leche for gastric problems? Just writing that sentence made my stomach churn. And, what is it with Latina moms and purgantes? Can we really crap away a sickness? Of course there’s Vicks Vapor-rub, the Latino cure-all. I have seen Vicks resuscitate dead viejas. If I ever hear “Sana sana colita” one more time, I’m going to flip out. My mom sang that to me as I bled profusely from two split-opened fingers on my left hand. (Note: This was not the result of a punishment. I was kidding about the Gitmo thing). My personal favorite however has to be rubbing salt and butter on a chichón, a head bump. For some reason, every time I see this I want to start biting the kid’s head and watch a movie.
So behave Mi Gente, but even if you don’t, you’ll be alright.
by Mark A. Virella