How a city smells. Stinks Detroit like Automobile Industry? Is bacon Sweet Home Chicago’s aroma? When I was a kid, my city smelled like fried chicken. Not like fatty ins-and-outs’ tacos, burritos, lunch lunch lunch. My gran ciudad stinked like Pollo Santos. KFC’s invasion and Church’s Chicken was still not our emotions’ html code. The best fried chicken was made by shaken housewives, doddery grandmothers and, of course, Pollo Santos.
That chicken was cathedralical. Breaded with religious devotion. I’ve only seen in the movies such well-made chicken, or in magazines or TV commercials. But I won’t fall. I know it’s a fake. Props. Bloody photoshopped chicken. Worst of all: I have become a fried-chicken junkie. For a time I frequented a clandestine fried-chicken business. It really looked like a crummy place. Fried-chicken’s whole industry is a mafia. I don’t know how did they learn about it, but they blew that tiny chicken window.
My favourite actions: walking along some streets crowded with factories, stepping into the bus station’s main avenue, and visiting the Pollo Santos subsidiary placed in front of the Alameda. I never order anything. I just place myself in a table to read a book, or to observe fried-chicken shop assistants. I wasn’t a common high-school student. My friends worked at Domino’s Pizza or at Pizza Hut. I worked at Pollo Santos.
During my work schedule, I saw how hundreds of men became broken-hearted. The best place to get rid off by a woman is a fried-chicken vender. Hurts less than a cinema or a restaurant. You can always find relief in the golden crust built around a freshly fried chicken breast.
Box stars and wrestlers paid visits to Pollo Santos. I was a pariah. I smelled like fried chicken. No matter how often I took a bath: I couldn’t get rid of that aroma. I was a wrestling fanatic. They let me always into the changing room because of the extra portions I always gave to a referee. I knew big wrestlers without their mask. I felt important. I was proud to live in this city. Afterwards, Coronel Sanders invaded us and fried-chicken venders got multiplied. I shredded, I recall. I saw how MixUp ruled over all other little discotheques. I thought, the same would happen to Pollo Santos. But their secret recipe and their crispichicken are still there.
I know this city is a city, because of the garbage in the streets, its stray dogs and the transvestites at the corners. But I am also aware, if Pollo Santos perishes, KFC’s venders won’t be enough to make me feel like a citizen. Luckily, Pollo Santos still rules. It’s hard to believe how much chicken is sold. I don’t really think any US’ city can compete with our fried-chicken fanaticism. So much chicken, that the air smells no longer like fried-chicken. The whole city smells like defrosting chicken. Chicken destined to the deep fryer. Flavor Flav would be happy here. The most important thing here to everyone: fried chicken.
When somebody crosses through the industrial part of the city, no matter if on foot or by car, it’s mandatory to cover your nose: the smell of defrosting chicken is unbearable. Stinks like a chicken’s vulva, they say. It’s so familiar to me, that when I travel I miss that bloody smell. I come frequently back to Pollo Santos. To KFC too, despite urban legends that assure chicken has been injected with vinegar. And I do visit Church’s Chicken, I can’t know in which place I’m going to find my one true love. Maybe my dream girl will be there, biting a breaded fried-chicken wing in a plastic bucket.
Translation: Ralph del Valle