I turned 33 years young this weekend, and to celebrate, a group of us went to my favorite restaurant, La Embajada Jarocha. “Jarocha” means someone from the Mexican state of Veracruz, which is located along the Gulf of Mexico. And “embajada” means embassy. Get it?
Along with having some of the most sumptuous seafood dishes in the entire world, and bewitching tropical music, Veracruz is also home to people who like to swear. Yes, as in, they say bad words and then laugh, a lot. (Yes: These are my kind of people!)
La Embajada Jarocha, which is, after all, the Veracruz Embassy, lives up to these three hallmarks. Every time we’ve gone before, the band has stopped several times a night to shout random things, including a few phrases I understood, like “chinga su madre!” (It’s a bad phrase, in English it would rhyme with zothertucker.) We weren’t sure why this was happening, but appreciated it all the same.
Then, there’s the food: Among the menu items are ceviche de jaiba (freshwater crab ceviche), tacos de langosta (lobster tacos), deep fried plantains stuffed with seafood, world-famous snapper a la Veracruz, and my favorite, cocos rellenos de mariscos, which is a coconut stuffed with seafood and baked until the coconut has infused the seafood.
And to go along with all the intense swearing and food is the music. A scene from last night:
But the best part of last night wasn’t the food or the music, although under normal circumstances those suffice. No, the best part of last night was the swearing, which, finally, was directed at me.
It all started when my friend Julie noticed the bandleader talking to us. So, we started paying attention to the chit-chat.
“De donde son?” he asked us. Where are you all from?
“Alemania?” he asked. Germany?
That got a laugh from our table, where some of us are blonde and a lot of us are pale. At that point, he said something to the effect of, “well, anyway we just want to wish Jor a happy birthday.” We all stared back at him, confused.
“Where is Senor Jor?” he asked.
I started looking around for Jor, which I assumed was short for Jorge, and well, that’s a crappy nickname, I told myself, because it’s also unfortunately similar to the English word whore.
But, he kept staring at our table, and it became clear that he meant me, Joy. Apparently my friend Jesica had slyly written him a note asking him to wish me a happy birthday, but he had a hard time with her handwriting. He requested that I, Jor, stand up so I could receive my well wishes.
So I stood, and someone shouted “motor” (same meaning as in English, but pronounced mo-tore). I didn’t know it at the time, until it was explained to me later, but the beginning part of this ritual always includes shouting out a random word that rhymes with the recipient’s name. This explains all the random words being tossed around during our previous visits.
And then it all fell into perfect place, becoming the (first and probably – ? – only) birthday celebration in which I was repeatedly called a very bad word.
“Motor! (drum beat)
Motor! (drum beat)
Motor! (drum beat)
Que chinga su madre de Jor!!!!” (*cymbals crash*)
For the rest of the night, we didn’t bother correcting him, and I let myself, like a true Jarochan, be called Jor.