Note: Originally published October 2010
Most of Wednesday was consumed by Diego Ibarra’s birthday party. Diego is our building manager, employed by our condo association Administrator. She is not particularly liked, but Diego is widely appreciated for his charm and tact. Birthdays are a big deal here. The Mexicans have their own version of the birthday song, do silly stunts like pushing people’s faces in their cake, give little gifts. It is important to acknowledge the birthday of key employees where you live. So it was particularly important to celebrate Diego, as he was leaving, as was she, at the end of the year.
Diego, married, 40-ish, mentioned his birthday quietly to me the day before, and I realized he recognized I was the sort that typically organizes such events. I had 24 hours to pull this off. I immediately sprang to action, sending emails to the few owners that are here, telling a few favored renters, posting a notice under the palapa and ordered a cake. Tres Leche, a favorite of the Mexicans, made with various milk products, is very dense, garishly decorated, weighing in at about 10 pounds. Two other owners also ordered cakes, through a misunderstanding. Cake everywhere. I carefully translated the order for the bakery so no mistakes would occur. The Yahoo translator obviously favors Castillian Spanish over Mexican Spanish and it directed me to request a boleta. So I go to the little Panaderia around the corner and ordered a birthday sandwich for 12 with the words Feliz Cumpleanos Diego! written on it. Fortunately the error was caught in time, but later was thinking a sandwich might have been a good thing. People drifted in, greeted Diego and his lovely wife Juanita (the spouses always attend such things). Not much real food appeared. I made deviled eggs, which apparently is an unknown in Mexico. Juanita swooned over the eggs, requested the recipe. This all occurred in Spanish. Our maintenance man joined in, also enjoyed the eggs, and asked what the yellow stuff in the center was. No one knew the word for “yolk”.
We snacked on cheese and crackers, the single guy brought an opened bags of peanuts, and there was a platter of vegies. That was dinner. We filled up on cake and beer. Diego was pleased beyond words, feted by his friendly owners and feeling very appreciated. He came to my door this morning to thank me for my efforts, eyes welling up just a bit. Happy to do it, Diego. Happy birthday!
PS. It turns out my dentist, Aden Michel, is Diego’s best friend. There was a birthday party in progress when I arrived for my appointment today. I mentioned to Dr. Michel that I just hosted a party with the famous tres leches cake two days earlier. He remembered that was his friend’s birthday and put 2+2 together. We swapped Diego stories, sort of, with his broken English and my numbed mouth. It turns out that Diego has a “secret” first name, as do many Mexicans. “Alvaro” A friends-only name. I will call him that tomorrow and enjoy his reaction!